Thursday, April 26, 2012

Networking in Your Backyard and Other Ideas...

We all hear and see about networking as being a key strategy in one’s job search. And it is true that most job seekers do secure their next position through their networks. A professional recruiter being a close second. But an active job seeker must use all the tools in the job search tool box these days more than ever before. So this whole networking thing has been talked about and talked about. But no way getting around it, networking is a key resource. I took pause this morning to reflect on some recent things that have occurred with me personally and it made me realize just how interesting a person’s networks can be.

My daughter plays for an AAU basketball team. Everyone looks a bit different out of their business setting, but I thought I had recognized one of the parents of the other girls. Sure enough, this dad happens to be the CEO for a local life & annuity carrier. One of the moms is the head coach for a local university track team. Another father - Assistant Athletic Director at a university. Another in prosthetic sales(artificial hips, knees). Not all of these are relevant to what I do professionally, but interesting just the same. And certainly makes me want to learn about what the other parents do.

Then I meet my new neighbor two doors down and find out that he is staff attorney for a local property/casualty carrier. One of my daughter’s friend’s parent is IT Director for another property/casualty carrier. I wonder what the occupations are of the people I see every morning at the health club? As the result of another networking opportunity my daughter gets an opportunity to meet with a basketball star from the ISU team whom has declared eligibility for the NBA draft. Pretty exciting stuff and all the result of networking.

While on a spring break trip in March with my family we meet another family. The dad is a partner with a large asset management firm in NYC. I’ve been networking with him recently trying to come up with some ideas for a risk management professional who has a strong background in real estate. Another opportunity to network.

Then as timing would have it, one of my staff passed along an interesting article related to networking from Forbes.com this morning - 5 New Ways to Network (That You Won't Dread).

Check it out. So, who do you know?


Friday, April 20, 2012

Change, Evolve, Diversify...What else?

I was catching up with a professional the other day who I had not spoken with for quite some time. He asked me how things were going for me. When asked that question I always answer it in reference to Capstone Search Group verse myself personally. I answered by explaining by telling him of course the last five years have definitely been challenging. Our carrier projects are down at least 75% from 2007 and prior. While business has no doubt been down across the board, I think this is very likely reflective of most businesses and certainly the search & recruitment business. I personally know of firms that have unfortunately not survived the economic downturn.

While talking I was reminded of a show I had just seen this week prior to my conversation with this individual. I was flipping through channels as I often do while ending my early morning workouts with 30 minutes of cardio. I paused on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough just long enough to hear him talking about how our country needs an optimistic leader. And whoever comes across as optimistic out of the two leading candidates for President will more than likely get elected. I’m not personally a political type person at all. Right or wrong I’m just not. So I’m not making any type of political statements here. Only reflecting on what I had heard from that show that morning. Joe talked about how each decade the US sees a major challenge. And how the US has pulled through each time. But it takes optimism and optimistic leadership.

I take pause as I believe that's a quality deeply entrenched into our culture within our organization. I believe this largely comes from our people, though. I consider my quality helping me pull through these tough times as more of my competitive nature. Never giving in or giving up. Finding ways to survive. That coupled with the ever present optimism from our staff helping us evolve as an organization. Which finally leads me to my actual point. Diversification. Change, evolve, diversify.

As an organization we have had to evolve. We’ve had to diversify. We’ve had to rely less heavily on our carrier partners for business and find other channels. We expanded from purely a perm staffing firm to a firm that offers perm staffing solutions, contract employee staffing solutions and also RPO solutions(Recruitment Process Outsourcing). We have partnered more heavily within the broker world. We have partnered with insurance industry vendors and information suppliers. We have developed systems and new ways of doing business.

And this very idea of evolving and diversifying can be applied to the job seeker as well. There are so many extremely talented professionals seeking jobs. We know that we are in the long haul given the economy and job market. We see reasons to be optimistic certainly but the reality is, often securing a suitable position is still a very long venture for so many. So what do we take from all this? Above all, optimism. Optimism and a positive attitude and outlook will carry you so much farther than gloom & doom.

What else? Diversify? Evolve? Perhaps so. But how? What are your core skills & abilities? What other positions can these translate into other than what you’ve done previously? For example, a strong technically oriented underwriter that has an understanding of the interaction between systems and the underwriting process could make a nice transition into a business analyst role. Who hires business analysts? Insurance Companies, IT solutions providers for the insurance industry, etc. This is just one example. Also consider doing contract work. Contract work brings in income, keeps your skills fresh and looks good in an interview process.

What are some other ideas? Please share.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Contingent or Retained?

I’ve been working on CFO search for a property casualty carrier client I’ve worked with for many years. The President of this company reached to me directly about the search and seeking my assistance. I collected the necessary information from the client and began my process of sourcing, screening and referring. One of the candidates I’ve been speaking with about the opportunity asked me, “Do you have this on a retained search or contingent?” My response back was, “This is a contingent search. Why do you ask?” The response back was, “Just wondering.”

Not the first time I’ve been asked this question naturally. And it is a good question. But I always pause and wonder, why do people ask? Does it make a difference to them? And if so...why? What would be the thought process where this would make any difference? Then I must always remind myself, oh right, there is this long standing perpetuation of the idea that somehow in some way the “retained” search has an elevated status. But why does this continue to exist?

I believe it continues to live on due largely to the retained firms fueling the perception of the retained search as being a more sophisticated search. Apparently retained only firms feel they must create this perception to justify or create a different class of recruiting. Who knows. But just for fun I did a quick internet search on retained verse contingent search and the first two hits were retained firms toting their service and dismissing the contingent service as for only clerical types of positions. They paint the picture of the retained recruiter being more experienced and the contingent recruiter typically inexperienced. Wow! How interesting. I’ve been recruiting for over 15 years and have been around the insurance industry for over 25 years. We work largely technical to executive. Rarely, rarely anything considered clerical.

I’d say I’m uniquely qualified to bring this to discussion as while we are traditionally largely contingency based we also do retained. We even have clients on a combination of retainer & contingency.

So what is the difference between contingency & retained?

Retainer firms receive a portion of their fee up front regardless of whether they present the candidate that is ultimately hired or not. The arrangement is exclusive between firm and client company. Contingency firms only receive a fee for their service if the client hires the person they refer. More often than not, contingency firms are hired on a non-exclusive basis.

The bottom line however is that there is no wrong and there is no right. One is not better over the other. They are simply just different. Not all retained searches are executive level. As not all contingent searches are clerical. We make a conscious choice to do most of our work on a contingent basis. We are set up to operate very effectively on a contingent basis. Our relationships with our clients make the arrangement work. The way we do business makes the arrangement work.

We are proof that contingency does not automatically equate to clerical. In fact I am on the board of a national insurance recruiting association and the majority of the members work contingency and they all work on technical to executive searches just like our firm.

While retained firms are able to put you on a shortlist of candidates, contingency firms can give you more exposure. So it is often a very personal decision based on your expectations out of the search process. If you are actively seeking opportunities the decision is clear, contingency. However, whomever you work with, one rule remains the same: Cultivate a long-lasting, give-and-take relationship with your recruiter and you may find the best prizes come to those who are patient.