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10 questions to ask yourself; success depends on contacts

Q. I am an executive at the management level with 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. I was laid off from my last position due to an acquisition, and my position was eliminated. I've been searching for a new opportunity going on six months, had a few interviews but nothing promising. I've hit a wall. Can you help?

A. Searching for a new position today is a full-time job and will require great effort on your part. For the past 10 years, the traditional way for people to search for positions has been to apply for jobs by responding to published ads on the Internet. What's wrong with that? Firstly, this is a very time-consuming process, not to mention the black hole theory, and secondly a high percentage of the jobs that are posted are not real.

People need to take control of their lives by carefully selecting their next position. How? Clear your schedule for the day and sit down in a quiet place. You will need a copy of your up-to-date resume, pen/paper and access to the Internet. Read your resume objectively, as though you were a hiring manager reviewing your information for the first time. You need to figure out two very important facts. Who is going to be attracted to you and why? Who are you going to be attracted to and why?

Make a list of companies that you want to explore opportunities with. Since you have 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, I suggest researching food and beverage companies that match your criteria. Research the company's history, milestones and most recent news to understand its successes and challenges. Most of this information is accessible via the company's Web site, Google and other business tools like Hoovers and Yahoo Finance. Find out who the decision makers are for each company and research their background for common interests. Contact them by phone and introduce yourself. If you get lucky and reach the person on your first attempt, be ready to make your best pitch and how you can add value to their organization.

If you get their voice mail, leave a short message, your name, title, phone number and why you are calling. Before you pick up the phone, practice, practice, practice. Follow up with an e-mail, which should include a short introduction about yourself, resume summary, and your interest in exploring opportunities with their organization and why.

Follow up by phone in one week to confirm receipt of your information and a request to set up a time to talk by phone or in-person. If there is no opportunity for you, ask for a referral. Decision makers are well connected to other decision makers. Keep records of who you have contacted, what information was sent and follow-up activities, meetings and interviews.

To help you get clear about your job search and requirements complete the following questions to understand your goals and objectives.

1) Why are you searching for a new position?

2) What type of position and level are you seeking?

3) What type of industries interested you and why?

4) What type of culture do you prefer, small versus large, casual versus formal, public versus private, start-up versus well established?

5) What is your commute tolerance? Be realistic.

6) Are you open to relocation, where to? Be specific.

7) Are you open to travel, what percentage?

8)  What are your compensation requirements (base, bonus, benefits, other)? Are you being realistic for the current market?

9) What will you base your decision on - compensation package, environment, culture, product innovation, career development opportunities?

10) Who will be attracted to you and why?

This is a difficult process for most people. Searching for a new job today is a numbers game. In order to successfully land a new position requires introductions. To land just one meeting may involve presenting your information to 100 to 200-plus decision makers. Consider partnering with a placement expert who is skilled at working with executives to find their next opportunity. The value to you is tapping into their relationships with leaders at a broad range of companies and associations and their ability to market your talent to a select group of companies by industry, products and services, size, location and opportunity.

The goal is to move beyond the traditional barriers and arrange meetings with key decision makers. The rest is up to you.

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Jennifer Laxton is a senior partner with Executive Search Associates in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-525-1010 ext. 12 or jklaxton@esa.com.

If you have questions with regards to your situation, send an e-mail to askjen@esa.com.