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Happy Holidays! 2010 has been a long year of recovery from the wild ride of 2009. I am so grateful to my family and friends for their dedicated support. I am thankful to our clients who used our services this year and aided in our recovery. I wanted to take this time to share with you some client success stories that happened in 2010.

A seasoned CFO was laid off in December 2008 after 15 years with his employer. His position was eliminated due to an acquisition. This happens. He was unemployed for the next 18 months, and I’m happy to report that he landed a CFO position with a solid company.

They were attracted to him because of his 25-plus years of experience in a similar industry. This man understood what was required of him, casting a wide net. He understood the value of networking and realized after a short amount of time that his job was to find his next job. He didn’t take the post-and-pray approach. He took a very proactive approach to his job search.

He didn’t depend on others to bring the fish to him; he went fishing every day for the next year and a half. Every day he got up and acted as if. As if what? He acted as if he was working; he showered, dressed, ate breakfast and sat at his desk at 8 a.m. ready for work. His objective was to make calls to professionals in his network, follow up on new leads and referrals, apply to targeted positions, write introduction letters to companies on his watch list and attend numerous business events around the nation. The lead came through a friend/colleague that he reconnected with via LinkedIn.

A director of business development was terminated after 10 years of employment due to loss of business in 2009. After a long year of dedicated job searching and going through the painful process of rejection, she decided to launch her own consulting business. Her niche was national and international market development in multiple channels. She spent the next six months conducting market research with key decision makers in Fortune 1000 companies. What she discovered was a big hole in the market for her expertise. She developed a business plan and launched a consulting company that supports small to mid-size companies who want to achieve growth and brand awareness. She has three new clients.

A VP of marketing became the victim of a reduction in work force after 12 years of dedicated employment with her company, plus she was in the final stages of divorce. She was definitely in transition and could have chosen to go to bed for the next year, but she chose to change her life. She didn’t waste any time and quickly put on her networking hat and started making calls to friends and colleagues in her circle. I am happy to report that she accepted a position with a growing North Bay company, sold her home in Southern California and relocated to Napa. She couldn’t be happier. She is dating and very enthusiastic about her future.

Many of our clients are starting to hire again. They are looking for professionals with four-year degrees and, in many cases, advanced degrees. If you haven’t completed your education, start now. What are you waiting for? They are looking for something special … people with energy, enthusiasm and spark. They need leaders; people who possess leadership qualities, mentoring and the ability to get the team excited about the company and their work. Someone who can walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Start-ups are launching … if you’re a person who enjoys a challenge and thrives in fast-paced environments, try on a start-up. If you prefer traditional formal infrastructures, try on a giant, they are getting bigger every day. If you prefer freedom and independence, consider the world of consulting. In reality, we’re all consultants, providing a service to our clients, don’t forget that. Do your homework, develop a company watch list and follow them throughout your career – they could be your next employer or client.

Companies are the people, not just their products and services. People hire people. It is your responsibility to tend to the garden and nurture your relationships, not only when you’re in job search mode but on a consistent basis.

You are a product, and it is imperative that you package yourself so that you are attractive to buyers. Every day that you are unemployed works against you to future employers. Three months is not a big deal. A six- to 12- month gap will start to cause you some problems. The longer the gap, the less attractive you become to potential employers. Even if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits, I encourage you to get out there and fearlessly search for your next opportunity today. Seriously consider interim work even if it is less title, responsibilities and compensation. Showing future employers that you are a player is what counts.

I’m looking forward to developing new friendships in 2011 and hearing about your success stories.

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Jennifer Laxton is the CEO and executive coach with ESA LLC in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com.