Monday, May 14, 2007

Why Downsizing Hurts Those Making 50K+ More than Others

I've been a recruiter since 1997. I owned an editorial staffing agency in New York City from 1997 to 2004. In addition to freelance writing, I still do some recruiting.

I relay this upfront so that you will understand where I'm coming from with the following take on this subject.

In the course of my networking, over the last few weeks I've spoke with two mid-level managers who were down-sized. One worked for 18 years with a large telecommunications firm that was recently acquired. The other worked for 15 years at a Fortune 500 publisher that was recently bought and restructured.

Both were making between 55-65K/year and were lamenting about how hard it is to find other positions. If you find yourself in the same position, following is a market reality you must face as you go about your job search - and tips for landing a new position.

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Soft Skills are Not Valued: The publishing manager was telling me about her people management, team building and project management skills.

I told her that, while valuable, they are not as valued as "hard skills" that add directly to a company's bottom line, eg, software, accounting and market analysis abilities.

Directly is italicized because these are skills that employers can quantify. They use the software that a technician installs, maintains and upgrades; their budgets are set by the numbers that accounting pumps out; they develop products and revenue goals based on a marketing analyst's trend reports.

In short, these touch their daily working lives. Contrast that with soft skills like people management.

The Director doesn't see that it took the project manager to coordinate freelancers in three different time zones, call in a temp to cover a sick employee's time off to keep a deadline and/or recognize and get employees to implement time-saving procedures.

All the Director sees is that the project got done - on time and within budget.

Because middle managers tend to be facilitators, much of their value is behind the scenes. In essence, out of sight, out of mind. So, when a company is acquired, for example, they cut out this layer of "fat," and keep those employees that add directly to the bottom line.

How to Prove Your Worth to Potential Employers

So, what can middle managers do to combat this "layer of fat" mentality. Following are two tips.

1. Get concise: As in, lay out specifics of what you did in your last position - and how it contributed to the bottom line.

For example, the publishing manager told me that she implemented use of a new software on a newsletter her company published. This saved time and money.

Instead of saying it "saved time and money," quantify it, eg, how much time and how much money. Her resume might read, "With the use of this new software, production time was cut by 40%, equaling savings of $10,000 on each print run."

2. Draw a Picture: Human nature is to be lazy. How does this affect your new job search? If you run across advertised jobs that you know you could do, but your skill set is not an exact match, spell out for potential employers how what you did in your last position is transferable to the job at hand.

Use language from their job description. This is a modeling technique taught by the self-help guru Tony Robbins. In essence, you are subliminally seducing the potential employer by feeding their words back to them.

When you've reached a certain level in your career, it's hard to replace that level of job with another. A fast food worker can just move on to the next fast food establishment - and make a comparable wage.

But, for mid-level execs, $50,000/year+ jobs don't just come along. It usually takes some time to land them. Knowing why the market is that way goes a long way towards preparing yourself for the hunt.

Good luck.
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