by Mark Cummuta

Week 7: Prioritizing Leads in a Job Search

Sep 20, 20076 mins

In a job search with so many variables and options, focusing your efforts to a few desired industries, then regions and finally firms is an excellent way to succeed faster.

In prior posts I’ve noted how I’ve already focused my own search on the strategic management consulting and the defense/military/intelligence industries. I’ve since further refined my industry preferences.

I am now focusing on the top six to ten management consulting firms, plus a few with very strong practices in the defense industry.

Within the defense industry, I am focusing my search to the larger prime and sub-contractor firms. That is primarily because it takes 12 to 18 months to gain the security clearances necessary to work directly in the federal agencies and positions that most interest me. The contractors also require security clearances for the best positions, but they have other very similar and/or directly supporting positions that I can start in while they sponsor me through the clearance processes.

(As an aside, after 9/11 Congress passed legislation calling for all federal employees to have background checks and/or security clearances. These security checks used to take 30 to 60 days, but after the legislation was passed the lead times for these security checks jumped to six to nine months due to the huge influx of required checks. Further, a few months ago this legislation was extended to all contractors working in key positions. Consequently, the wait times jumped again to 12 to 18 months. Interim or temporary clearances used to be issued for individuals “in process,” but those were also eliminated for security reasons. Between the backlog and the loss of interim clearances, this has created a catch-22 for the federal government in that critical skills are retiring and leaving the federal agencies, and replacements can’t be hired without an existing clearance.)

After further discussions with my wife, I also decided to focus my geographic preferences on five areas: Virginia/Washington DC/Maryland, Arizona/S.California, Colorado, Illinois/Wisconsin, Europe/Italy.

Don’t get me wrong. We still need to be open to opportunities that our networking and other search efforts may produce. In fact, that is why I initiated my job search with networking and establishing my internet job search presence since these tend to have the longest lead times. Even with an updated resume and base cover letter done, it takes a few weeks to warm up your network, contact known executive recruiters, and create and update career websites.

[BTW, to prevent yourself from wasting time on e-mail blast sales pitches for positions you haven’t done in 10 years or worse, for positions that aren’t related to anything you’ve ever done, I recommend setting up spam filters to capture those nuisance e-mails. If those messages manage to get through to your inbox in spite of the filters, have the self-discipline to delete them. They’ll only distract you.]

With those industry and geographical changes I made to my plan, I’ve found over the past few weeks that I am better able to prioritize my search efforts. This means focusing on more opportunities that are a better fit to my skills and goals. It is also saving me time, which has had a direct positive impact on my sleep patterns!

Of course, I make exceptions for exceptional opportunities. For example, I have several excellent opportunities in Florida, Texas and Alabama. And I am researching the other federal agencies (here is a recent ranking by employee satisfaction of the Top 10 Federal Agencies to work for).

Here’s the quick status of my efforts this past week.

* I started a short project with a Midwest Department of Defense (DOD) contractor to assess and design/re-design their inventory control (IC) and tracking, and warehouse management systems (WMS) for efficiency and scalability. They are a small design, engineering and manufacturing firm known for their exceptionally high quality products and innovative (some patented) processes. Their potential to triple or even quadruple their sales in the next 12 to 24 months is very good.

* I am updating my resume to reflect the above new project for the DOD contractor.

* I had a third interview with the marketing software and services firm, which I feel went very well. The company is focused and growing. In fact, they’re among the top 50 marketing firms in the U.S., and they’ve made Inc’s top 100 fastest growing marketing firms in U.S. I am following up with them today to talk about next steps.

* I am following up with one of the top contractors for the Department of Homeland Security and hope to schedule my next interviews with them today.

* I have been playing phone tag with the major satellite and systems integration defense contracting firm. The program managers have noted interest, but I’ve been stuck for three weeks trying to move the process forward to next interviews.

* I need to follow up again on all the leads readers of this blog have sent to me.

* I attended a CareerBuilder job fair in Chicago last week. Of the three dozen firms there I met with four. In last week’s post I noted that I was concerned I would experience some amount of stigma coming in as an executive. I can report that in fact I was received very well. Two firms indicated that they wanted to discuss my background with more senior management.

* I’ve applied to seven new positions this week.

I am also continuing my efforts in expanding my network. For example, on the way out of the job fair I met an IT executive. After discussing our backgrounds, I offered to give him a ride to his car. I learned that he is a mentor for job search candidates, sets up networking events in Chicago, and is developing job search tools. I hope to attend one of his events in the near future. And when his job search tools come to fruition, I will certainly pass those on to you.

The following day, while at a cigar tasting event, I met another IT leader from one of the two largest pharmaceutical firms in the US. We exchanged cards, and the next day I followed up with him about some positions I was interested in and gave him my resume.

Yesterday I spoke with the Chicago chapter leader for Marines For Life, which is an organization for US Marines transitioning to civilian life from active duty. We discussed the potential for me to mentor to these local heroes with a presentation on job search strategies at an upcoming networking event. And today I am attending a ComputerWorld IT Executive Summit conference, in part to network with other IT leaders.

These random and intentional networking efforts continue to generate new leads and leads TO OTHER sources of leads. For the cost of some time, some gasoline, a cigar recommendation, and volunteering to assist fellow Marines, I gain new contacts and hopefully help others, too.

Thanks again for all of your comments and ideas!


Mark Cummuta

CIO Job Search: A Real Life Chronicle