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The job of job hunting.

DOWNSIZING, TAKEOVER, RESTRUCTURING, PERSONNEL reduction, and reorganization: All are terms that came to prominence in the business world of the '80s and promise to be around for much of the '90s. Whatever their specific definitions, they all have the same result: a major impact on the lives of individual employees. Frequently they mean that people will lose their jobs, even after many years with the company.

The notice of termination often comes as a surprise and finds many people ill-prepared financially or psychologically for unemployment. Life was filled with meetings, correspondence, discussions, and decisions; we were overburdened with deadlines, questions, and budget problems; we went to seminars, traveled cross-country on business, and stayed up late writing reports or preparing briefings. Now, suddenly, there is no need to get up early, no rush-hour traffic. Our calendar is empty, and no one is asking for our opinions or decisions.

The unemployed security practitioner is a common part of the population these days, but no more so than practitioners of other professions. In today's slow economy no business or industry is immune from layoffs. Businesses that traditionally seemed secure, such as banking, insurance, and investment, are now experiencing widespread employee reductions.

We all understood that general contractors had only seasonal work, that the automobile industry had its ups and downs, and that government contract work was faring well, at least until the mid-'80s. We looked at our profession and saw that contract guard and alarm companies were on the upswing in recent years, ever since the "Do more with less" theory began to permeate the workplace.

But hardly any of us stopped to think ahead or plan for the possibility that we might soon be one of the unemployed, looking for a new job. Once we received the bad news life took on new elements: a lack of income, filing for unemployment compensation, perhaps some arrangements with creditors, a change of plans for a vacation, delaying some home repairs, and the most pressing problem of all, the need to find another job.

If this scenario applies to you, before getting totally immersed in the job hunt, perform a situation analysis and determine your financial state. Can you manage for a few months on your reduced resources? Consider the following:

* Unemployment compensation. Tighter restrictions have been placed on applicants, and amounts paid are less than they were a few years ago. The best advice is still to file quickly because the first check will take several weeks.

* Severance pay. Many companies offer one week's pay for every year worked for the company. Sometimes they pay it weekly rather than in a lump sum; in that case, unemployment compensation may not start until the payments cease. For that reason it is probably to your advantage to receive all the severance pay at once.

* Reduced cash outflow. Reduce your payments to creditors to the smallest amount required each month. Hold off on purchasing large items for the house or getting a new car.

* Savings. Plan to tap into your bank accounts, savings bonds, and certificates of deposit to provide additional income when required, but try not to touch anything in an individual retirement account.

* 401(k). Did you receive a disbursement from a 401(k) retirement plan? If so, try not to touch that money; instead, roll it over into another qualified account within 60 days of receipt, or you will end up paying taxes on it as regular income as well as a penalty of 10 percent for early withdrawal.

Once you ensure that you will be able to exist for some time on the money available to you, put that worry out of your mind and concentrate on the job hunt. Some people make the mistake of taking that long-postponed vacation after being laid off. They think it might lessen the emotional impact of the job loss, but in fact it is too tense a period for relaxation, and it will waste money that may be needed if the job search takes longer than you anticipated.

Realize immediately that searching for a job is a job. Plan, organize, and follow through just as you would on any job. One of your first tasks is to determine exactly what you have to offer. Do this by making a thorough self-analysis. Ask yourself such questions as:

* What exactly have I done? (This doesn't mean what job titles have you had, but what tasks and accomplishments can you list?)

* What do I like to do? (This refers to your individual preferences. Do you like writing, or do you hate it? Do you enjoy working on the budget, or would you rather be designing a security layout?)

* What do I do best? (Do you work well with people, or are you better on a one-person project?)

From these answers make a list of your actual performance experience. After each item identify the personal characteristics that were involved in accomplishing each task. For example, did it require planning, organization, coordination, attention to details, or the ability to handle people?

If you begin to see characteristics and skills repeated in several of the tasks, they are probably your strengths, what you like to do, and what you are good at doing. These answers and descriptions become the basis of your resume.

PROBABLY MORE HAS BEEN WRITTEN ON HOW TO PREPARE a resume than on any other aspect of business. I won't suggest there is only one right way to do it, nor will I try to sell you on a specific approach. But I will suggest that one way to get started is to think back to resumes you have reviewed. Which ones were you comfortable with, and which turned you off? Which style caught your eye, and which ones caused you to skim a paragraph and toss it aside? This simple test might determine the style you should use.

In case you haven't had the opportunity to read many resumes, here are a few hints and suggestions.

First, make your resume a one-page statement of your abilities, experience, and education. It should be well thought-out, clear, and concise, just like an executive summary sheet.

Second, state your objective. Are you seeking a job as a director, department manager, shift supervisor, investigator, or training specialist? You must know what you want before you can sell yourself to strangers.

Third, use words that describe your accomplishments. Instead of writing, "I have training experience," try writing a more emphatic statement, such as "I personally designed, developed, and produced three audiovisual training programs."

Fourth, keep your objective and statements of experience as broad as possible so you can use one resume for most of your job search. If you have to tailor the resume for every prospective employer, you will be working harder than when you were employed.

Fifth, check the spelling, grammar, content, and layout until you are certain that it looks right and feels right. Then have someone else read it and give his or her opinion.

Strive for the most professional-looking resume you can put together. Perhaps you can obtain some help from the company you are leaving. Many companies offer placement and resume assistance as well as administrative help to departing employees. Make use of whatever help the company offers. The money you save on the resume and on phone calls could be considerable. While you still have the opportunity, sit with the human resources employees and discuss their contacts in other companies that might be beneficial in your search.

ONCE THE RESUME IS COMPLETED, THE NEXT STEP MIGHT be to make a list of every friend, business and professional acquaintance, relative, and neighbor you can think of. Tell them you are seeking a new job, and ask if they know of anything that might help. Some of the best opportunities come from business expansion, new facilities being built, or new contracts coming into the area. Although estimates vary considerably, some people in the job-hunting business indicate that 70 percent of all jobs are obtained through personal contacts. Therefore, personal contacts are where you need to exert your major efforts.

Many ASIS chapters have a job coordinator who keeps track of what is available in the area. He or she should be one of your first contacts. Leave a copy of your resume, and make certain the coordinator understands what you will accept.

In some chapters the chairman may mention the name of anyone seeking a job at the monthly meetings. In other chapters you may bring copies of your resume and place them on the table with other handouts at these meetings.

Don't forget to register with the placement service at ASIS headquarters. Complete the questionnaire the placement staff provides, and send it to ASIS. It will be entered into the computer, where company requirements are matched against individual qualifications. If your resume meets a particular company's requirements, it is sent to the company for review. If the company is interested, its staff will contact you directly. There is no charge for the service to either the companies or the applicants.

ASIS also offers articles on the subjects of job hunting, resume preparation, and other topics for the novice job hunter. Your efforts may have to go well beyond ASIS networking, but the Society is a good place to start.

Begin to formulate a job search plan early in your efforts. Doing so requires decisions on the following subjects:

Location. Should you seek new employment within driving distance of your present home, or are you willing to relocate? This decision may be influenced by your work experience.

For instance, if your experience has been with a nuclear facility and you have the training, the clearance, and the desire to remain in that line of work, then your job search may have to be nationwide. There are fewer than 100 such facilities in the country, and they are usually located a considerable distance apart.

Field. Should you seek employment only in the field in which you have the most experience, or are you adaptable enough to broaden your search to other facets of security? If you have been a facility security officer for a government contractor, your knowledge of physical security, guards, alarms, and inspections will easily transfer to bank, highrise, or contractors guard management, to name just a few positions.

Level. Will you try to get a new job at the same level as the one you had (or higher), or are you willing to go back a step to get in with a new company? Spend some time thinking of the salary you will accept. Be realistic.

Taking a job well below what you were making because it is the first offer may not be to your advantage. If it is too low, you will be out hunting for a new job before long. If you know what you need, not just what you would like to have, you are in a better position to direct your efforts to the jobs that carry a suitable salary.

Going solo. Is this an opportunity to consider working for yourself as a consultant? Do you have sufficient funds set aside to get you through the first year or two while you build a clientele? Would your education and experience enable you to succeed in your own business? Do you have the personality, drive, and dedication needed to be your own boss and create a successful business?

Keep your game plan in mind as you begin your job search. Direct your information-gathering efforts to those sources that meet the needs you identified above. Some of the sources you might consider are the following:

* Directory issue of Dynamics. The annual list of ASIS members and their companies is an excellent source of local, regional, and national contacts.

* Local newspaper want ads. Some estimates say that only 5 percent of jobs are listed in newspapers. Don't pass up the obvious, but don't spend a lot of time with the local papers.

* National employment papers. These papers list a wide variety of jobs available nationwide, but they get their listings from the local papers. So if the 5 percent premise is correct, you wouldn't want to spend much time or money on these. Reviewing these papers over the years, I have found very few security positions advertised.

* Professional placement agencies. These agencies list you as a client, then try to find you a job. Either they will charge you a fee based on the salary you receive at the new job, or the new company will pay a fee. A few agencies around the country specialize in security or have one agent assigned to the security profession. But most specialize in other fields and seem to have limited contacts in the security world.

* Professional job-hunting services. These are different than the placement agencies mentioned above. These services offer a job-hunting program that usually includes personal testing to determine your abilities and preferences, resume-writing assistance, and an academic program that teaches you their suggested method for job hunting and perhaps salary negotiations. Such services are usually expensive and give no guarantee of a job. In reality, you still do all the work of finding the job while using their theory.

* Libraries. Public libraries contain many reference books that identify the names and addresses of businesses as well as senior executives, gross sales, credit ratings, etc. These references are certainly useful if you know nothing about the company you are approaching. But budget your time carefully - library research is time-consuming and can take away from the time you need for personal contacts.

* Job lines. Federal, state, and local government agencies and many large companies often have 24-hour job lines. You can literally shop at home by calling the recordings of available jobs. These are usually toll-free numbers, and the tapes are updated monthly or every few weeks.

WHEN YOU RESPOND TO A NEWSPAPER AD, YOU ARE ONE of probably hundreds applying for the job. It becomes the task of the personnel department to sort through and screen out everyone who doesn't have the exact experience and education the company is seeking. That action cuts your chances considerably.

On the other hand, if you can identify the company doing the hiring and send your resume to the director or manager of security, you improve your odds. Most will review any resume coming to their attention, whereas they will not even see most of the resumes received by the personnel department.

Most often directors and managers will not have time to answer your resume, but if you mention in your cover letter that you will call in a few days to set up a brief meeting, you just might get in the door for an interview. That is the step that puts you far ahead of the competition.

Of course, the face-to-face meetings with hiring managers are the crux of the entire job search. Once you have an appointment, it is up to you to sell yourself. You must make the correct impression in the short time you have with the people doing the hiring. You will have only a few minutes to convince them they need you.

Appearance and self-confidence may well top the list of things you should consider before walking into any meeting. However, rather than list the dozens of other factors important in a job interview, I would just suggest you prepare for it as you did for every important briefing or meeting in your former job.

Think of questions that might be asked, and prepare your answers. Think of facts that you feel are important to convey, and be sure that you insert them into the conversation.

If you walk out of an interview and say to yourself, "I wish I had answered that question differently," then you probably were not as well prepared as you should have been. On the other hand, if you walk out feeling good about the interview, then you did all you could; the rest is up to the person doing the hiring.

If you are fortunate, you may have been able to arrange for a new job to start the day you left the old company. If you are only moderately lucky, you may get a new job within the first month. But for most people, several months of hunting and interviewing is not uncommon. It may seem like luck when you are finally hired, but in most cases it was determined effort that got you to the right place at the right time.

While you are job hunting, you will likely experience a lot of emotional ups and downs. Self-doubt will creep into your mind. For most people it is embarrassing to be unemployed and talking to everyone about a job. You will feel these emotions after being turned down a few times. But keep a positive attitude. Tell yourself over and over that someone out there needs exactly what you have to offer and that the rejections are nothing personal. In cases where you are rejected, you simply may not have all the qualifications the company is seeking, whereas another applicant just happens to have them.

A lot of people in security say timing is everything. For instance, a manager may tell you in June that he has no openings and doesn't foresee any in the near future. Then in August that same manager is hunting for help because someone quit, was fired, or went out on long-term disability; because the company got a new contract and needs help in security; or any of a dozen other unforeseen circumstances.

Persistence and the right attitude will get you a job because everything in business changes. Even in this slow market, companies are hiring to meet their needs, and it is not unusual to see layoffs occuring while the personnel department keeps busy hiring new people.

One way to measure how well your job hunt is going is to ask, "How many face-to-face interviews am I getting with hiring managers?" Another good questions is, "How many conditional offers have I received?" A conditional offer might be made in a statement such as this: "There is a new contract we hope to land next month; if we get it, I will be glad to hire you." If you are having some success on these scales, you are on the right track - just keep up the effort.

If you are finding it difficult to get interviews or are getting few positive comments, you might want to consider some alternate courses of action. Perhaps you are aiming too high.

In slow markets companies tend to streamline their supervisory and managerial staffs. In good times a company might have employed one director, six managers, and 15 supervisors. But in slow times the company may have no director, the number of managers may be cut in half (and they might now oversee two departments), and the supervisors' jobs may have been restructured so that there are now eight working shift leaders. No matter what, there are always more jobs at the lower levels.

Perhaps your resume isn't the selling tool you thought it would be. Consider having a qualified employment specialist or resume writer examine it. Some techniques in marketing are to rotate the product, put it in a new package, or change the advertising for it. You may need to take the same steps.

Perhaps your preparation and presentation during interviews are less professional than they should be. You might be turning people off by being overly friendly or obviously pushy, by monopolizing the conversation, by answering a question before the interviewer has finished speaking, or by presenting your self as the expert on every subject. Perhaps your attitude has slipped, and the worry, anger, and frustration of unemployment are eroding what would otherwise be a confident and smooth interview.

The last point to consider if you are making little progress is that you might need to look outside the security field, even as a temporary measure, to bring in some cash. Looking elsewhere gives you more job opportunities, and you might land a job more quickly. Once you are again employed, you can continue your search for a job in security, but it will not be as pressured a search.

If you do decide to look in another field, start over with your self-analysis and develop another game plan, including a whole new set of contacts. Rewrite the resume to emphasize experience and talents appropriate for employment outside the security field.

The time to plan how you would conduct a job search is while you are still employed. Prepare some of the tools mentioned in this article so they are ready if the bad news hits you unexpectedly.

Pull out your last resume and bring it up to date. Make a list of business and personal references. Make a comprehensive list of every company, business project, or facility where you would like to work. Add the names and phone numbers of the security directors or managers at those locations. Review your financial situation, and ensure that you have a reserve in case of unemployment.

If you take these steps in advance, the shock of unemployment will be minimized, and your transition to the job of hunting for a job will be easier.

William G. Lang, CPP, is an administrative assistant with Hospital Shared Services in Denver. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Seminar Issue; coping with unemployment
Author:Lang, William G.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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