Magazine article Working Mother

Help Wanted!

Magazine article Working Mother

Help Wanted!

Article excerpt

while no one would call the economy red hot, it is warming a bit. U.S. job growth is expected to rise by 2 percent this year, continuing a gradual recovery that began in mid-2010. For many women, it's simply time to start looking again. too many talented women spent the recession doing the work of three people, mired in jobs they'd outgrown or stuck on the sidelines, hoping for a reentry opportunity. (in a Working Mother reader survey, nearly a third of you said you're already looking.)

"it's an ideal time to be looking around and assessing your skills," says Paul kurth, director of talent acquisition for Dell, which after achieving record earnings in fiscal 2011 is in growth mode this year. "nearly every industry is beginning to lift its head and consider adding talent at every level." According to execunet, which surveys executive recruiters on their hiring plans for the next six months, nearly 40 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to add new management jobs. this "signals that a real shift is under way and that business growth and leadership reinvestment is the focus" for many employers, says Lauryn Franzoni, executive director of the norwalk, ct-based online research and networking firm.

Last year, the working mother 100 best companies hired more than 346,000 people, of whom 49 percent were women. the great news? the qualities many of these companies seek-grace under pressure, an ability to juggle conflicting priorities, high energy, an ability to lead a group- are built into the daily role of motherhood. here's how to kick off your search.

The Network

it's who, not what, you know. Yes, you've heard this one before. but it's so crucial it bears repeating. "Don't just apply for a job online. everyone does that," says Steven canale, general electric's corporate human resources manager for global recruiting and staffing. "reach out first to everyone you know who could help you make a connection." ideally, you want to come recommended before your resume hits a hiring executive's in-box, says career consultant kaplan mobray, author of The 10Ks of Personal Branding. "You want someone who steps up to champion you as someone this company needs to talk to."

companies welcome this tactic, because they know an endorsement by someone who is already part of the company or knows it well means the candidate will likely be a good fit for the culture. "it's crucial to identify someone internally who can advocate for you," says Jillian Snavley, senior recruiting manager for the Pnc Financial Services group. the Pittsburghbased firm gets roughly 100 resumes for each available position, but your odds go way up if you're referred by a current employee: referrals make up more than 25 percent of external hires. the higher the position, the more clout a referral carries. Deloitte hires 43 percent of experienced hires from referrals, and chicagobased professional services firm grant thornton grabs 50 percent of its job candidates that way.

if you've mined your network and still don't have an "in" to a company, you may be able to use social media ( judiciously) to make one.

After taking nearly ten years off to raise daughters Samara, 13, and Avery, 9, Julie white, 46, was researching developments in health care, her former field, when she came across a white paper authored by kristine martin Anderson, 42, a senior vice president in booz Allen hamilton's health-care practice.

through Linkedin, Julie crafted a short email summarizing her background, explaining what interested her in kristine's report and asking for a chance to meet. "it was a great email," recalls kristine, herself a mom to daughters kasey, 8, and Jamie, 6. "She'd done her homework. She knew what booz Allen did and what i did individually." impressed, kristine ultimately arranged several interviews, which lead to Julie joining the firm's Dc health-care practice as an associate in 2010.

"i've always liked working, and i missed being part of an organization," says Julie. "i've been very fortunate in coming to booz Allen."

Do Your Homework

"tell me about what you do" is a fine blind-date opener, but it's a huge turnoff in an interview, say executive recruiters. You should come in knowing what the company does, who its competitors are, what market it serves and what the culture is like, says Dell's Paul kurth.

For instance, though she'd been freelancing in Pnc's marketing department for several months, caitlin green, 27, took nothing for granted when a full-time position opened. the mom of mya, 10, and Jahzara, 2, spent hours preparing to interview.

to position herself, caitlin gathered intelligence about how the department worked and whom she'd need to impress. She reworked her resume and portfolio so they highlighted her financialwriting experience.

then, over the course of several interviews, caitlin talked about her experience in detail and tied it back to the benefits the company would receive if they hired her. "i made sure to bring up Pncspecific information i'd learned while freelancing there to help reiterate that i could hit the ground running," she recalls. She got the job, which comes with a full roster of benefits, plus every other Friday off, a familyfriendly perk she loves.

Brand Y.O.U.

in January, Laura mills landed her dream job as national director of client experience at grant thornton. During eight interviews that ranged from videoconference sessions to an all-day visit to the company's charlotte campus, Laura crafted herself as a total package: a seasoned executive and a passionate leader who knew how she could make a difference to the firm. to create credibility for "brand Laura" in her first interview, Laura made a point to mention several well-respected industry professionals she'd worked for who she knew would be familiar to the senior partner interviewing her. She also emphasized her 25 years in public accounting and connected the in-depth knowledge to an ability to service and retain major clients for grant thornton.

Laura also did the little things that showed she had the personal polish to handle the firm's major U.S. clients. She wore her best suit topped off with a beautiful new scarf. her first interview was by videoconference from a remote office, so she arrived early to check that the shot was properly lighted and focused.

"i was in sell mode," says Laura, mom to colin, 18, Lucy, 15, katherine, 14, and Alison, 10. "i demonstrated that i knew what the need was at grant thornton, and then i focused on why i was passionate about taking that client-leadership function to the next level for the firm."

in the end, the company expanded the position to Laura's capabilities, and when she negotiated for a larger starting salary, they agreed.

when you're a candidate, "every aspect of how you present yourself should be polished and professional," says mobray. "You are your own brand."

The Next Step

Stay ahead of the game. even if your dream employer isn't hiring yet, keep your resume up to date, your network strong and your eyes open so you'll be top of mind when a spot does open. "For us, finding the right people for our firm starts long before we have a job opening," says grant thornton's colleen mallon. "we love to build relationships prior to recruiting."

if you're not ready yet, there's no time to waste. companies "that were hunkered down and not hiring the last few years are switching into growth mode," says career consultant kaplan mobray-and that could include you: "they need to rebalance their workforce, which is great for women because they're interested in diverse ideas and skills."

[Sidebar]

Every October, Working Mother celebrates 100 companies that are top employers. We extol their great benefits. (On-site day care and gyms! Tuition reimbursement! Paid sabbaticals!) Most of all, we detail what it's like to work for organizations that believe women can lead even as they support them as terrific moms. This year, instead of just talking about the great stuff, we decided to ask hiring execs, recruiters and employee moms at the Working Mother 100 Best for their best advice on scoring a dream job.

[Sidebar]

How To: Tap the Network

Brainstorm with anyone who might help you connect with an organization where you'd like to work, advises GE's Steven Canale. Introduce yourself to speakers at professional and technical association gatherings, tap alumni networks, and mine your address book. If you've been at home for a while, don't overlook community connections (the PTA, for example, or Little League board), because these are people who've seen you in action. If you can motivate volunteers, you can motivate anyone. Use social media to make an "in." LinkedIn is your best bet, with 100-plus-million members worldwide. Keep your message brief, demonstrate that you've done legwork to understand whom you're reaching out to, and ask to follow up with a phone call or short meeting. Also ask if you can forward your resume, recommends PNC's Jillian Snavley, rather than sending it initially.

[Sidebar]

How To: Prepare for an Interview

Scour the web for news and information on your prospective employer. The Investor Relations section of the company's website will have the latest annual report. Check out branded Facebook pages, where some companies post local recruiting events, and Twitter feeds. See if the executive you'll be meeting has a bio on LinkedIn. Jot down achievements you want to discuss, recommends Ed Colbert, director of talent management for Dow Corning. While you don't want to appear scripted during an interview, it's a good exercise to organize your thoughts beforehand. Do a dry run. Cast a spouse or friend in the role of interviewer. Companies use behavioral interviewing-essentially, openended questions to learn how you think and handle situations. (Check out jobinterview questions.org for common examples.) "People make the mistake of being vague," says Jennifer Donnelly Bowen, associate vice president of human resources at the University at Buffalo. "We want to hear specifics about what a person did, decisions they made and results they achieved."

[Sidebar]

How To: Wow Them

Use impeccable manners. You should be well groomed, and your supporting materials should be, too. For instance, a professional email (no squirrel monkey@nutso.com), a signature line with your contact information and a voicemail message free of trendy songs or your kids' voices. Keep prior employers' information confidential. Follow up with a thank-you note or email. Give credit. Inclusive leadership is high on many companies' wish lists. They want employees who can motivate others to perform at their peak. Try for "we" versus "I" statements when talking about team achievements. If you've been out of work, it's okay to have those examples come from your personal life- whether it's chairing a charity fund-raiser or serving on a school committee. "I believe that bright, talented women who took some time off are still bright, talented women," says Booz Allen's Kristine Martin Anderson. Be ready to share. Explain what makes you tick, including hobbies outside work. Companies want to hire people who live full, engaged lives-and will bring that same excitement to work.

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