One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
Tyler Banks said he knew he was going to be let go from his job as regional director for an international commercial real estate company eight months before it happened. “I could see the writing on the wall,” he said. “Starting about this time last year, we had cutbacks because of the economic meltdown. The company couldn’t maintain the momentum from the past three years.”
So he was mentally prepared for unemployment when it happened in September. He even had a plan: He immediately started networking with people in his industry. But almost as immediately, he realized that “people weren’t hiring,” he said. He concluded that he needed to come up with another approach to his job search.
“I looked at specific industries where my skill set from real estate most closely matched their offerings,” he said. “I found that the targeted approach, rather than the shotgun approach, was a much better way to go about a job search.”
Banks was looking for a sales-management position with a stable company, where he could help grow a sales team, be involved in training and reach out to C-level executives. “I’d done those things in my past job, and I wanted to be able to do them again,” he said. “I liked my last job, but there were no jobs in real estate. So I wanted to do the same things again in a different industry. What I found was that insurance fit all those criteria.”
Specifically, Marsh & McClennan, the world’s largest insurance brokerage firm.
“The role of the job was exactly what I was looking for,” he said, about his new role as vice president, private client services. “The industry is parallel to the one I came from. But instead of buying and selling properties, I will be dealing with property owners’ insurance needs.”
Wife and mother-in-law pitch in
As the sole breadwinner in the family, Banks was extremely motivated to find another job. He gave himself a six-month deadline, but “I never once sat on the couch and watched TV,” he said. His only break during the day came when he took his kids to school or to swimming lessons. Otherwise, he was focused on the search.
So was his wife. “She was talking to everyone about job openings,” he said. “Her parents were talking to everyone, too. As a matter of fact, I got one interview through my mother-in-law that turned into a job offer” (that came at the same time as the offer he ended up taking). “It was a team effort.”
Banks said the most important part of his job-search strategy was to be consistent. “Set yourself goals, write them down; use Outlook or a Daytimer to keep track of what you have done, who you have contacted and what you need to do. We had a saying in the real-estate business: ‘See the people, see the property.’ You won’t find a job just sitting behind a computer, you need to go and put forth some serious effort.”
And, while Banks said he was confident he’d find something in the Southern California area where he lives, he didn’t want to count on anything. Even when he got the first interview at Marsh & McClennan, he continued his job-search routine. “You don’t want to bank on any one opportunity,” he said. “I met with Marsh & McCleannan for the first time in November. I met with seven people at different times throughout the process. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, but I was never certain it was going to happen until they offered the job.”
The tools that made the difference
Banks did make sure he got out a couple of times a week to meet with friends and former colleagues, to continue networking and to keep in touch with what was going on in the business world. He started a side business with a friend, doing loan modifications for people, helping them negotiate with the banks.
Something else Banks did: rewrite his resume. “I’d had the same one since college, updated once in a while, but in the old format,” he said. “The competition is vicious right now. I’d recommend to anyone looking for a job to get a professional resume writer, focus on your marketable differences and find the things that set you apart from the competition.”
Banks said, that, in retrospect, he’s glad he was downsized last fall. “It gave me a jump on looking for a job,” he said. “If I were looking for a job now, it would be that much harder; there’s a lot more competition.”