Aerospace Plant Manager Launches Successful Job Search

Phillip Sambrooks found a new job in Chicago during the economic downturn


Phillip Sambrooks’ company was in growth mode. He certainly wasn’t in danger of being laid off. But he was unhappy in his position as a plant manager for an aerospace parts manufacturer in Chicago. A new CEO had taken over, and the changes he made in some policies at the company where Sambrooks had worked for the past five years made Sambrooks unhappy with his job. So he started thinking about looking for a new job.

He started looking in October 2008 — a time when the job market was turning from bad to worse. But Sambrooks told Ladders he’s glad he did.

“If I had listened to all the bad news in the press, I might not have bothered to start looking when I did,” he said. “But what I found pretty quickly is that there are jobs for people with the right skills out there.”

Knowing he wasn’t under any pressure to find a new job right away made his search a little less stressful. He had given himself a full year to find a new position and was taking it slow.

He was also lucky in that he had a built-in sounding board: an executive coach, courtesy of his employer at the time. “The former CEO of the company was a big advocate of using an executive coach to build a management team,” he said. “He felt it made a more effective team, and all the senior leadership had a coach.” So, he decided to take advantage of her knowledge of what employers would be looking for in a new hire. He worked with her to re-do his resume and sharpened his interviewing techniques.

For Sambrooks, a British citizen, it was a different job-search world from the one he left when he was recruited to work for the U.S. firm five years ago. “There’s more activity here,” he said. “So it took a little more work to figure out where to look and what companies to approach.” His coach recommended he look at Ladders, and from there he was able to focus his search. His preference was to stay in the Chicago area and the aerospace industry, although his wife and he did discuss where they might be willing to move if the opportunity presented itself.

Once he started posting his resume on OpsLadder, Sambrooks said, he received many more responses than he expected. “I probably heard from about 15 people. I spoke to everyone; I used it as an education of how the process works, since this was all new to me.”

An exploratory interview leads to an offer

In December, Sambrooks was contacted by a recruiter who, although he didn’t have a specific job in mind, did want to work with him. “The recruiter didn’t have a job, but he dealt with aerospace companies around Chicago. In January, he called to tell me there was a company that he wanted me to meet with. They didn’t have a role for me, but they wanted to meet. I met with them, met the players. I basically interviewed for a job that didn’t exist,” he said.

The company, Rexnord Industries, an industrial company that manufactures power transmission and water management products, didn’t have a job just then, but Sambrooks said the recruiter kept reassuring him that his exploratory interview was a good start and there might be something happening in the next few months. Sambrooks liked the company, too; he hoped a job might materialize, and was willing to wait. “It wasn’t the kind of anxiety where I was out of work and needed this job to come through,” he said. “And I was quite surprised when the offer came.”

Not only did the offer come through, but he managed to get an increase in salary. “I knew what was happening with other people who had taken new jobs,” he said. “I was hoping to keep my salary flat, and it would have been OK if it had gone down slightly, as long as there was opportunity for growth. As it turned out, I did get an increase. I was quite taken aback with the offer.”

He began in his new job as the plant manager on March 1. He’s very happy he started looking when he did rather than waiting out the recession. The situation at his previous job was not going to get better, he said, and there was no reason to not try.
There’s no sense in waiting [for the job market to get better], Sambrooks said. “It takes a lot of time and effort to look for a job, so it can be hard. But you have to put yourself in the market, or you’ll never know.”