The Thrill of Closing the Deal; Landing a Sales Job

Sales rep finds new job and has fun selling himself at networking events along the way.


John Delaney wasn’t happy to get laid off. But looking back, he said looking for a job was kind of fun.

“Except for waking up in the middle of the night and wondering what would happen to me, I enjoyed the experience,” he said. “If I could make a job out of being unemployed, I would do it. It’s the challenge, the ability to network, sharing ideas around a common problem — a lot of these skills are the same as when you are selling products or services.”

Delaney, who was laid off from his job in outside sales for in early January, wasn’t completely surprised when he got his pink slip. “There had been several rounds of layoffs before that,” he said. “They had already taken the bottom performers. There was a workforce reduction of one-third of the U.S. employees, and I was a remote employee. When business started to fall off a cliff, in August 2008, I was hoping I had enough momentum to survive, but that wasn’t the case.”

However, his previous employer did give him some vacation pay as well as two months of advance on his salary, “enough of a cushion so that my legs weren’t totally cut off,” he said. The company also set him up with a job counselor, who helped him in a number of ways. “I met with her once a week. We spent a lot of time getting me out in front of people. The counseling service hosted networking events, and let me know about other networking events in my area. The counselor taught me how to interview and helped me pare down my resume.”

They also talked about job boards, but it was a friend who referred him to Ladders. He said he had a few friends who had had success with it, but when he first went to look at it, he was surprised that he had to pay to use it. “My friend said, ‘Try it, you can cancel it at any time,’ ” Delaney said. So, he paid his $30 and started getting leads from the site.

Delaney, who lives outside Philadelphia, was looking for a sales job that would allow him to continue to work in the Philadelphia area. “I have two boys going into high school, so we were not moving,” he said. “I swore to the family that I would work three jobs if I had to rather than move.”

A windfall of offers

He didn’t have to consider that option. In mid-February he heard from one of the companies he’d applied to, Corporation Service Co., for a sales position. The company, based in Delaware, needed an outside sales person for its mid-Atlantic region. Within two weeks, he received an offer. Two other offers came in that same day, he said. “Maybe it’s a little easier finding a sales job than other positions right now, because companies are looking for revenue generators.”

But, he said, he never took for granted that a job was imminent. “No matter how qualified I thought I was for a job, it could take three or four weeks to get a response,” he said. “I am still getting responses from companies that I applied to. I think companies have a tidal wave of applications, and they are extremely cautious right now. They aren’t responding as quickly as they used to. They are screening carefully. So I think it’s not unusual for things to take longer in this job market.”

Delaney said that he was very comfortable with the networking process — in part, he said, because it uses many of the same skills he uses in his work. “Sales is knowing your audience and creating a need. With networking, you are the product you are selling.” In a way, he said, he was honing his job skills as he looked for a job.

Lending a hand

Delaney, who started his new job in early March, has continued to network, in part to help friends from who were also laid off. “I’ve kind of made it my mission to make networking a high priority,” he said. “I’m staying in touch with people, whether they helped me get a job or not. I tell people to go on the job-search sites and participate in forums, (where) you can chat with other people and find out about events.

“You have to do it as much as possible, and you have to connect with as many people in as many ways as you can,” Delaney said. “I’m trying to stay in touch with the people I networked with, and I’m happy to lend the benefit of my experience to anyone who asks.”

He is also encouraging friends who are still working but unhappy in their jobs, to start their job search by networking. “I’ve told them to at least put their resume together, and I’ll start handing it around,” he said.

It was so much fun the first time, he’s doing it again for his friends. He’s still enjoying the challenge.

“There’s no one way that works in every situation,” he said. “You have to probe the boundaries and see what happens.”