Loaned Office Space Pays Off for Banker | Ladders

Loaned Office Space Pays Off for Banker

After being laid off, Detroit banker Jeff Ciochetto lands a job with M&T Bank in Pennsylvania in just six months.

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When Jeff Ciochetto’s entire department was laid off from their jobs at FlagStar Bank in metropolitan Detroit last October, he wasn’t going to let an economic downturn keep him down. So the former first vice president and senior commercial banking division manager kept going to work. Not at the bank, but at the office of a generous friend. “My buddy is a CPA, and he gave me space in his office to use while I searched for a job,” he said.

For Ciochetto, 50, who could have just as easily trolled job-search Web sites at home in his bathrobe, it helped him to maintain his work schedule and his professional mindset as he worked his way through the ups and downs of unemployment. “I got up in the morning, I got dressed, I went to the office,” the FinanceLadder member said. “I put on a tie, I met with people. I kept that whole work mode going. Being unemployed can be very depressing. It was better to have someplace to come to than be home alone.”

Looking for a job in an area that was very hard hit when the economy started its downward trend was a daunting task. But Ciochetto was up for it. “I think I worked harder looking for a job than I did when I was working,” he said.

There were two things that Ciochetto came to terms with pretty quickly as he looked at classified ads and job-search Web sites, and networked throughout October, November and December. To begin with, he realized that he would likely have to relocate from the Detroit area, where he had worked for more than 20 years, in order to find a job with the responsibility he was looking for. Second, even if he did relocate, finding a job that matched the salary he had been making was going to be difficult. “It’s pretty tough in this industry everywhere,” he said. “I was finding that there was a huge salary depression.” He opened up his search to areas of the country where there was a lot of banking activity, including Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas and Arizona. Still, he wasn’t getting a lot of response to his resume.

Ciochetto continued to speak to recruiters and friends throughout the end of 2008. But it was a tough few months. “I think I was going for the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of jobs I applied for,” he said. “I interviewed with a lot of recruiters, but I got the feeling they were doing it more for the purposes of building up their inventory for when the market finally improved, than for specific jobs. That was frustrating.”

Neighborly advice

Ciochetto received another benefit from going into his friend’s office: some advice from the man in the office next door. “In January, I told him I wasn’t getting a lot of response to jobs I had applied for,” he said. “He asked me if I had heard of Ladders. I hadn’t, so I went and checked it out, and I was amazed at the number of jobs, and how you could create your profile. It just created a whole new set of tools for me to use.”

And propelled his job search forward. “The difference from the other sites was incredible,” he said. “Once I started sending resumes for jobs listed on Ladders, I received a lot of phone calls from recruiters that had specific jobs. I had several phone interviews. There was just a great deal more activity, and it was more serious. These people were actually looking to hire people.”

Expediting the search

One of the first jobs Ciochetto applied to after looking at Ladders was for a vice president position at M&T Bank. He had his first contact with them on January 15, and had his first interview, by phone, just five days later. After a few more phone interviews, he was brought to Pennsylvania, where the job was located, to meet people there, and then, a couple of weeks later, went to Buffalo, N.Y., where the bank’s headquarters are, for a final round of interviews. He was offered the job in mid-March and will move to Pennsylvania in mid-April, where he will become vice president and business-banking team lead for a territory in Pennsylvania that includes Lewisburg and Harrisburg.

According to recruiters he has spoken to, it’s not unusual for people in the banking industry to take nine to 15 months to find a new job in this economy. So Ciochetto said he feels fortunate that, although he is taking a pay cut from his last job, and relocation expenses are up to him, he has found a job that will offer new challenges in a tough economic market.

“The benefits as well as the incentive part of the compensation was one of the best I’ve seen,” he said. “I’ll have eight loan officers in the field reporting to me. The challenge, when you are coming from the outside, is convincing the people you work with that you are the right person for the job. If there’s not a challenge to it, then what’s the point?”

Patty Orsini

Patty Orsini

Patty Orsini is a general assignment reporter for Ladders.