By Dr. Wallace E. Boston
Chief Executive Officer, American Public Education, Inc.
A friend and former neighbor of mine was recently informed that her job was being eliminated in a corporate downsizing. I asked her if she had a process for finding that next job and her reply was “not really.” I then asked if she was interested in hearing about the process that I advise people to use. After I explained it, she suggested that I share the process more broadly.
Many years ago, I served as CFO for several healthcare companies, all of which were subsequently acquired. While there were severance packages for the employees, the first time I lost my job because of a corporate consolidation, I was a little overwhelmed about the prospects of finding a new one. The Internet was not around, so I went to the library to find advice about looking for jobs.
I found a couple of books, but also began networking with friends to let them know about my situation. I remember reading in Harvey MacKay’s book Swim with the Sharks that good salesmen never called a connection when they needed a sale if they had not connected with them for a while. I also realized that it was easier to get started on a search if your resume was fairly current so even though I advanced to a succession of other jobs, I made it a point to keep my resume updated, as appropriate. With these points as a background, I developed the following process:
- Don’t begin your job search until your mind is clear and you are rested. There’s a difference between losing your job due to a layoff or consolidation and leaving it. If the latter, I recommend doing so only after you have found another one. If you’ve been laid off, take the time to clear your mind of distractions and be ready to focus on the task at hand.
- Update your resume.
- Think about with whom you would like to share your situation and who might be able to connect you with an employer looking to hire someone with your background and talents. Note that just because you know someone who works at the largest local company or university doesn’t mean that they’re the right person to contact. If you’re younger, you may not know anyone at a particular company, but may have a friend, parent or relative who does.
- Once a week (Sunday evenings worked best for me), identify five people you are going to contact that week. While you can add more, I don’t suggest doing that until you are comfortable with the process. I recommend one person daily starting out.
- Contact the person through the medium by which you believe you’ll be most successful in connecting. When I developed this process, email was not as ubiquitous as it is now, so I made a call, usually around 9 or 9:30 in the morning. When I was able to connect with my contact, I explained that I was making a change in employers and was hoping that I might be able to buy them lunch and share some of my ideas. Even if I thought that this contact might have a compatible position open, I avoided implying that I wanted them to hire me because most people will avoid meeting with you if you suggest it’s their job to find you a job.
- When you meet with the person, or before if you’ve already called them, offer them either a hard copy of your resume or an electronic version to facilitate forwarding it to one of their own connections. While you’re meeting with them, mention employers you’re considering and ask them if they have any contacts there. If you walk away with a few contacts or a promise to connect you with some through email, it’s been a successful meeting.
- When you follow these steps, you will find that in a few weeks, your schedule is very busy between continuing to make those five weekly calls, to calling people back you were unable to reach, to meeting people for coffee or lunch, and beginning interviews with employers with whom you’ve connected.
- Continue the process until you receive and accept a new job offer.
- When you receive your new job, don’t forget to let everyone know who was part of this process that you found a job and thank them for their support. You never know when you may need them again and people remember those who take the time to say thanks.
I remember when I began my first job search after my company was purchased; some of the books that I bought had advice about replying to a classified ad. If I responded to any classifieds, it was only in that first search. The process that I have outlined above is designed to leverage all of your relevant connections. It has always worked for me and also for the 20 or 30 people I have explained it to over the years.
Yes, it may be easier to manage this process when you’re committed to staying in a certain geographical area where you have established contacts, but I have found it to work as well when you want to relocate. I hope you find this as helpful as my friends and I have over the years. Send me any additional tips and I’ll be glad to pay them forward to others.
About the Author
Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led the parent company of APUS, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI), to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS has grown to 60,000 alumni worldwide and 200 degree and certificate programs. In July 2016, he was succeeded as APUS president by former Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Karan Powell, while continuing his leadership role as CEO of APEI to provide strategic and leadership support to APUS, Hondros College of Nursing and other APEI ventures.
In addition to his service to the University, Dr. Boston is a board member of the Maryland Association of CPAs. He is also a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a member of the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a Board member of the Presidents’ Forum of Excelsior College, a member of the Arizona State University Education Innovation Advisory Board, and a Board Member of New Horizons Worldwide, Fidelis, Inc., and Therapeutic Research Center. He is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group.
Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and in June 2016, he was recognized as the inaugural recipient of his namesake Leadership Award.