Advice to those looking for work (and working)

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After experiencing a number of mergers/acquisitions and incredible growth together, Razorfish and I recently parted ways amid new company ownership. I am grateful to Razorfish for the opportunity to have grown into my role as a marketing executive, and, just as importantly, for all the cool people I’ve come to know as friends and colleagues. Now that I’ve been a free agent in the job market for weeks, I thought I’d share tips for those of you who seek employment, know someone who is, or might be recruiting for marketing talent. I would love to have your feedback:

1. To employers: seek candidates with current skills in communication and technology.

As I’ve talked with recruiters, one topic that has arisen more than once is how much social media savvy marketing executives should possess — especially in the interactive agency world I inhabit. Recruiters tell me they use social media to find job candidates but find that the candidates do not always use social media aggressively in turn.

Here’s my take: it’s reasonable to expect marketing executives nowadays to at least possess enough social media awareness to own updated LinkedIn profiles. Beyond that, marketing executives should be ready with a perspective on how social media can help build your company brand. They need not be active users of social personally, but they should be able to tell you why they are not (“I haven’t thought to use social” should be a cause for concern.)

Now, if a marketing executive touts social media as a core skill set to help you improve your brand, and claims experience having done so, then he or she should also be an active user of social personally. Ask them how they use Twitter and Facebook. If they don’t list a personal blog on their LinkedIn profile, ask them to at least describe how often they’ve commented on other blogs. They also should be able to cite specific examples of the tools they use to learn social. It’s called living the social values.

2. To the gainfully employed: be prepared for life’s unexpected turns.

Update your portfolio and your resume now, especially your LinkedIn profile. My resume and work samples were fairly up to date when I became a free agent, but not as well as they should have been. Consequently I lost some valuable time hustling to get my credentials organized in the early days of my unemployment.

At the very least, get reacquainted with LinkedIn. Facebook might get the attention for connecting people socially, but LinkedIn’s reputation as the place for professional networking is well deserved. (I’ve also been trying BranchOut, which uses Facebook for professional networking, but it’s too early to tell whether Branchout will make a difference.)

Recruiters do look for talent on LinkedIn, but they are not the only ones: the application has blossomed into a professionals’ social networking center, period. For instance, LinkedIn Open Groups facilitates conversations about topical matters (sample TED group discussion: “Wiki-leaks: how has it changed the world we live in?”). And  LinkedIn Polls makes it possible for you to crowdsource ideas among professionals.

Think of it this way: updating your credentials is a great way for you to take stock in your accomplishments and re-assess what you offer your current employer. Don’t wait until you’re out of work to do that.

And I cannot stress enough: be active in your online/offline social network. If you have a personal blog, keep it fresh with ideas, and contribute comments to blogs operated by your friends and colleagues. You’re not going to convince anyone that you’re genuine if you wait until you are a free agent to return to your blog (or launch one).

Don’t be one of those people who reaches out to others only when you need them.

3. If you know someone who is unemployed: reach out.

People like me appreciate your support. What’s really crucial is just reaching out to say hello or little gestures, like the invitation to dinner, perhaps an uplifting book, or even an email out of the blue.

You might be wondering: should I ask my unemployed friend or family member how the job search is going? I think it’s safe to assume you don’t need to ask; if there has been a major development, you’ll hear about it. A one-time “Hey, I know of a resource for job seekers” is great to hear, of course.

And a follow-up weeks down the road is really cool: major life events like a change in job status typically spark a lot of checking in among friends and family in the early going, whereas encouraging words usually taper off after a few weeks. At that time, your support is even more crucial and remembered.

4. If you are unemployed: don’t be shy — really!

Let people know you are available for hire. There is no stigma in being unemployed especially at a time when a significant portion of the U. S. population is jobless. Networking opportunities like industry meetings and LinkedIn are obvious sources (the mere act of revising my LinkedIn profile attracted a few leads for me). But telling your friends, neighbors, and former co-workers is important, too — and you have many social media tools at your disposal beyond LinkedIn.

And as you look for a job, build yourself up. Surround yourself with positive people. Avoid gloomy articles about job loss and tough times like this one (interesting for armchair sociologists, I guess, but a needless distraction for job seekers). And while we’re at it, you might want to avoid movies like this one.

5. To the Illinois Department of Employment Security: kudos.

Bravo for providing online tools and fairly decent telephone self-service, like an online application for employment benefits. It sure would be nice if your online tools worked on more browsers beyond Internet Explorer, though, and the in-person service is inconsistent.

My visit to my local employment office was disorienting and bureaucratic based on the initial response of the government official in charge of “greeting” visitors; but then my experience improved considerably when my paperwork was assigned to a cool and helpful guy named Alex (which goes to show how one person in a bureaucracy can make or break you — so thank you, Alex).

I’ll check back in and let you know how the job search is going; meantime, if you are an employer, here is what I can do for you: I can help you build your brand by applying a combination of skills in marketing, influencer outreach, social media, and thought leadership.

My experience includes repositioning a company brand, turning an ordinary event into an industry-leading conference, writing social media guidelines for 2,000 employees, and launching relationships with news media, bloggers, and industry analysts. You can learn more about me on my LinkedIn profile. Feel free also to call me at 312-339-1879 or email me at

Happy 2011.

Note: thank you to Jeremiah Owyang for your valuable counsel and help as I wrote this post.

20 thoughts on “Advice to those looking for work (and working)

  1. David, I wish you the best! You are an amazing guy and I can\’t wait to see what the future holds for you! Stay strong and positive — good things are on their way.

    • Jane, my family and I really appreciate your support! We look forward to seeing you next month. Instead of blogging about the Abe Lincoln Walmart in Springfield as I did not long ago, maybe I should work there! Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Hi David – Just read your blog and reaching out to my friend to say life\’s changes bring new opportunities. You deserve the best and I am sure you will discover the best very soon.



    • Thank you, brother. I wonder if Al Davis needs any help? I am probably a tad bit too old to try out for quarterback, but I can apply my market intelligence and research skills to become one of his alleged Raider spies. Great to hear from you.

  3. David, please know that I will support you in whatever way I can as you seek your next position. Your comments to the gainfully employed remind me of advice I received from a colleague many years ago: \”You should always be looking for your next job.\” Even when you love what you\’re doing, where you\’re doing it and who\’s doing it with you, stay alert and ready for that \”next move.\” Thanks for the reminder. Now, off to my LinkedIn profile to see what needs updating …

    • Thank you, Beth! By the way, I\’ve had the opportunity to help out more at home with things such as our daughter\’s school science project. I have a new-found respect for the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical requirements of being a full-time mom as Jan is! And a rewarding role it is.

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  5. Some wise words! You\’re right that it\’s so important to update LinkedIn etc regularly so it doesn\’t look like it\’s just been done just before an interview. Good Luck with your job hunt!

    • Thank you, Louise. Also, it\’s interesting to note (and this might be good for a follow-up post) that researching a company is a lot easier today with so much available online. Moreover, in this day and age of social transparency, we have more tools to research the actual people we are meeting, which can be quite useful for striking up a more personal rapport during an interview so long as you do not overdo it.

  6. David:

    Good post. I have been doing a significant amount of coaching and mentoring since being made redundant from Hitachi three years ago. I am also doing marketing, PR and social media consulting for several clients. Given the state of the marketplace, you would do well to continue writing, networking and engaging in an ongoing marketing campaign for yourself. Feel free to poke around my web site, as well as my blog at Also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at I am happy to help.

    All the best,


    • Thank you, Gerry. I like your notion of an ongoing marketing campaign for yourself — nice way of phrasing the process of applying marketing and PR to sell yourself in a systematic fashion leading up to a career, similar to business development for a client.

  7. Hey David – great insights and couldn\’t agree more. Wish we\’d had a chance to work together longer and hope our paths cross again at some point (I know they will). Take care, David Hawes

  8. So you do marketing? I know of a video company in NJ that is hiring. I am a recruiter in San Francisco. Can we talk?

    from Judy

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