Brad Smith figures that in nearly 17 years as a North Texas outplacement executive for the big Drake Beam Morin agency, he worked with at least 1,000 people individually who were in "career transition" -- losing their jobs.
He knows what he's talking about: Smith got the gate himself in an earlier career, and DBM eliminated his job last year. But this year, at 62, he used his exit package to set himself up in his own consulting business, which he'd been nurturing on the side before he left the firm.
Smith still works with executives and human resources people who refer cases. But with statistics showing that only about a quarter of college grads have jobs by the time they get diplomas, Smith is focusing on new grads and students about to graduate.
He charges $495 for six hours but says his network is already yielding referrals and calls, largely from parents not thrilled with the idea of having Junior back in the crib again.
"The market is with students," he said.
Smith sat down for a Q&A.
How is your program structured?
It's a just-in-time program. What are you afraid of, what's the stumbling block, where do you want to go? There's no set program. It's whatever they need at that point in time. If they've got a résumé, we don't need to talk about résumés. If they've got an interview in three days, we need to talk about interviews. We can talk about how to prepare for a job fair. If they're just perusing the Internet and sending out résumés and don't know what to do after that, we do some assessment work. They've got to prove they're willing to do the work; I don't refer just everybody. They're an extension of my credibility.
What differences are there between executives and students?
The executives have had something, and they don't have it anymore. The students have never had it. There's education and awareness at both levels. It all has to do with instilling confidence and articulating your value.
How should young people approach their job searches?
First, you need to figure out what your ideal job is and then create a marketing campaign for it. There's only four ways to get a job: You do direct mail, you work with executive search firms (they don't want to touch a student), you can answer an ad and submit your résumé online, or you can put together a networking and marketing campaign and take the time to do it right. Answering ads and sending out résumés creates an illusion of productivity. [A job search] is about simple wins. Students need to have conversations. Conversations lead to opportunities. A lot of students want everything right now. If they think they're going to get a job offer after one conversation, they're going to be pretty disappointed.
How do you identify the kind of employer you want to work for?
Look at what you've done already. Think about the person you've worked with, what you liked, what you didn't. Write it down. There's no right or wrong answer.
What do young people know about networking?
There's an inherent fear -- among young people and executives -- of talking to people you don't know. If you really do it right, you don't have to make a cold call. You only have to make a warm call, because you start with people you know. And their network is a lot bigger than they think it is. You start with your parents' friends. What about your fraternity brothers? Your alumni association? Are there groups in your field of discipline you need to get involved with?
Most jaded job seekers find no value in job fairs. Is there?
I think there's value for students. If nothing else, you can start positioning yourself for internships. Most students spend more time preparing for a date than a job fair. It's amazing how they dress for job fairs.
What should a student do to prepare for a job fair?
They need to know who's going to be there. They need to identify companies they wouldn't work for on a bet, and that's where they need to start. They need to know about the company, and they need to come prepared to ask good business questions -- not, "What are your benefits like?" It's not the career questions that set you apart. Nothing's more impressive than when you come to a meeting and you're prepared.
You prepare for a job fair by deciding what companies you wouldn't work for?
Right. Because you're going to screw up, and you might as well make your mistakes where it's not going to hurt.
What should you do if you're a student?
Right now, if I was starting my senior year, I'd do everything I can to get an internship. I would be doing something every week. I'd plot it out: By this day, I want to get this done.
Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808