Bill O'Connor* was laid off in February 2014 after three years of working his way up from a sales associate to a sales manager at a mid-sized media company. Within one month, he gained employment at another media company, although for less money. He's not worried though because he can see possibilities to work his way back up the ladder.
But here's what makes Bill's story particularly compelling. It's not the first time it's happened to him. In fact, this is the second time in his 30+ year sales career that he's landed on his feet within one month of ending a previous sales position. Although not comfortable sharing his name, Bill agreed to share his personal sales philosophy and success tips in gaining new sales jobs.
Q: You landed your next job within 1-2 months of being laid off. What steps did you take to effect such a fast turn-around?
A: For one thing, the job market is better than in 2009, when I was last laid off. The signs were clear about impending layoffs, so I started looking just after New Year's, before I was actually laid off. Then, I did it all. First I updated my resume. Then I spent time to sign up for every job listing site and started managing that information. After awhile, I shut down one or two sites when I realized I was getting duplicate information. I found real value in LinkedIn.
Q: How did you use LinkedIn?
A: LinkedIn has a search function that lets you not only research a company but find contacts from your contacts who are working at that company. I connected with a former colleague who is now working for my current employer in a different state. He was able to give me valuable insight into the organization and I used that info when asking questions during the interview. We have not talked in over ten years and now we may be attending a sales conference together in July. I plan to buy him one or two of his favorite beverages at the conference.
Q: Why were you willing to go down in salary the first time you were laid off? The honest answer is back in 2009 the job market was very bad and I thought my unemployment might run out. Taking the lower salary got me in the door. My hard work was recognized, and I was promoted in eight months.
Q: Did you ultimately get back up to your previous salary level? I never got back to that point, but I wanted to slow my life down. When you're running for a plane every Sunday night or Monday morning, it's just a whirlwind. The management team that I had grown with for over 15 years started to retire, so a new younger team came in and a new culture was dismantling what we had built. I was getting out voted all the time. It wasn't working out. I was lucky to negotiate a six-month package and didn't have a non-compete clause. I was hired within a month with our largest customer.
Q: For this second layoff you have a lower title. Does it matter to you?
A: Titles don't matter. Compensation is more important to me. In sales there are generally three ways to motivate people -- praise/recognition, fear, or money. I'm not working to make friends. I work to make money. So I look at the long-term possibilities -- mostly the size of the company. I knew when I took the last position as a sales associate, I wouldn't be there long. I felt that there were opportunities to move up and once I got my foot in the door those opportunities would and did open up. In this position, it's a large company again and I can see possibilities for financial advancement.
Q: This time you focused your search in a different part of the state. Why?
A: Where I was previously located there are only four main industries with two of the four undergoing major changes. If I stayed in that geographic area, opportunities were limited. I had a place to stay in an area that was more centrally located and allowed me to consider more sales opportunities with different businesses.
Q: Did you ever face the issue of being considered overqualified in job interviews, and if so how did you address it?
A: Yes, I was overqualified for several jobs. I was honest with the companies about why I wanted the job, no overnight travel, etc.
Q: How many resumes did you send out; how many interviews did you get and how long until you got the offer? I sent out more than 50 resumes and got at least ten interviews. I received an offer after my second interview with my current employer, which was a surprise to me.
Q: Based on your experience would you recommend a sales career to others? It has been a great career for me allowing me to visit 10 countries, 44 states, and meet some wonderful people whom I now stay in touch with via social media. Sales is not secure, but that is what makes it so challenging and interesting. When you are part of the right team it is a lot of fun.
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*not his real name.