April 27, 2012
Career makeover: Marketing consultant seeks stability
Mary Howell has never had a problem getting hired. In fact, she does it all the time. As an independent marketing consultant, the Seattle resident has made her living hopping from contract to contract at high-tech companies such as Microsoft for more than a decade.
But after so many years of being employed through staffing agencies, which often means giving them a cut of her pay without being offered any benefits, Howell wants to go in a new direction. The drill of constant stops, starts and lack of progression on a defined career path is starting to wear thin.
“I want to join a company that I can really grow with,” Howell says. “Contracting is a little isolating, and I crave being part of a team again.”
When Howell was selected to participate in the NWjobs Career Makeover series, she knew she wanted a change. But she also knew she needed to find a stronger focus on exactly what it was she wanted to do.
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Her initial strategy involved networking through her marketing channels. She considered changing course away from her marketing communications specialty and furthering her education through Six Sigma certification or an MBA. But after meeting with NWjobs career coaches Matt Youngquist and Seia Milin, she changed her mind.
“I’d thought before, ‘Let’s just scrap it all,’ ” Howell says. But Youngquist and the small-group meetings he hosts with his Career Horizons clients helped her better identify her passions and strengths, as well as what kind of options were truly realistic for her. “I realized that I love what I do,” she says. “I just want to take it to a different industry or environment.”
Beyond helping her to clarify her goals, Youngquist says his main focus in meeting with Howell was reinforcing that finding a job is inherently a marketing process — the difference being that she’s creating and executing a plan for promoting her own talents instead of a company’s product or service.
Milin, a Seattle-area job coach and HR specialist, says that Howell’s resume, though
strong, was presented in a way that made it difficult for her to break out of the Microsoft mold.
“Her resume had a lot of Microsoft-specific acronyms that not too many employers outside of Microsoft would be able to look through and identify the content of her skills,” Milin says. “Since she’s looking to transfer to a new environment, she needs to talk about her transferable skills — describe the projects she worked on, what tools she used to complete them, and how her methods saved the company time and money.”
Howell reworked her resume to include different versions for both Microsoft and non-Microsoft jobs. She narrowed her job search to about a dozen small companies that she would like to work for. And she has adopted a new networking strategy that goes far beyond going to meetup events, handing out cards and shaking hands.
“You don’t just ask someone you just met to give you a referral,” Howell says. “For Seattle, that’s pretty bold.”
Instead, she is taking a softer approach. By sending out an email outlining her goals to about 200 acquaintances, from her friends and neighbors to other professionals and service providers, she hopes to find connections to the people at the target companies. She also plans to use LinkedIn to get in touch with hiring managers directly, rather than just posting her resume and hoping that the right people respond.
“I’m surprised at how optimistic I am now,” Howell says. “But when you’re equipped with the right tools, as well as know what’s realistic, I know you can reach your goals.”
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