Meanwhile, Stockmann set herself up for some online social networking on LinkedIn, building up nearly 300 contacts. In the process, she learned many dos and don’ts — for example, she advises job-seekers to avoid using networking sites to approach people for jobs; she believes that they’re more useful for reconnecting with contacts and letting them know about your job status and what you’re up to. She also recommends that job-seekers use the sites to approach someone who’s working at a company that they’re thinking about joining in order to find out how they treat their employees. She also advocates providing advice and feedback to other job-seekers whenever asked. “If you do those things, then someone’s going to help you at some point,” says Stockmann.
When Stockmann started getting responses to her CV, she built up a database of every conversation she had with a headhunter or other contact about a job and what her next steps would be, because she didn’t want to trip up during her job search, such as making the same call twice or talking to two different headhunters about the same job. She says, “You need to really work a lot of people — to rapidly find out which ones you can trust — but it’s important not to give that impression, otherwise they may think, ‘Why bother, as she’s going to get a job through someone else anyway?’” And while still based in Basel, she travelled to London often over the autumn months for face-to-face meetings with recruiters. As she notes, “If you’re abroad, people don’t feel you’re available so I invested my own money to make sure I was in London.”
Clinching the Deal
By autumn, how had the candidates fared? Stockmann had attended interviews at a number of blue-chip companies, including Carlsberg, Kerry Foods and AstraZeneca. By September, she had two offers on the table — one as head of operational planning with BT, and another as finance and commercial director at the Southbank Centre, the eight-hectare site along the Thames, which includes the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward art gallery and various restaurants and shops. She chose the Southbank Centre because of two important aspects — she would be going back to a CFO role and, as a keen flautist, the organisation involved something she was passionate about. She has lost some of the perks of working for a big company but feels like she’s adding “significant value.”
Van der Smissen also left the multinational world behind. In September, he joined Reynaers Aluminium, a €270m Belgian producer of aluminium systems, as director of finance and IT. The family-owned business operates in 27 countries and, as a bonus, is within 45-minutes commuting time of Van der Smissen’s home. “It’s different working for a smaller organisation, but that was the choice I made,” he says. The pace of business is faster and resources are scarce, adding a new dimension to investment decisions. But, like Stockmann, Van der Smissen can clearly see where he can add value, and that’s proving to be satisfying.
Singh, meanwhile, is winding down at BP and getting ready for her cruise. She has had first-stage interviews with a number of banks including HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital and, while they have asked her back for further talks, there is no firm offer on the table. She did come close to her dream job — as a financial and treasury analyst — with UBS. But the recruitment process came to a halt before a decision was made. Singh thinks she may be a victim of belt-tightening during the credit crunch but she’s not giving up. “I’m probably going to email the guy I interviewed with. If you find a job you really want, you have to fight for it, otherwise you would always kick yourself,” she says.
As for Laine-Toner, he has some tough decisions to make. “The problem I’m now faced with is that I’m approaching 30, I’m at quite a senior level in Sainsbury and being paid quite decent money but I don’t have an understanding of some technical areas that I would have if I was in a decent-sized SME, which is quite worrying,” he says. Will he try to persuade his girlfriend to move to London so he can stay with Sainsbury? Or will he leave the security and status of a blue chip to try his luck in Leeds? It all depends on how well those networking evenings go.
Eila Rana is a senior editor at CFO Europe.