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The Job Hunters

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3. The Back-to-Work Mom
MARY BRENNAN
AGE: 44
RESIDES: Larchmont, New York

Résumé Highlights:
Spent the nineties working as an account manager for a direct-marketing firm followed by two years with IT advisory firm Gartner. Later, moved into sales for a market-research firm; most recently worked as a corporate-account exec at MCI.

What She’s Looking For:
Accountant management position, preferably at a marketing or IT-consulting firm. After Brennan was laid off from MCI in 2004, she took a three-year break to stay home with her newborn. Now that Luke is in preschool, she’s ready to get back to work.

Desired Salary: $75,000
(Competitive with her last salary in 2004.)

What the Pros Advise:
Tory Johnson, CEO, Women for Hire
Despite applying for dozens of positions through job sites like Monster.com, Brennan can’t get an interview. Johnson, who runs the career-coaching and recruiting service Women for Hire, says online job applications provide a false sense of accomplishment: “Those résumés go into a big black hole,” she says. “You need a direct, person-to-person connection.” She advises Brennan to launch a profile on LinkedIn, which lets her do several things: reconnect with former co-workers; seek out hiring managers at desirable firms by searching for the company and the manager’s job title; request introductions to managers through her network; make her profile and résumé Google-able. Off-line, Brennan should tell everyone about her job huntespecially the other moms at the playground. “They have sisters and husbands who work where you want to go,” says Johnson. Finally, while she approves of Brennan’s black suit and patent-leather flats, she advises her to lose the barefaced look: “Makeup eliminates the aura of the stay-at-home mom who just went to the park and the grocery store.”

Harry Weiner, Partner, On-Ramps
Weiner, whose recruiting firm specializes in jobs with flexible hours and telecommuting options, says that Brennan is impressively professional in person, but he had qualms about her résumé. The problem: It is just too vague. Instead of listing that she managed financial-industry accounts at Gartner, she should specify that she cultivated relationships with CFOs at Fortune 500 insurance firms. Weiner’s other gripe: Her account-management experience is stale. He tells Brennan to shore up the skills gap by seeking out a freelance consulting gig with a big company; he suggests Reader’s Digest because it’s near her home in Westchester. Since these jobs are rarely advertised, she’ll have to make new contacts through LinkedIn or by going to industry conferences. Weiner recommends that Brennan focus on industries such as media and management consulting, which are less likely to be turned off by a three-year résumé gap. He especially recommends nonprofits. They love folks like Brennan who have corporate experience, “and frankly, you don’t need to take much of a salary cut.”

Takeaway:
“My biggest challenge was my lack of a network,” says Brennan. “LinkedIn is a great tool, and I didn’t have that.” She already has a professional profile with thirteen contacts, and a Facebook profile to boot. With Johnson’s help, she just landed her first consulting gig—a short-term market-research project for a staffing firm.


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