We often hear that job seekers should expect a search to take one month for every $10,000 of salary.
Not so for Lowell Perry Jr. After his employer eliminated his department last April–a move that surprised him–Perry found a new executive role in six weeks. Perry, now Chief Diversity Officer at Family Wellness Dallas—Safe Conversations, tells us how he did it.
GR: What kind of search game plan did you put together after you lost your job?
LP: The first week I was pretty shell-shocked and spent the better part of the week digesting the turn of events. I’d been with my previous employer for 9 years and didn’t see it coming. My first week out of work, I did the usual things you do when you’re looking for a new job – I polished up my resume and bio; tapped heavily into my personal networks (Yale and fraternity,) sent out a mass email to all my contacts, and started scanning job boards for opportunities. It was actually very exciting contemplating the next chapter of my career.
GR: How focused were you on what you wanted to do next?
LP: I was extremely focused and knew I wanted another non-profit management situation at the CEO/Executive Director level with an agency or perhaps a foundation. My passion about diversity/inclusion made a role in that capacity a possibility. I wanted to build on my previous work at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and take the next logical steps. By week two of my search, several friends had called —one in government who had a lead in Nashville for me, and another with a lead in Detroit. Both opportunities would have brought me closer to family and friends in both those cities. About the same time I found the Dallas-based opportunity through a non-profit-specific job board.
GR: How important were your resume and cover letter to your search process?
LP: You don’t get hired off your resume. It’s a calling card that opens doors, but not much more than that. That being said, it’s important your resume is up-to-date and user friendly. It’s the cover letter where you need to be bold. That’s where you give the potential employer a wake-up call that you’re worth their time and attention. Don’t be overly focused on what you’ve done. Lead with the skills you’ve used to get things done to capture their attention. My resume did attract considerable interest, but I cannot overstate the importance of one’s own network.
GR: What was the interview process like for your current job?
LP: The screening process started off with a phone interview, then a Skype interview with the NY office, then a search firm screening, and an in-person interview with the architects of the organization. There were lots of hurdles to get through – as there are in most interview situations — to get to the hiring decision maker. The good news is that by the time I got to the face to face round, I knew the organization’s goals well and could articulate my value-add. Then I clicked well with the decisions makers in the final round. I believe it is very important to feel a connection to the people you will be working with. That way it is more than just a job.
GR: Did you have any special skills in your arsenal that might have helped you land more quickly?
LP: After graduating college, I worked as the Director of Sales & Marketing and the primary community spokesperson for the Seattle Seahawks and was on the road speaking to various groups,. I took acting lessons during that time and eventually joined the Screen Actors Guild. I’ve done commercials, training videos, voice-overs, movies, and have enjoyed the creative process immensely. These things have given me confidence in front of an audience – whether I’m interviewing, giving presentations to a Board, or serving up motivational speeches to community groups. When you’re a leader, you have to consider cameras and microphones your friends. I’ve never met a camera or microphone I didn’t like! I credit this skill set with helping me get through the interview process.