To Work Or Not – On Spec


For many years, I’ve worked for myself or in a small group of entrepreneurs. When I was in the Ad Agency business, the company would shell out hundreds of thousand of dollars on pitches, involving many of the agency’s greatest talent and outside vendors. We would either try and keep and account or win a new one from many other worthy competitors. Those days of cut throat competing for business taught me a lot. I was even lucky enough to be in a Christmas Day pitch at Doyle Dane Bernbach for American Airlines. Mr. Bernbach introduced me as the most important person in the room. I was the button pusher or the poor shnook who signaled the projectionist to roll the film.

Since that pivotal event, I’m not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed to claim hundreds of man hours and lots of dollars to try and win business from notable competition. Sometimes with great success and most of the time, not.

The greatest lesson is how to choose the pitches to participate in and which to pass on. What are the actual odds that you’ll win against specialists when you are a generalist? Or visa versa. At a company where there are staff people who can be allocated to the task, the man hours are absorbed as cost of doing business. Not billable to a client unless the business comes in. And even then billing isn’t retroactive unless agreed by both parties.

On my own, I’ve been fortunate enough to find and collaborate with some amazing professionals who have made me look smarter.
I’ve been able to enhance my service offering by virtue of their participation which has given my small one-woman shop the imprameteur of being a much larger more diversified company. I’ve put a lot of creative energy into some of these pitches, the sales cycle sometimes extending into nearly a year’s time. At that point, some of the previously committed “strategic partners” have moved on. This meant, winning the gig, that I’d have to hustle up people or companies in their class of work who I’d trust as much to deliver the project on time and on budget. This often proves extremely challenging.

This brings me to the present. A time when getting a prospective client to cough up a few dollars for services is even more difficult than usual. I recently offered up some work on spec that will hopefully lead to an ongoing paid participation at their company. First, to win their confidence, I signed on as a commission sales and marketing consultant. In other words, I initially agreed to work on spec in another capacity. Once in the door, I had the ear of the senior executive and now am able to leverage the trust I’ve built into other work for fees.

One needs to be creative and have faith in one’s talent these days more than ever. Good luck out there!

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Resolve to advance your career in 2009


By Tara Weiss
Forbes Online
updated 8:01 a.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 5, 2009
Update your resume, focus on your goals and increase your visibility.

It has been a rough year for the American workforce. Jobs have been eliminated left and right. The threat of downsizing continues to loom. For those who still have a job, raises and bonuses are a receding memory.

Yes, times are tough. But that doesn’t mean you should put your career goals on the back burner. This downturn will pass, hiring will ramp up again and you will want to be ready. With that in mind, here are career resolutions that will help you achieve success in 2009.

Your first one: Update your résumé. The end of the year is an ideal time to reflect on your accomplishments, especially if it’s slow at work. When writing your résumé, don’t just list all your job responsibilities. That won’t set you apart. A more impressive résumé shows results, too. Briefly describe projects and then detail what they concretely achieved.
“Having a career plan doesn’t mean it will all happen immediately, especially since the market has changed,” says Laura Hill, founder of Careers in Motion, a Manhattan-based career coaching firm. “But it’s good over time, since it allows you to direct your career.”

As you consider your career plan, be honest about whether you’re happy in your current job and industry. Is the job still a good fit? Are you still learning and growing professionally? What are the longer-term threats to and opportunities for your company, your career there and the industry?

Take an assessment test
There’s no reason to wither away in a job you hate, and there are plenty of books that can help unhappy employees match their passions with more appropriate jobs. Many have assessment tests that ask probing questions to help you figure out what field best suits you.

Laura Hill recommends “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. There’s a unique code on each copy’s book jacket that you can use to take a career assessment test over the Web. She also recommends “Career Match: Connecting Who You Are with What You’ll Love to Do,” by Shoya Zichy and Ann Bidou, which has an assessment test between its covers.

Next, consider the skills you need to get ahead and take classes to acquire them. Some employers offer in-house training; others will reimburse you for courses you take at a local college. This will make you more marketable both inside and outside the company. Classes are also a good way to dip your toe into another profession to see if it’s something you’d want to pursue full time.

Join a professional association
This year, join your industry’s professional association. Every industry has one. Just type the name of your field and the word “association” into an Internet search, and most likely more than one will pop up. But don’t simply pay the membership dues and put it on your résumé. Get involved. Join committees. That’s how you network, says Alexandra Levit, author of several career books, including “How’d You Score That Gig: A Guide to the Coolest Jobs — and How to Get Them.” You’ll meet industry leaders you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

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It’s also an easy way to get experience in another area. For example, if you’re a marketing executive, join your association’s finance committee. Voila, you now have finance experience to beef up your résumé.

Meanwhile, up your visibility at work. If you’ve just completed a big project, don’t assume the higher-ups know how successful it was. A great way to tip off the bosses without boasting, says Levit, is by sending a thank you e-mail to all the team members who participated in the project, with a CC to the bosses. The e-mail might say, “I’d just like to thank everyone who was involved in this presentation. Because of your hard work we were able to bring in X dollars for the company.”

If you recently lost your job, allow yourself a few days to wallow. Then move full speed ahead. Attend activities at your professional association and get involved in its committees. Do one thing a day to push your job search forward, whether it’s sending out a networking query, applying for a particular job or signing on with a temp agency that places professionals in your industry.

Don’t forget, Levit says, “The business world is going to recover.”