Gray Hair Management

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In The Press

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Execs out of shape for today’s Market

Thursday, February 27, 2003
If landing a top job takes marathon running skills, many unemployedexecutives find themselves woefully out of shape.

That’s because they've often spent the bulk of their work lives at onecompany and don’t know how to market their skills, said the partners of GrayHair Management, a Deerfield-based firm that provides support andnetworking opportunities for senior executives and managers.

"There’s a whole layer of middle and senior management who are out ofwork, who don’t know how to get a job, because they haven’t been trained toget a job," said Scott Kane, who founded Gray Hair Management after 25years as a television production executive.

Like many of the so-called "grays" who come to his firm, the Deerfieldresident lost his job after rising through the ranks at two companies. He saidhe wasn’t used to casting a wide net to make business connections andmarket his talents.

Tapping experienceHe took networking advice to heart, and collected business cards to create adatabase of potential contacts.

When the 31-year-old head of a told him young start-ups couldbenefit from some "gray hair" — experienced managers — Kane realized hecould help make such matches.

As he learned the value of networking, Kane said he realized many jobsearch firms recommend it, but few actually provide opportunities for theirclients to do it.

In 2000, Kane founded Gray Hair Management to give executives preciselythat experience, through an e-mail list and breakfast networking events forsubscribers who pay a one-time $75 fee.

A year later, Kane met his gray-haired business partner, Jack Heyden ofHighland Park, at one of those networking breakfasts.

A commercial banking officer with experience as an executive coach,Heyden helps Gray Hair’s clients refine their resumes and more effectivelymarket themselves.

Client explosionIn 14 months, the number of subscribers to Gray Hair’s networking servicehas soared from 800 to 6,000, although Kane and Hayden emphasize that agood number of those executives are now employed. Last year, the firmhelped 862 subscribers find new jobs, they say.Gray Hair also has 36 clients who have paid the equivalent of three weeks ofa $100,000-a-year salary for for a lifetime of help marketing themselves anddrafting resumes.

The current economic downturn has hit "gray hairs" harder than previousrecessions, Kane and Heyden said. "We've had unemployment like thisbefore but never in the white collar sector," Kane said.They noted the implosion of many dot.coms has left many technologymanagers unemployed.

At the same time, executive-level employees often remain unemployed forlonger than lower-paid workers. Standard formulas tack a month onto the jobsearch for every $10,000 of an employee’s previous salary.When Gray Hair Management surveyed its networking subscribers, 62percent said they had been out of work for at least six months. Of that 62percent, almost half had been looking for a new job for more than 12months.

Not just economyYet even after Gray Hair’s subscribers and clients land a new position, theylikely won’t enjoy the long-term job security that many took for grantedpreviously, Kane said.

Outplacement and recruitment firms now estimate that the average job forsenior-level executives lasts 22 to 36 months, meaning that older executivescould find themselves changing jobs several times before retirement."Companies have realized they don’t have to treat employees like the valuedassets they used to be," Kane said. "No one is slapping (companies’) handswhen they lay 1,000 people off.

"On the contrary, their stock goes up," he added. "We believe the economywill come back and there still will be a lot of turnover."With many companies focused more on showing profits than buildingemployee loyalty, Kane and Heyden say they don’t anticipate the return oflong-term job stability, even after the economy recovers.A typical "gray hair" comes to Kane and Heyden with at least 15 years ofexperience, a six-figure salary, and management experience as a vicepresident.

Like many of those gray hairs, Dan Mathein of Glenview had amassed awealth of professional skills but little job-seeking experience, after 12 yearsas a human resources manager for Deluxe Video.

Even though a lot of resumes had passed across his desk, Mathein said hisown benefited from a pointed critique that led him to include more specifics,not cliched phrases.

"I had a resume prepared, but it wasn’t marketable," said the Glenviewresident, who is now working for Culligan. "I needed something to bring myresume to the top of the pile.

"They were blunt," he added. "It’s the kind of critique you usually can’t getfrom a trusted friend or family member."

Explained Heyden, "It’s important to make sure you as an individual havecommunicated your value to the employer. Looking for a job today puts youin the same category as a can of soup. How does that one can of soup getspicked off the shelf? It’s about differentiation, marketing, value, price."Don’t just say you were a project manager," Heyden continued. "What kindof projects did you manage? If you led a project, what did you do? Don’tassume they'll know, just because you’re so close to what you’re doing."At the management level, it’s about dollars — are you going to impact thebottom line by $100,000 or $1 million?" he said.

Effective networking works: About 85 percent of job seekers find their newposition through "someone you know," Heyden said. In comparison, onlyabout 6 percent find positions on Internet job sites or through headhunters,he said.

Mathein discovered his current job on an Internet site but secured aninterview through a contact he met at a Gray Hair networking event."A lot of white males just don’t know how to reach out; we’re not naturallyinto networking," he said. "Gray Hair teaches the value of expanding yournetwork to outside of your specific area of influence," he said.For more information on Gray Hair Management, call (847) 940-2800 or

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Winning The Job Race Book by Scott Kane and Jack HeydenJack Heyden and Scott Kane are executives with over 60 years of combined experience who, in early 2000, were out of work, did not know each other and who were forced to reinvent themselves to survive in the 21st Century workforce.

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