The Job-Hunting Abyss

When it comes to changing careers, sometimes you have to leap and trust you'll land smoothly. But the process itself can be enervating

The executive recruiter interviewed me, and a meeting was set up with the company's chief operating officer, who would be making the hiring decision. The interview was going well, and at one point I had the COO up walking around the room, brainstorming about an idea on how to apply IT differently to her business. But when the COO found out that I had left my job in order to search for a new one, the mood changed. She didn't like the fact that I had left a job.

To address the problem, the recruiter initiated reference checks. I had been provided with a letter of reference from my former employer and had very strong references from other jobs. But when contacted by the recruiter, my former employer was willing to confirm only the position I had held and the dates of my employment. That is a new trend for many companies, and I understand it's an effort to protect themselves from being sued by employees who are not happy with the reference they received. Since it's a major stumbling block in the search process, I recommend that you address the issue of references before leaving your current position. Anyway, the recruiter called on a Friday morning and told me she would be talking with her client the following Monday morning to "determine her predisposition on proceeding with my candidacy". Sounded ominous.

At this point I was in the depths of despair. The perfect job, a great fit, and all would be for naught. The process, however, taught me another valuable lesson. Never give up. I called the head of human resources at my former employer and requested again that they relent.

Later that day I got the call back that my former boss would be allowed to talk with the recruiter the following morning. I was jubilant the next day when I received a call from the recruiter saying that I had been given an outstanding reference from my former boss. She had already phoned the head of human resources of the hiring company to say that the cloud over my candidacy had been lifted, and she would be meeting with her client Monday morning.

I wish I could say there was a happy ending to this ordeal, but in the end the COO had fallen in love with another candidate, and I was a strong second. Being a strong second in a one-horse race is not much of a victory, although I gained a friend, the executive recruiter, who appreciated my efforts. So the search goes on.

Waiting for Godot

I'm now in the doldrums. The initial wave of opportunities has not materialised, and the second wave won't mature for several more months. But while the process is tedious, frustrating and totally outside your control, it's also liberating. While I would not recommend leaving before having another position lined up, I feel that you have to evaluate that on a case-by-case basis. In my case, a separation agreement made sense. But every day that goes by I do feel wasted because I'm not in a position to contribute to an organisation. I continue to have faith that the right job is out there, but who it will be and when it will come remain unknown.

In the meantime, I have to admit: I'm having a great time brushing up on my favourite pastime, golf.

William Crowell was CIO of Meredith Corporation, the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal and other lifestyle magazines, for seven years before leaving in January. If you have a lead on a great CIO job, e-mail him at

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