From Consultant to Full-Time: Job Hunter Cathe Neukum Reports at HR Breakfast

Many people wind up at The Five O’Clock Club because their employers provided this outplacement benefit when they lost or were perhaps going to lose their jobs. But others, like Cathe Neukum – who reported on her successful job search to hundreds of HR professionals at an HR Network Breakfast  – are “retail clients,” paying their own way simply because they’ve decided to re-examine their career trajectory. Having such members in the mix, says The Five O’Clock Club President Kate Wendleton, adds a certain energy to the group, and keeps people in higher spirits. But their job searches can be no less challenging.

Thorough research, pro bono work, and consulting assignments enabled Neukum to increase her skills and knowledge while she increased her networks.

Cathe Neukum attended 11 weekly small-group strategy sessions over the course of a year while doing consulting work.  When she joined The Five O’Clock Club to begin her search for a full-time job, she faced what she called “the perfect storm” – the challenge of being an older job-hunter in a tough market, along with changing media technology in her field. But she was focused. “I knew I wanted to work for a non-profit,” she said. “And I knew that I needed a job I could be very passionate about, where I could contribute a lot.”

Though Cathe found her job through an online listing – “and I didn’t know anyone there, which is rare,” she added – her diligent application of The Five O’Clock Club methodology is what got her in the door … and hired. After doing the Seven Stories Exercise, she worked hard on her resume with her small group coach, Anita Attridge. “I had always heard that you list your experience in reverse chronological order,” Neukum said. “But at The Five O’Clock Club, I also learned to emphasize my skill set. We worked hard, and it was tortuous!” But the process (and the great results) gave Neukum the confidence to write “a really good cover letter,” which took her two days.

Once HR had lined her up for an interview with the hiring manager, Neukum had a week to prepare. “Every day, eight hours, I researched that company and the people who worked there,” she said. “I did such a good job that I even knew the kinds of clothes that my hiring manager would wear. I looked at every picture on Google. So when I walked through that door, I was so confident.”

Her second interview was with “someone half my age – and that was tough, because age, at least for me, was a large factor in my job search,” she said. But Neukum sailed through it, then followed up with an influencing letter.  “And that’s a particularly smart thing that the Five O’Clock Club teaches people who go though the program,” she said. She continued the contact with “some consistent emails. They were pleasant, they were relevant, they reflected the conversations I had with the various people.”

“Every day, eight hours, I researched that company and the people who worked there,”

Neukum was hired – but, interestingly enough, not for the job she interviewed for. “They actually created a higher-level position for my skill set, so I was really lucky!” she said. She is now an executive producer at a global non-profit agency with 15,000 people.

Networking meetings, pro bono work to learn about new organizations, and consulting assignments had all contributed to Neukum’s job search. “In that way, she was able to increase her skills and at the same time increase her networks,” explained Attridge. “Through the process, she maintained a can-do attitude most of the time, but when she did get discouraged, she just moved right through it and continued on.”

“They actually created a higher-level position for my skill set!” she said. She is now an executive producer at a global non-profit agency with 15,000 people.

Attridge described Neukum as “an excellent example of what’s possible. She was in a declining industry and had honed her skills for that particular industry. But she accepted the realities and focused her attention on how she could use her skills differently in the marketplace to reinvent herself. Understanding that, she was able to talk about her skills in a way that enabled her to find a new position that allowed her to use them to the best of her ability. So congratulations, Cathe!”


Jane Rubinsky, a journalist and writer/editor for non-profits and businesses, is a GetFive member.

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