04/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Finding Work: What Works

The latest unemployment statistic of 8.1% proves what every job seeker knows: It is a tough time to find a new job.

But do the sometimes wacky ways that people find jobs (or opportunities find people) in better times still hold promise?


Like science, executive search typically involves a series of planned steps. But, as in science, there can be a lucky accident. I will share some true tales from my nearly twelve years in executive search where the effect of chance exceeded that of effort.

*One of our candidates who won a terrific new job was not looking when we found her. How did we find her? Her wedding was written up in The New York Times. Moreover, it wasn't just any announcement it was the longer story that the newspaper publishes under Vows.

It wasn't the first time my firm had approached someone from a wedding announcement. Generally, we rely on the shorter ones and wait two weeks to follow up, to allow for any honeymoon.

*Another time I was lunching with someone who was in the market to make a career change. I had mentioned to her the name of a colleague at another firm who specialized in what she sought to do. Voila. As we exited the restaurant, there was that headhunter herself allowing me to make an in-person introduction on the spot.

Yes and no.

We happened to be eating at Café Centro, which like its lobby-level neighbors Cucina and Naples 45 at 200 Park Ave. is populated, both at lunch and at breakfast, by headhunters who either have offices nearby or commute via the adjacent Grand Central train station.

*We often consider and meet people we've unearthed through research, either for the current search or a prior one, but once in a while, a social acquaintanceship can pay off.

For instance, there was a woman with whom I shared a mutual friend. I didn't know her well but, since this friend enjoyed entertaining, ran into her regularly. While working on a hospital search, I happened to run into her and recognize her right outside my apartment building. I begged her to walk in with me so we could talk inside. That chance encounter turned into a new job for her. She is still at that hospital more than six years later. (It was the first and so far only time my headhunting came to resemble kidnapping.)