It’s who you know

Former McDonald’s executive Guy Russo had “retired” at 47. He had left his job managing the greater China region, had bought a house in Hong Kong and was doing some consulting. He had time to spend with his three children and work pro bono with his wife Deanne for a Chinese orphanage foundation. Then he got a call from Richard Goyder, chief executive of Perth-based conglomerate Wesfarmers, who persuaded him to return to Australia to revive the ailing discount retail chain Kmart in September 2008.

Russo knew all about the fast-food service industry but he’d never worked in retail …

From The Financial Review BOSS Magazine

According to his profile on LinkedIn he was at McDonald’s for 34 years, having started right at the bottom. His Wesfarmers profile says a bit more, with him attending the McDonald’s McUniversity and Macquarie University Graduate School of Management in Sydney.

So, that’s the secret sauce right there: Russo didn’t know didly squat about the retail industry, has bugger all qualifications, yet gets called up and offered the top job at Kmart. Just like that. I’m sure there must have been more going on behind the scenes, but it doesn’t sound like Russo was even looking for a job. Maybe he’s a mate of a mate of Goyder.

Here’s a guy who’s worked his whole life at McDonald’s and worked his way up the food chain with just High School knowledge and in-house training. He then gets promoted to McDonald’s China, which is all well and fine. If he’s worked there that long, I guess it’s just a matter of waiting until everyone higher up leaves or dies from obesity related diseases.

He says:

Kmart was a test for me: can you do something you have no training in and use the skill sets that you have learned? … Because I knew very little, for six months I shut up and listened and observed. I tried to learn as much as I could …

Somehow I can’t see myself using that line in an interview.

Yeah, sure. I’ll sit around for 6 months watching and observing because I don’t know a thing about this company, its industry or its people. Oh, and you’ll pay me an executive salary.

So, I’m still stuck for a job. I don’t have the networks of people so I can just walking into something with a phone call letting them know I’m coming. I don’t have the consistent work experience because I keep attaching myself to the wrong horse.

I have the qualifications, I have the skills, I have the experience – at least I believe I do. What I don’t have are the connections, the contacts and the relationships with the people that make the decisions. And that’s what’s killing me. I spent so long living overseas that I came back to a blank slate. The city in Japan that I lived in was small enough that I could meet most of the other teachers, network with them and search out new jobs without too much hassle. But here, in Sydney, it’s a completely different situation.

And so I’m stuck. Maybe I should go and work in the mail room.

I’m going to write more about how following my dream killed my career, but that can wait. I’ve got plenty of time – I’m unemployed.