Interview: Frank Kovacs on 18 Years of Finding Tech Professionals Jobs and His New Book “Career In Transition”

The Breakfast Club NJ, a nonprofit organization that helps tech professionals land jobs, celebrated its 18th year by holding a meeting and a book launch on October 12.

According to Frank Kovacs, the club’s founder, “there is only one Breakfast Club NJ. It was founded by me right after the 9/11 tragedy because we wanted to do something for the people who lost their jobs due to the terrorist attack.”

Given the region’s economic circumstances over the years, the need for the group has continued since then. The Breakfast Club NJ has helped tech professionals navigate the vagaries of the housing bubble, the trend of outsourcing work to foreign countries, the extended recession, Hurricane Sandy and other events that have thrown them into the job market.

So how has the group been able to help find 9,000 jobs for tech professionals and others over 18 years? “Because we extensively use social media, so our job leads and our advice go viral routinely,” said Kovacs.

“We’ve gone through three stages,” he explained. At first, the Breakfast Club NJ was all about helping people understand the job search process. The second stage began with the rise of the internet. The group embraced social media, creating a website, a LinkedIn group, and a Facebook page; getting a Yahoo group; and using Twitter and “That has helped us get the word out and increase awareness of the group and helped us coordinate communications and collaboration.”

The third stage involved digital transformation. “Five years ago, I put out a call to action to the group, saying that the kinds of jobs, the nature of jobs and professional responsibilities were going to change,” Kovacs said. “Unless people started to embrace being continuous learners, and reskilling and upskilling themselves, they wouldn’t remain marketable for what the market was migrating toward. And now there is the automation of existing jobs. That is fueling the amount of people who are in searches.”

The following is my interview with Kovacs about a book he recently coauthored with Rutgers professor Mark Beal on job searching and career transitions.

1. Tell me the name of the book and the authors.

The name of the book, which came out in August, is “Career In Transition: 101 Lessons To Achieve Job Search Success.” I am one of the authors. My coauthor is Mark Beal, professor of public relations at Rutgers University.

2. Tell me about your backgrounds.

I have been a technology business executive for more than 30 years, leading and directing complex global operations and transformations for some of the largest Fortune 100 firms, as well as NASA. I am also the founder of The Breakfast Club NJ, a pay-it-forward job search and career management group.

I’ve been recognized as recipient of the Gartner CIO Choice Award, Visionary Awards from Business Finance Magazine & Internet World, and received the Ovation Award at Comnet. I was also named a visionary for my 12 years of work at AT&T Bell Labs, and I have a patent for a smart card technology.

I am a lifelong resident of New Jersey where I live with my wife, Laurie, daughter, Julianna, and our German shepherd, Minnie.

Before coauthoring this book with me,Mark served as a brand marketer for nearly 30 years, developing and executing marketing and public relations campaigns for category-leading companies and brands.

He experienced his own career transition when he was invited to be an adjunct professor at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information in 2013. And he was later appointed as the university’s first full-time professor of professional practice in public relations.

Inspired by his students, Mark published a book in 2017, “101 Lessons They Never Taught You In College: The Essential Guide for Students and Recent Graduates to Launch Their Careers,”which led to his being invited by career support networking groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to speak to individuals who were experiencing a career transition. It was these individuals who motivated Mark to write the new book with me.

3. How did you get the idea for this book?

Mark gave a presentation at The Breakfast Club NJ, and following the meeting we both approached one another and said we would like to do a book together. We had an intense collaboration, and in just over four months we completed the book and launched it on Amazon.

4. How did you go about gathering material for this book?

The book is largely based on the best practices for job searches that I developed over my 18 years of leading The Breakfast Club NJ, as well as Mark’s personal insights on branding and personal marketing.

5. Why are you the right person to write this book?

I’ve helped more than 9,000 people land jobs in 18 years of leading The Breakfast Club NJ, and the group has tried these best practices across countless professions, levels, and industries — and found that they work. We worked tirelessly to provide examples that would resonate with individuals across this broad spectrum, including our veterans returning to civilian life and their trailing spouses.

6. Who should read the book, and why?

Anyone engaged in a job search, from students looking for their first internship opportunities to seasoned C-Level executives, and everyone in between, including entrepreneurs. This book has the critical information needed to guide their efforts toward a successful job search.

7. Is there anything else you want people to know about this book?

The book is meant to serve as a reference and aid, no matter what stage your search is in. Also, the lessons are grouped by categories, so if you interested in branding, resume prep or interviews, the lessons are mapped out by topic area to help the reader quickly get to the info they need.

8. Please provide three great quotes from the book.

  • “Your career’s only rainy-day insurance policy is a strong network.”
  • “It’s not important whom you know, but who knows you.”
  •  “Every interaction is an interview, so treat it as one.”

10. Please give the readers three takeaways from the book, three lessons they will learn by reading the book.

  • Use a “T Letter” to demonstrate you are clearly qualified for the job. The T Cover Letter maps job requirements to job hunter qualifications.
  • Human interaction is a key to job searches; 70 percent of your job searching time should be spent networking.
  • Did you know that referrals from someone in your personal and professional network account for just 7 percent of all job applicants, but 40 percent of all hires?

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