Interview with Jeff & Martha Carrigan of Big Shoes Network, Inc.

If you work in advertising, communications, graphic design, marketing, public relations, web design or web development, you should know about Big Shoes Network. Jeff Carrigan founded the company and his wife Martha is the President and CEO. Together they are finidng jobs for entry- to senior-level professionals that need jobs in Illinois and Wisconsin. GradtoGreat.com recently had the opportunity to interview this tremendous duo.

G2G: Why did you decide to start Big Shoes Network?
BSN: BSN was started as the result of our own respective job searches. We scoured the “Help Wanted” ads of local and regional newspapers. Signed up for every “Job Alert” offered by the big job boards. And, did our best to connect with executive recruiters. At the end of the day, we were still searching.

We just figured there had to be a better way to tap into relevant job opportunities in the communities that you really wanted to live in. Thus, Big Shoes Network was launched as a niche job board in terms of discipline and geographic area.

G2G: Why Big Shoes Network.com? How did you select the name?
BSN: It just sort of came to us. Several firms mentioned, “We’ve got some big shoes to fill, can you help us?” Plus, we knew the importance of establishing and maintaining a vibrant network of industry contacts.

G2G:Why should recent graduates use Big Shoes Network?
BSN: A couple of reasons I guess…

First, the majority of opportunities posted on BSN are in the entry- to mid-level range. Most likely, this presents an excellent chance to land a job or move up the corporate ladder.

Second, we’re a trusted resource in terms of getting industry news. Graduates can learn about upcoming professional association (e.g., AMA, PRSA) meetings, what agencies just won an award, who just go hired, etc. All of this is good information to know.

G2G: What is the benefit of using a niche job board site?
BSN: Pure and simple: It’s a time-saver. At BSN, we screen all postings to make sure they fall within our niche of advertising, communications, graphic design, marketing, public relations, social media, and web design & development.

Plus, all of the opportunities must be located in Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin. This is a win-win for both employers and jobseekers. Right type of opportunities in front of the right type of candidates.

G2G: What does your job board offer that others don't?
BSN:
Some think we’re crazy, but we list all of our competitors on BSN’s [career resources] links page. Over the years, we’ve compiled a list of “Executive Recruiters, Job Boards & Staffing Firms” that we think do a good job and have a shared focus within the advertising, marketing and public relations industries. While we hope jobseekers can land a job via BSN, we want them to take advantage of every resource that’s available.

We’d also encourage jobseekers to spend time getting to know the professional associations in their field. In our case, we’ve got just about every marketing/communications-oriented group we know of in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Once again, this information is available on our Links page.

G2G: What are some tips for recent grads when applying to the jobs on your site?
BSN:
Well, a no-brainer is use spell check on your e-mails, cover letters and resumes. We recently received a cover letter and resume for a public relations position. The cover letter alone had five spelling errors. We didn’t even bother to review the resume. Needless to say, this person’s application never made it to our client.

We’d also suggest that graduates do more intensive research about the company they’re applying at. More specifically, do they know anyone that works there? If so, ask if they’ll walk your resume over to the decision-maker. This almost always results in the resume at least being looked at. And, if there’s some promise, maybe the next step will happen.

G2G: What advice would you give to grads starting their careers?
BSN: Get connected to as many people as possible within your chosen industry. Be helpful, trustworthy and play nice. It’s a small world.

G2G: What were your first jobs and how did you find them?
JC: My first marketing job was with a small credit union in Milwaukee, Wis. It was a great experience as I got to develop and implement their first marketing plan. Learned what worked and what didn’t.

MC: My first gig was a training coordinator for the nation’s largest debt collection firm. It really helped me hone my networking and presentation skills. Shortly thereafter, I worked within the marketing department of Manpower International helping put presentations together for the sales team. (Martha)

BSN: Back in those days, the best way to find a job was through the “Help Wanted” ads of newspapers.

G2G: Are you seeing an increase in employers posting jobs? What does the current environment look like to you based on your experience with Big Shoes Network?
BSN: Well, it’s been a tough year for job boards as a whole. Postings on BSN are down about 40-percent compared to last year. While hiring has picked up a bit, we expect a slow recovery for marketing/communications-oriented professionals through 2010.

G2G: What else should we know about Big Shoes Network?
BSN: Three items come to mind:

First, we have a fast-growing group on LinkedIn. To find it, just search for “Big Shoes Network” in the Groups Directory. It’s a great place to participate in discussions, share news, find new job openings, and meet fellow BSN members. Right now, the group has about 4,700 members.

Second, once an individual has a job, they should check out BSN’s Resource Directory. The purpose of this directory is to provide decision-makers with a handy list of ad agencies, graphic designers, marketing researchers, photographers, etc. that can help them execute various upcoming projects. These vendors are ready and willing to assist in any way that they can.

Third, if desired, graduates can sign-up for our free BSN broadcast e-mail within internships and job opportunities. We send it on Tuesdays and Fridays to our network of nearly 7,500 subscribers in the Midwest. Maybe they’ll see something of interest. And, we don’t rent, sell or trade our list with any other entity.

G2G: Thank you for taking the time to share all the great things your doing to help connect grads with job opportunities!