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Over the Skis and Smacking their Gums: Jennifer Bedford

Today we are joined by Jennifer Bedford of Signal Partners, responsible for incredible and high-end recruitment and placements of digital talent. Jennifer shares the history of her career, and what it was like to go from strictly telephone and paper to the dawn of the new era with the internet. She also talks about the trends she sees in working with high-end clients, inside tips for those looking to position themselves for an upward career step, and how to stay in the game even when dealing with failure.


[3:50] Jennifer explains the role of headhunter, formally called Executive Search Consultant or Management Consultant. In the beginning of Jennifer’s work within the industry, Executive Search was structured a lot like law firms, with young associates coming in, learning, working for partners who are bringing in new business. This time was pre-internet, and the telephone was the primary tool to master in order to get to the Executive you wanted to develop the relationship with. It was also a large number of sales at first, building a rapport quickly to establish an interest to then shift the headhunter into a buyer.

[8:45] In 1997, as Jennifer was working in Los Angeles, she noticed the tide turn for top-level executives looking for New Media Leaders that understood how to navigate the world of the internet. She traded in the highlighter and directory for a computer, and it completely changed the game of research and communication.

[12:34] The new generation of recruiters must learn and master the art of communication, otherwise, they will have trouble getting the attention of busy executives and breaking through the noise of all the competition.

[13:05] As time moved from dialing for dollars in the 1990’s to the rise of the big bright internet in the late 90’s, Jennifer refers to the bubble bursting in 2000 as a “dark, creepy time.”

[14:48] Web 2.0 made way for a new type of leader and created brands, products, and leaders that may have never emerged without the bubble bursting.

[16:18] Jennifer’s client is the startup, firm, or brand calling them to retain them much like a lawyer or accountant. They are paid then to launch an assignment and are compensated both on a retainer basis and a reward for placement basis.

[17:22] The great old equation of compensation was 33.3% of the Executive’s Cash Compensation package.

[18:59] Jennifer works very closely with her clients to let them know how quickly it will take realistically, who their competition is, and who they know that is excellent in that space.

[22:07] Great storytelling skills, established relationships, a deep curiosity, and commitment to clients are important in Jennifer’s business.

[25:35] Jennifer shares how they start a hunt for the right CEO or Executive without the entire company knowing.

[28:23] If someone tries to get back into the marketplace, they must have a strong and compelling voice if they want to rise to the top of who is assessing candidates for recommendation. Whiny victims need not apply!

[32:50] A professional like Jennifer oftentimes has the ability to work with the client and guide them to what they really need and help people reframe their story in a way that shows their best assets.

[38:19] We have seen many instances of people coming from huge monolithic companies that have been pampered who may have a rude awakening going into a more traditional company.

[41:28] Networking 101 — be nice to your recruiters!

[42:57] Jennifer addresses how some CEOs and big brand leaders stay in the game by becoming industry experts, crafting a fresh story and helping others, even when dealing with large career missteps.

[51:42] Positivity, high energy, and staying up on the game and industry are paramount to standing out above the other potential candidates.


“We are solution-based, and focused on how do we get the best person in front of you in the most efficient and effective period of time.”

“If you can’t tell a good story, you aren’t going to stick with me. My job is all about storytelling.”

“The truth is a matter of perspective.” — Obi-Wan

“Everyone wants a shiny, sparkly hire that they don’t have to explain.”

“There’s something to be said about cutting your teeth in intense environments that are earnest about what they do.”

“Your career really is your brand. Does it tell your latest story, are you proud of what you see?”

Mentioned in This Episode:

“Why Silicon Valley Loves Failures” — Inc Magazine 

“Silicon Valley’s culture of failure” — The Guardian

“Finding positivity in failure” — Silicon Valley Leaders 

“In Silicon Valley, Failing is Succeeding” — Newsweek

Jennifer Bedford LinkedIn

Signal Partners