These are challenging times for everyone in the workplace. Even the most successful individuals, with an excellent track record, are having to reassess career plans as a result of the recession. From merger and acquisition to redundancy or a change of corporate direction, growing numbers of ‘C’ level executives are now reconsidering the future.
While many are looking to take their expertise to the competition, growing numbers are also looking for a complete career change – from non-executive directorships to opportunities to share talent and knowledge within the charitable sector or investment opportunities.
Here’s how you can maximise your skills and experience to achieve the next step.
Plan of Action
One of the biggest challenges facing senior level executives looking to make a career change is to understand how their skills and experience can be transferred across market. In a recent survey by the Age and Employment Network (TAEN) it was found that more than two-thirds of older job seekers believed their difficulties stemmed from being “too old.” Nearly half believed they were viewed as “too experienced” and were rejected for a variety of reasons, including because “they are too big for this job” or “you would be bored by this”.
For many senior executives it will be a long time since the last proactive job/opportunity hunt occurred. And times have changed dramatically. There are now a number of ways organisations acquire staff – and that includes changes to the way senior level individuals are targeted and attracted to the business. It is therefore important to exploit the skills of an organisation with excellent understanding of today’s recruitment model and strong relationships with the key players in the industry.
The key is to combine a clear career objective with market knowledge and expertise to ensure only the most relevant organisations/head-hunters or contacts are contacted. Working with an organisation that has good networks and strong relationships with most of the major head-hunters, both in the UK, Europe and in the wider global search market, for example in Hong Kong, Singapore and Brazil (areas of current significant recruitment), ensures fast-track access to individuals likely to have a relevant opportunity.
Create a Personal Brand
A core element of successfully marketing yourself to the right audience is the development of your personal brand – a positive statement of your values, abilities and actions which you can leave with those you meet. By defining your unique value, your personal brand allows you to be more effective at projecting yourself and equips you with the personal and market awareness you need to be at your best when it really counts.
Obviously a fundamental component of this process is a good CV or resume. This document must not only demonstrate your skills, abilities, experience and suitability for the role in question but also reflect the specific requirements of each opportunity.
Therefore a relatively generic CV designed for a head-hunter will need to be tailored significantly if you are opting for a direct contact with a target organisation. The CV can also be used as a prompt when in an interview – be it face-to-face or on the telephone – to keep you on track of what you are discussing and remind you of the key points you want to raise.
It is also essential to extend the personal brand to social networking, LinkedIn has become a de facto tool in modern business and you will stand out by not being at least a user, if not an active one. Some interesting data on the topic: 92% of recruiters use social media to find new candidates, up from 82% in 2010. And 73% now say they have successfully hired through social media, up significantly from just 58% two years ago.
It is therefore essential to ensure you have a complete profile and use it to start to build a network, gather testimonials on your work and search across its enormous database to find companies that attract you. Build a focused network of powerful individuals relevant to your career ambitions. This includes making new links – where relevant – with connections of your immediate contacts and of course leaning on your business coach’s own network, which should include top tier industry-specific head-hunters, as well as a wide range of top executives.
To maximise the chance of succeeding in the new career or opportunity it is essential to be well prepared. Everyone involved in the recruitment process is looking to minimise time wasted and gain fast access to the best candidates.
The right preparation process will ensure you are:
- Clear and confident in your career aims, personal criteria and conditions for success
- Self-possessed and able to articulate your strengths and personal brand
- More effective at projecting yourself to reflect the needs of a specific job opportunity
- Armed with succinct stories to provide the measurable evidence to support the personal brand
Throughout the process it is important to exploit the skills and experience of your business coach to continuously evaluate potential roles, even evolve objectives as new opportunities and ideas arise. The coach will act as a sounding board to consider key issues such as the scope of the opportunity, the viability of required deliverables, and track record of other senior management.
Once your marketing strategy is complete, your CV is optimised, your social media profile is up to date and you have established both interview technique and specific goals, now you just need an audience! After all, 70% of top jobs come through networking.
In the first instance, build a spreadsheet of your network and use this to log when you have meetings, what the actions and learnings were, and next steps, and agreed time for a follow up.
While many senior executives have little understanding of the role networking plays in business, it really isn’t the fearsome activity it is often thought to be. See it as an opportunity to meet new people, hear their stories and learn about their current challenges or recent accomplishments.
This can help you identify where either you can help each other or you know of someone they should be in touch with. By acting as a connector or by being of direct use yourself, you instantly boost not just your value to one individual but also your immediate career history. And of course, the more people you go out and meet to help, the more people you will meet who can help you.
This opinion is an extract from an e-book entitled “How to move on – or move up”, available to download here.