Managing your career and maintaining marketability in senior roles.
Earlier this month I was back down in London to present the second of two webinars for ACCA on how to manage your career and maintain marketability in senior roles.
In February the topic was how the job market really works and how to position yourself to stand out from the crowd!
At the more senior end of the market things become more complicated and competition can be fierce. This second webinar was designed to highlight some of the principal challenges of career management at the executive level and provide solutions to maintain marketability.
Although the webinar was presented to those in the accountancy and finance sector, the advice contained in this blog post (and on the webinar) holds true, whatever your level, profession or industry sector.
To watch a recording of the webinar, please click here. Alternatively to gain a snapshot of some of the major points, please read on.
Some of the challenges specific to senior roles:
There are a number of challenges specific to changing roles or making an executive transition at the C-level / C-suite / executive level.
Firstly, in any organisation there are generally less people at the top as compared to at entry-level positions. Assuming people remain ambitious and stay within sector this means the higher you climb the more competition for fewer and fewer positions.
Executives in my experience place too much emphasis on the ability of their CV / resume to secure them their next position. Unfortunately this rarely works – as a former professional recruiter I rarely read a CV from start to finish, I simply didn't have the time. As an executive you have to stand out in other ways to be the one who gets noticed and hired.
Adding to the CV / resume challenge many then rely on third parties to take this document and use it to open doors with employers. Here I'm principally talking about executive recruiters – while they provide a valuable service and should be part of any successful job search strategy, they are only a small part of what you can and should be doing. As a C-level / C-suite executive if you rely solely on this strategy be very aware of two things:
1) You're not in control of your job search – they are.
2) This tends to be what everyone else is doing, which makes standing out virtually impossible.
Executive job search is personal – it doesn't happen to the organisation you work for, it happens to you. As successful job search entails standing out from the competition, it involves doing different things to the majority. Acting with the minority means stepping out of your comfort zone to learn new skills and then application of these skills over an extended period of time. Marketing ability is one such skill along with the discipline to keep going when the going gets tough, which it inevitably will.
As the saying goes – 'fail to plan, plan to fail'. We all plan in our businesses, but when it comes to our own careers it's very easy to take what comes our way and to rely on others to achieve the success we deserve. This is reactive chaos – successful executive job search requires planning and a conscious move to proactive control.
However, by far the biggest challenge for those entering the executive job market is psychology, which transcends the majority of challenges already mentioned above. There is rarely overnight success, which means psychology is closely linked to time – what you believe informs how you think and subsequently the action you're prepared to take (or not take as the case may be) over time to achieve the result you want. In the executive job market this requires a move from a certainty mindset (if I do A once I'll definitely get B) to a probability mindset (if I do A for a month, there is a probability of achieving B at least some of the time).
The four pillars of executive job search success:
Finding success in the executive job market requires a system. A system clarifies your destination and the steps along the way to reach this destination. A system also protects you emotionally from the ups and downs and the inevitable rejection the executive job market dishes out.
This system starts way before you ever consider writing your CV / resume and begins with understanding how the executive job market works and how employers make hiring decisions. This knowledge reveals the 'hidden market', which is the high probability place to find executive career opportunities before they ever enter the public domain.
The four pillars are –
Environment – how the executive job market really works.
Psychology – the importance of beliefs on thoughts and subsequent actions.
Planning – clarity over the end destination and a plan that focuses on the process, not the prize.
Process – how to manage your own recruitment process every step of the way.
(For a detailed explanation of these pillars and the Career Codex methodology for executive job search success, please search for Super Secrets of Successful Executive Job Search on Amazon (UK) or Amazon (Worldwide).
Mapping the future:
Once you've got to grips with how the executive job market works and the psychology of success, having a clearly defined destination (the executive position you want) and the time it will take you to get there is critical to your success.
In clarifying the destination it's important to ditch flexibility and instead get really focused. This at first glance can seem counter-intuitive, but getting focused means you know where to direct to your effort and how to communicate with a message that will resonate once you're in front of the right people.
Having documented your destination and the series of steps it will take you to get there – it's then about execution consistently and diligently over time.
Believing is seeing:
One of the big challenges executives face when positioning themselves and taking action to uncover opportunities in the hidden market is that at the outset, by definition, the opportunities are hidden (they've yet to made publicly visible). Initial attempts to uncover opportunities may initially go nowhere and this is where having a probability mindset becomes so important.
Seeing is believing is a saying we hear often, but when it comes to successful job search the visible opportunities advertised by executive job boards and executive recruiters, which on the surface appear highly accessible, can in reality be the most difficult opportunities to secure (partly due to competition, but also a multitude of other reasons relating to how an employer makes recruitment decisions).
Believing in the hidden market and taking consistent action over time results in these hidden opportunities becoming visible, but it doesn't happen overnight. Believing is seeing as your mantra positions you ahead of the market before opportunities are made public and as such results in higher probability outcomes.
The big game changer:
LinkedIn has changed the recruitment world beyond comprehension. It's given employers an up-to-date database at their fingertips to access the talent they want directly. If they know what they're doing they have the opportunity to gain real-time access to individuals with the right skills and experience for their organisations whether they're on the books of an executive recruiter or not.
In short it's given employers direct access to the hidden market and as an executive jobseeker that means you have to be visible on the platform, in addition to using it proactively to stand out from the crowd.
Having a 'shop window' is no longer enough – you have to use the platform 'proactively' to position directly in front of your target employer with a message that will resonate and gain attention. For more information on using LinkedIn for successful executive job search, please click here to watch a webinar where I dive into this topic in some detail.
The hire cycle:
Many go wrong by presenting their CV / resume to market (often relying on third parties) and expecting to be hired. Modern marketing doesn't work this way and the see me > hire me approach is akin to traditional advertising, which we've all learnt to filter out.
Finding success in the executive job market requires a different approach that takes more time, but yields far better results. I call this the 'hire cycle', which is essentially see me > like me > trust me > hire me. I discussed this in a recent interview I did with Tim Hughes, a bestselling author and social media expert.
Like me > trust me is where you build brand YOU (Yell Out Uniqueness) – it's where you stake your claim and what makes you different. This starts with understanding the problems and opportunities of those you're looking to engage with and communicating a message that serves, helps and educates. In the first instance it's never about you and always about them.
Marketability means multichannel (offline and online) in addition to multimedia (written, verbal, and visual). Video is the new trend and a fantastic way to communicate your passion, energy and YOU. LinkedIn provides the tools to host video content, yet very few executives in my experience take advantage of this excellent opportunity to stand out.
The chance of engaging with someone who is ready to hire right now is always going to be slim. This means your unique positioning and message to your market must have mobility.
Your message must be easily understood, which empowers others to pass it on, and be memorable, which ensures mobility over time.
This means consistent activity and no more start-stop. Correct positioning and building engagement has to become a daily habit and not something you do only when it's time to move to a new executive position. Build your network when you don't need it and it will be ready and waiting for you when you do. This requires planning and discipline followed by diligent execution no matter what.
So there you have it, some of the topics I covered on the webinar for ACCA. To watch the recording in full, including the Q&A, please click here.
If you have any feedback, thoughts or questions feel free to leave me a comment below or on the YouTube video itself.