The Executive Job Search Challenge

I was honored to join two of my fellow Career Thought LeadersWendy Enelow and Jan Melnik, on a blog radio show hosted by Deborah Shane last week. My area of specialty … reputation management. Of the many interesting questions Deborah asked me, here’s one that I consider very important. 

What common liabilities are you seeing in executive job seekers that is making it harder for them?

Since I play in the senior finance executive space, my response was from that perspective …

— Many of my clients, at least initially, express an unwillingness or reticence to embrace technology and make it work for them. For better or worse, this is the new normal. It’s a new game with new rules, and executives have to play to win.

— Finance executives tend to be numbers people rather than people people. Networking doesn’t come easily to most of them. And, Web 2.0 technology is about “social networking.” The time investment for networking can also be a huge detriment to the average CFO who is so busy working in his job that he doesn’t have time to invest in his career.

— Because they put long hours in on their job to the exclusion of working on their careers, they may not realize that financial acumen aside … the moment they leave with a big severance package in their pocket, their marketability takes a hit because they now have the black mark of unemployment on their record. Some recruiters would say these candidates are tainted. That’s a cold, harsh assessment that makes finding employment that much more difficult once an executive is UNemployed.

— And of course, competition is stiff for fewer opportunities. A clear and compelling value proposition has never been more important. Sadly, many executives can get tripped up and trapped in the responsibility conversation. Differentiation happens when they turn the conversation to what they have that a company is willing to pay to get … which is all about the candidate’s ability to solve a company’s pain/need/challenge/issue.

If you’re interested in listening to the entire show, you’ll find it here

Out with the Old, In with the New … Maybe

December 31, 2009. The end of a decade. The last two years alone may have seemed like a decade to many who find themselves among the unemployed.

Tomorrow heralds a new decade and the opportunity to do something new and different. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s this … 

–corporate loyalty is gone;

–you are only as valuable as your latest contribution;

–networking is no longer about who you know but about who knows you; and

–if the Board isn’t happy, the CFO’s neck is on the chopping block.

The beginning of the decade arrived as a seller’s market. If you were walking, talking, and breathing, you were a candidate for almost any position. Companies were that desperate. Seems like just a distant, vague memory doesn’t it?

The end of the decade paints a much different story. Today, companies take their time hiring … willing to wait for the right and best hire, not just any hire. The market is flooded and competition is stiff. Responsibilities are out, value rules. Culture fit is key. Personal branding facilitates a company’s ability to hire the finance leader with the greatest chance of fitting within its corporate environment.

Many finance executives have either been caught completely by surprise or knowingly took a severance package along with some time off to rejuvenate … only to jump back in and hit a big wall of reality. Finding that next position just wasn’t going to be so easy. And despite the wealth of unemployed talent, recruiters and companies still covet the “passive candidate.” 

Gone, probably forever, are the days of yore. Reality says you can either drive your career or you can be driven. Respond or react. Be hunted or be forced to hunt. Seth Godin’s blog post today posed this question …  “Seven years from now, what will you have to show for what you are doing right now?” I’d like to pose my own question from a career management perspective … 

Where do want to be 3-5 years and what do you need to be doing in your career today in order to ensure you get there?

Failing to plan is, by omission, planning to fail.  

Happy New Year … may 2010 be filled with much joy, hope, happiness, and health! 

Think Like a Recruiter

I had lunch with Doug Franklin, a local recruiter, last week. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I love getting into the minds of recruiters … how do they think, what makes them tick, and more importantly, how do the operate. Doug is a class act and was a wealth of information as he generously allowed me to pick his brain. Here’s some of what we discussed.

Since I work with CFOs, many of whom have been reticent to adopt social media … particularly anything outside of Linked In, I asked specifically about his recruiting methods and those of his colleagues.  Doug’s primary direct sourcing strategy is Linked In. His colleagues use Linked In AND other social media websites as their primary strategies to direct source candidates. (Notice the absence of job boards?)

That led to our discussion around passive versus unemployed candidates. Doug has been unemployed in the past and has a compassionate side for those who find themselves in that situation. However, here’s what he said …

Clients don’t pay us to present candidates they themselves can find in job board databases.

WOW! If there was ever a compelling reason for executives to create and execute a career survival plan that includes fully embracing the power of building a visible online presence, that statement is it. Doug went on to say that he will sometimes include unemployed candidates as part of his slate of candidates, but never more than 25% because … that is not who clients are paying him to find.

Candidates have the most power when they are inside looking out. While nothing changes about a candidate’s skill set, experience, or record of contributions once he’s on the outside looking in with a big severance package in his pocket; the reality is, his marketability still takes a huge hit.

With the slow down of hiring, and according to Doug excruciatingly slow hiring decisions  as companies are willing to wait for the “right” candidate not just “a” candidate, executing a career survival plan on an ongoing basis and long before you need it, is critical to securing positioning as that “valuable” passive candidate that companies want and are willing to pay recruiters big bucks to get.

In my next post, I'll be providing my thoughts on why CFOs should embrace a social media strategy beyond Linked In … and including Facebook.