After speaking to thousands of executives about their jobs and careers, I’ve started to notice some patterns. Here’s my take on what many of the most successful executives do when it’s time to navigate a job transition.
5 Ways Successful Executives Find Great Jobs:
1. They Pause and Reflect
I seldom see successful executives jump into a job search without first pausing, taking a step back, and reflecting. Many take time off to decompress, reconnect with family and friends, and recharge their batteries. Those who stay gainfully employed still pause and reflect. During this period of reflection, successful executives often think deeply about the type of job they want next, not only in terms of position and title, but also in terms of their values. They resist the temptation to update their resume and start networking before reflecting.
2. They Get Out of The Office
The job market for executives and knowledge workers in the 21st century changes fast. That’s why successful executives don’t conduct their job search in front of a computer. They realize that it’s virtually impossible to keep tabs on the market when you’ve had your head down working 60+ hours a week. They don’t assume they know what’s going on. They don’t assume what they read online is true. They get out of the office, talk to real people, collect real data, and develop their own point of view.
3. They Focus
Although they may cast a wide net initially, successful executives eventually focus their search. When I interview successful executives, they have a well-developed sense as to what they’re looking for as well as what they’re not looking for. Focus allows them to cut through the clutter more quickly and find a job that’s a good fit. Focus also allows other people to help them by pointing them in the right direction. As my former colleague, Bill Barnett, points out in his book, The Strategic Career, “A narrowly constructed value proposition almost always is best.”
4. They Proactively Seek Opportunities
Successful executives are in demand. They get lots of calls about jobs from friends, colleagues, and recruiters. If they so desired, they could sit back, answer the phone, and find a job pretty quickly. But they don’t. They seem to intuitively understand that there are a myriad of interesting opportunities out there that are beyond the scope of their existing network. They take control of their search by proactively reaching out to seek new opportunities and make new connections. For more on this, see my post on Targeted Networking.
5. They Take The Time
Successful executives understand that it takes time to evaluate and compare opportunities during the course of a job search. They also understand that there are fewer opportunities at the top of the pyramid, so it’s likely to take more time to source opportunities. By taking their time and extending their job search (usually over 4-6 months or more), they allow themselves to see a sufficient number of opportunities and develop an informed perspective as to the types of opportunities available.
Do all successful executives do all of these things all of the time? Of course not. But they do them more than most people. Here’s an example.
Meet Russell Diez-Canseco, a former Harvard MBA, CIA Officer, McKinsey consultant, corporate Vice President, and successful executive. Here’s what Russell told me about his recent job search.
“It’s important to reflect upon your career and what you think you want to do next before jumping in. Deciding what to do and getting focused was the hardest part: it’s frightening to eliminate options. But instead of deciding, I hit my network and got some leads. They didn’t pan out, and that shook my confidence. So several months into my search, I decided I needed to restart and do it right. With Scott’s course and guidance I extended my search and didn’t rush a decision. I also did some consulting on the side. I explored the education and food industries, two areas in which I had an interest and some experience. I realized that exploring and deciding are an iterative process, but at some point you must force a decision – even if it’s artificial. I made a list of education and food companies and started calling them. One of the companies was Vital Farms, the largest provider of pasture-raised eggs and poultry in the United States. I took a job there and am currently their VP of Operations and Supply Chain. I’ve already made a huge impact, and I couldn’t be happier.”
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