If the economic downturn has finally affected you - you're out of work and you have to get out there and find a new opportunity for yourself - how do you start?
There's lots of advice available on how to find a new job - but all of it was written before the daily meltdowns we've recently experienced. Back in 2007, people believed in the banks, Lehman Brothers was viable, RBS wasn't owned by the government and people didn't question bonuses being paid to high-flying executives. But now it's a new world. If you want to differentiate yourself from other executives looking for their next leadership position, you have to ask yourself "What should I be doing differently in this new world to find my next career opportunity?"
The hard fact is that although the skills, talents and abilities that helped us find our last opportunity continue to be the strength and drawing card in finding our next opportunity - it's going to take more than that to land that new position in today's economy.
To begin with, you'll need to assess yourself - coldly - the way someone else would do if they were considering whether you were the one to lead their organization out of the darkness. We rarely take the time to step back to do a frank and critical assessment of our own gifts and talents while we're gainfully employed and enjoying our careers - were all to busy trying to get the work done! If you're in a position to take a break from daily deadlines, reconnect with people whose opinion you value. Ask them to honestly share with you what they believe to be your strongest skills and attributes.
Use this information to begin to create "The Portfolio of You". This will eventually include a well-written and thorough CV that should be reviewed and evaluated for every role you present "You" for.
Do your research; understand where your skills and attributes can best be used, both in your current role, but also in similar positions. You can cast the net wider but be careful about stretching your "transferrable" skills. Be realistic and remember that companies are looking for leaders who can solve problems right away, not "on the job learners".
Getting the product portfolio of "You" together, understanding your own unique features and the benefits you offer lays the groundwork for what's ahead.
Now comes the really hard work!
Do it. Get on the phone. Call people. Talk to them. Keep moving. Don't stop. Sounds simple? It is. With this piece of advice I'm giving away the major competitive advantage of the Executive Search industry - because that's what we do! However, this can be applied to any industry. Nothing is more effective than getting on the phone and having focused and directed conversations with meaningful people.
But understand this. Right now everybody is networking! Given the times, the people you are calling have probably been called by other "You's" looking for work. You have competition!
In business, when you have competition you plan, you think, you strategize - so do the same now! You may be unemployed but you're still in business - and you're definitely in competition.
Approach each conversation from the perspective of adding value to both sides. Your stated objective might be to review a compelling business idea, to share what's worked in your search to date, or to gain their help in researching what's next for you, but giving your contact a reason to see and refer you is important. Take time in the conversation to ask about their needs - ask them how you can help them in their current role or in gaining an advantage in their business and offer whatever assistance or resources you can. In this way you'll build a mutually beneficial relationship that will last for years and provide value to both of you on an ongoing basis.
The Digital Age - Social Networking and whatever's next
It is truly a different world than it was, oh, say two years ago! Yes it's still about people, and about talking to everyone you have ever met and known but now, technology has made this easier - or has it? Now we have "Social Networking" tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Blogs, RSS Feeds and many others allow you to reconnect with individuals you have lost track of, or find that ever elusive name you just can't find and get up to date with whatever they're into now - BUT! They don't take the place of having an actual relationship with these people. You can use these tools for research purposes, but if you expect a real person to take a real interest in your situation - get on the phone, set up a face-to-face meeting and get real with that person.
And one more thing. There's been a lot of press over the last few years about employers scouring the net to find scary or inappropriate details about candidates' past or present on social networking sites like Facebook and others. To a certain extent this is true, but privacy laws in the UK, Europe and worldwide have begun to offer a bit of protection. A few years ago the candidate management software that many major employers and search firms use to store your CV, phone numbers, email addresses and notes from the meetings with you also included sophisticated tools that automatically searched the web looking for your personal web pages, Facebook tags, blog entries etc. and then added direct links to them in our files. We didn't have to go looking for this information anymore - it was automatically delivered to us! In the last four years these features have been removed from most commercial recruitment database tools but, those of us who are familiar with performing detailed web searches can still turn up an extraordinary amount of personal data. It's all there for us to see, so make sure that what EVER you put on the web isFit for Potential Employer Consumption!
Dealing with me - the Executive Search Consultant
First of all - identify several Executive Search professionals with active practices in your area of interest and target each of them with a specific and focused message. Send an email discussing briefly what your background is and what your search objectives are. Ask if they would be willing to speak to you about your search strategy. Attach your CV, then follow up with a phone call. If you call with a specific purpose, other than "Do you have a position for me?", search consultants will be less likely to dismiss you and will spend time with you.
Remember that these meetings are part of your over all networking process - so just as you would with any other meeting, make sure you bring something to the table. Having something to offer means you're just not asking for a favour - you're looking to build an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. Ask the Search Professional about their practice area. Offer information that might be of value, or to introduce them to key people in the sector. Ask how you can help them with their current assignments. You have your own network to offer up and this makes you a valuable member of theirs.
Follow up with them periodically. Advise them if there are significant developments in your search, changes in your status or your contact information. Bring them new, relevant information when you receive it, so that you continue to add value to the relationship.
Fish where the fishing is good!
Change is constant in business just as it is in life, and the skills and talents that are most in demand today might be different from the last time you sought a new position. Your dream may have been to find your next role in Trust, Fund Administration or Real Estate but the reality of today's world is that those sectors are not growing as fast as they did in the past. It is always easier to fish in a stocked pond so, in today's world you need to examine how your "gifts" will best fit in industries that are growing such as Investment Management, Private Banking and the commercial sector which is supported by a number of government sponsored initiatives and more. Understanding how your particular skills can be directly applied within these sectors is critical to making a successful transition.
Your Objective - Interviews
Ultimately, successful networking and search campaign will begin to achieve your objective - interviews. Each time you have the opportunity to sit down with someone to discuss an opportunity for you to add value to their organization, be prepared!
Research the company - read their annual & quarterly reports and news releases. More than likely, they're available on their websites. Use search engines like Google to learn more. See if there are blogs by executives, past or present employees or users. Learn all you can about the company's structure, plans, opportunities, challenges and how you can apply you skills and talents to the company. It is often the simplest of things that make the difference. Remember when your mum told you that you only get one chance to make a first impression - it's true! It starts with the impression you make on the Receptionist with your first call, your contact's Administrative Assistants, whomever you meet! Everyone has influence in the process.
After the interview:
Ask yourself honestly, "How did the meeting go?", "What would I do differently next time? What can I improve upon?", "Did I add any value to the other person's day".
Remember - as a great philosopher once said, "Feedback is a gift!", so if you're the only person who can evaluate the success of the interview, be honest with yourself and make positive changes for the next time.
In this world of electronic communications an email is expected as a thank you. A hand-written note or card exceeds expectations.
Remember that 6 months ago you may have been the best talent out of a field of 100 people. Today the field is larger you might be the best out of 1000 potential candidates. It has become more difficult for great employers to find you. You can make their process easier by utilizing focused and effective networking techniques.
Add the right contacts, a great CV, superior references and you will have everything you need to find employment in one of the most competitive markets in decades.