Accelerate Your Next Career Move
Here is how to get started.
December is often a time to start thinking about a career move. Bonuses will be paid shortly and companies are making plans for next year. Perhaps there are major organizational changes in the works and it makes sense to investigate the market. However, many senior executives have not ‘job hunted’ in a long time - having been hired and promoted several times by people who knew their work - and the prospect of making cold calls for the next position is daunting.
“…a random walk is not going to find the best possible position. People have grown tired of networking. You must be strategic.”
Once upon a time, the primary job hunting technique was to call everyone you knew in a process called “Networking”, but a random walk is not likely to land the best possible position. People have grown tired of ‘networking’. You must be strategic. Here are seven strategic secrets to making a career move that will land you the right job and accelerate your career:
1. First Rest and Recuperate. If you are leaving a high stress, demanding position, step one is clear your head and recharge your batteries. Take some time off. Take the family to the Four Seasons in Costa Rica. Clean the garage. Take a cooking class. Write an article. Start a new exercise regime. Do whatever it takes to get back in balance, get some perspective and away from the pressure and assumptions of the most recent position.
2. Research, Research, Research. Take serious time to consider your industry and your interests. You may have done this many times for your company – now you need to do it for yourself: What are your strengths, likes and dislikes? What are your goals? Where is the industry going? Which are the best companies and why? Who is growing? Who will be the winners? Are there technology threats? Is offshore competition about to land? Is automation going to be a factor? What are up-and-coming industries where your functional skills might be valuable? What is your strategy?
3. Develop a Criteria Template. You must develop your own criteria list for the next job and define the limits of what you will consider. You must define 1) the ideal job, 2) an acceptable position with some compromises and 3) the bottom line beyond which you will keep looking. Don’t waste time talking about jobs that don’t meet your bottom line. You can always deal with ‘blue bird’ opportunities as they come up, but you don’t need to hunt for them.
4. Name Ten Great Companies. Based on current knowledge, write down the names of ten great companies you would like to work for without regard as to whether there is a position for you there. This is a ‘scratch and carry’ list that you will modify as you learn. Develop files on the best companies and get to be expert on them. Which ones are growing? Which ones are run by CEOs you admire? Which ones have good reputations as places to work? Which ones are ripe for injection of new technology or new ways of doing business? Look hard at agile, up-and-coming companies rather than bureaucratic legacy companies. Look for a ‘disruptor’, not a ‘disruptee’.
5. Concentrate on Personal Growth. Your next job should offer personal growth. What will you learn in the new position? What new skills and experience can you gain? Can you increase in scope, scale and responsibility? Can you be more entrepreneurial? Can you learn a new industry? What scale do you want: Early stage growth? Large middle market? Multinational? Put money aside at first. Matching salary may not be the top priority. You may be offered equity or the opportunity to build skills that will pay off in the long run.
6. Focus on a 45 Degree Pivot. Look to make a change that is no more than a 45 degree pivot. If your skills are 1) Functional, 2) Industry, and 3) Operating Scale, you’d like to use at least two of these major skills in the new position. Otherwise you are leaving too much behind and you are not bringing enough to the table. The desire to take on fresh challenges is natural and a change of industry or function can bring the needed new horizon.
7. Network, Network, Network. Once you have developed a plan and criteria, talk to a lot of people. But your questions should be around industry trends and the leading companies, not strictly looking for an open position. The question “Do you know if there is an opening” can be a very short conversation. The better question “Do you have time to talk about where the industry is going?” is much more interesting. Prepare 5-6 questions – if they only have ten minutes to talk, you may be able to get through your prepared questions and learn a lot. This is a rare opportunity to cross party lines that you could never cross when employed by one company.
Pick a start date when you will be job hunting formally and treat everything before that date as research. Once you get to your start date, hit the ground running. 80% of all jobs are found through networking and less than 20% through internal and external recruiters. Talk to everyone you can. Go to former colleagues, mentors, college alumnae, industry contacts, former clients, industry analysts and industry consultants. Finally, the best jobs can come from going direct to the CEO or a C-Suite executive and pointing out a business need they have not yet developed that you would be perfect for leading.