Early in your career, conducting a job search likely seemed more straightforward. You were eager for a range of experiences and opportunities, and the majority of guidance for job seekers was tailored to your skill level. However, as you grew into managerial or executive roles, you probably planned your career progression more strategically. Doing so forces a narrower view of the job market that changes the way you find your next great role. While every managerial or executive job search plan will be unique, all will still include several important elements.
Before initiating a full-fledged job search, it’s necessary to do some groundwork. Have you formulated career goals and determined a long-term plan? Defining what you want out of your professional life will help direct your job search and make it as strategic as possible so you’re only considering sound opportunities.
Understanding the market before searching also helps refine a job search and save a great deal of time. Connect with those in your network to discover what jobs your connections are seeing. Talk to peers, reach out to friends in other companies, and speak to anyone who can give you an idea of what’s out there. A recruiter who is in tune with your industry can provide realistic insights about what’s been happening in the employment market since the last time you’ve conducted a job search.
Additionally, now is the time to determine your willingness to relocate. There are simply less higher-level roles around, and your ideal position may not be near your current location. Are you willing to move for the right opportunity? If so, start your job search with a national scope. There’s nothing that slows down the process more than starting a local search only to change your mind six months later, effectively losing a large chunk of time.
The old adage “it’s who you know” holds more weight the further you progress in your career. From a purely mathematical standpoint, there are simply fewer individuals with similar backgrounds, so the talent pool applying for the jobs you want is smaller. Of course, the number of jobs is lower too. Consider the growth rate of top executive roles as an example: over the next seven years, they will grow at merely an average pace compared to all jobs, adding only 193,100 roles in that time frame.
With a small number of high-level jobs available and few individuals prepared to fill them, the environment is one where most people know each other. If you’re an executive in an oil and gas company, you likely know the executives in your oil and gas competitors. If you’re a high-level HR manager, you’ve probably encountered other HR managers at conferences or industry events. While a natural competitiveness can occur, in many cases you can turn rivalries into professional relationships. With so few at this level, if your counterpart at another company is thinking of leaving (and leaving behind an open role), you could be one of the first to know and even get recommended for the position.
LinkedIn is by far the easiest way to bolster your networking. It can connect you with others in your industry, whether they are peers, professionals in the jobs you aspire to, or the hiring managers who could put you on short lists for those jobs. Everyone is on LinkedIn for similar reasons, so be comfortable reaching out to anyone on the platform. Before doing so, make sure that you have a professional headshot and that your profile is entirely filled out. This will indicate that you pay attention to detail, are active, and thoughtful, and will help you appear in applicable searches. After all, people are inclined to write off incomplete profiles as fake or defunct accounts.
The more active you are on LinkedIn, whether it’s by liking, commenting, or sharing articles, the more often you’ll appear in others’ feeds. That increases the likelihood of expanding your network to those you don’t yet know. Sharing your own insights and knowledge by writing your own LinkedIn articles is a significant way to raise your clout. Just make sure to maintain professionalism at all times on LinkedIn and any other social media platforms. Finding negative information about a candidate online impacts the decision for 95% of hiring managers. Cultivating a positive and active online presence makes you look like a leader, which is one of the most important qualities to embody at this stage of your career.
Higher-level job seekers often debate the virtues of job boards, especially when most studies indicate only 10% of executive jobs are secured through job boards. It’s no secret that some companies may open important managerial and executive positions internally, conducting a quiet search as part of their succession planning, and only putting up the roles on job boards as an HR formality. On the other hand, what about the portion of high-level talent, however small a group it is, that successfully finds roles through Indeed, CareerBuilder, and other job boards?
The bottom line is that while the most exciting jobs for managers and executives might be found elsewhere, job boards can’t be completely ignored. At the very least, they can give you a feel for what’s out there. These postings show you how responsibilities for roles have changed since you last searched. They provide windows into what companies are up to and spark fruitful paths of research. In this light, include job boards as part of your job search, but do not rely on them solely.
The higher you climb in your career the less traditional resume rules apply to you. For example, only 6% of surveyed hiring managers prefer seeing executive resumes that are just one page. As a manager or executive it’s still critical to have an updated resume, but you have more freedom with what’s in it or accompanies it. Think about what supplemental information you can provide, either in the form of professional success stories, case studies, or other highlighted materials.
For motivation, know that the majority of hiring managers say they are likely to read success stories from executives in conjunction with their resumes. When creating these stories, consider how you impacted your previous employers as a whole. Did you spearhead an initiative that increase revenue? Were you tasked with overhauling processes or implementing new company-wide programs? To stand out further, prepare actual work documents from previous roles that back up what you did. With proprietary information redacted, you can still impress hiring managers by emailing such documents after a phone conversation or pulling them out during an in-person interview.
As a manager or executive who is pressed for time, the last thing you want to do after a long day of work is debate whether to spend an hour with your family or job searching. What if there was an easier way where you could just tell someone else where you’ve been and where you want to go and let them conduct your job search on your behalf? What if they were also connected to the companies you want to work for most?
Partnering with a strategic managerial and executive recruiting firm is a gamechanger for many at this level of their career. Since recruiters are plugged into different industries with their large networks, they know the moment an opportunity opens. They often know who might retire and who is thinking of moving and about to leave their role open. Crucially, they also know what companies are looking for. Here at Refine Search, we build relationships with our clients. This way, we are able to know if a potentially transformational opportunity is a good match for a candidate before they invest too much of their time, while also giving them an advantage during the interview process.
Studies show that the tenure of high-level talent is dropping, and that means you might be changing jobs more often than in the past. At this stage of your career, your job search plan should be a strategic one that encompasses the above best practices and more. Adhere to these essential actions and engage with a recruiter to take your job search over the top and you can consistently land the transformational positions you want most.