Belief in oneself & be pragmatic!
It is universally known that failures and losses teach us deeper lessons that become ingrained in us more than successes do.   Relating the same to one’s executive career, there are many setbacks and negative experiences of others that we could learn from without having to experience the pain ourselves.  Here are a few candid examples that present useful lessons to every aspiring professional.  
Example 1 – Business Network

global functional leadership opportunity opened last year wherein the hiring organization was a joint venture between two large conglomerates in a sunrise sector.   The candidate in our example emerged to be one among the top two from a handful of contenders enlisted by a leading executive search firm.   While he seemed to possess every kind of talent and experience that the client was looking for, the ultimate decision went in favour of his competitor.   The tipping point was that the winner had the last decade of his career with a top MNC which happened to be a target (as a 'customer') to meet the hiring Organization’s growth plans!   Thus the winner’s strong internal connections won him the job.
Takeaway: At times it is not just your functional expertise that gets you the job but the business relationships and network you have built in your career that would give the hiring organization a winning edge.
Example 2 – Strategic Hiring

In the second case, a regional leadership role came up as part of a European family owned organization that was a niche player in their industry.  After a few rounds of discussions this candidate lost out to an expatriate from an emerging market;   the edge cited in the winner’s case was their geographical and cultural expertise in a strategic growth market.
Takeaway:  Gaining a prior understanding of the strategic intents of the hirer could enable better preparations for the executive role.
Example 3 – Good fit?

In the last example, discussions progressed with a candidate once again shortlisted by an executive search firm.  However, after deep research by the executive job candidate, it appeared that while the hiring Organization had portrayed the open position as a top management role to attract the best talent, in reality it was a mid-to-senior management role which the candidate was not keen on!  Having realized this, he subtly extricated himself from the process without damaging relationships with the stakeholders. 
Takeaway:  Be bold to walk away if your career aspirations are not matched with the role or reality will bite when it is too late! Even during hard times for executive hiring such as we have experienced in the recession
In all the 3 cases, although the candidate did not get the role, this does not reflect on their strengths or merits in any negative sense. Instead, there were clear outlines of mis-matches between requirements/expectations on either side.
In a nutshell, we would reap much more in our careers if we developed self-confidence in our abilities and not lose faith in our beliefs.  In addition, calibrating our capabilities/skills against market demands (as advised by Executive Search experts) would go a long way in being pragmatic in our expectations.   Being emotive or resorting to desperate moves are not traits noticed by the winners in this game!

Editor's note: Assist your networking with executive recruiters by reading our free guide - How to Work With Executive Search Consultants - BlueSteps members should take advantage of the full length Executive Search and Your Career book.

BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer

Kalyan VKalyan Vaidya is a global-minded international executive with Asia-wide, multi-industry experience - Computers, Healthcare, Auto-electrics, Aircraft engines, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Trading - in various facets of business value chain.

He has led projects in Japan, China, South Korea, ASEAN countries, India, Australia, Europe and the USA, and applies his international experience to his writing and management consultancy. Connect with Kalyan on LinkedIn or email him directly at

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