The search for c-level jobs. A topic very close to everyone’s heart, right? I happened to do some research on this topic recently, and also spoke to quite a few people. Based on candid inputs from respondents, and my own groundwork, here are a few pointers.
Firstly, which are the sectors which are hiring? The good news is…there are plenty of them! For starters, we have evergreen professions such as medicine, healthcare, legal & engineering. The upswing in the economy, after the downturn of the previous few years, has given a fresh impetus to key corporate functions such as HR, marketing, product, finance & tax. As companies reorient themselves increasingly for the future, key drivers such as technology, biotech & analytics have become red-hot sectors!
Secondly, when is the best time to search? The jury is out on this one! On the one hand, there is a widespread belief that this is a time-agnostic process. The theory underpinning this belief is that one is networking constantly since you never know when you get to ride the wave! On the other hand, there is a school of thought that you need to strike the iron when it is hot…so, the first quarter (when companies are flush with funds & have hiring targets to meet) is when your efforts have to be at their peak!
Thirdly, where do you find roles? An interesting response I received is application of Ockham’s razor – keep it as simple as you can. Most folks approach the marketplace keeping themselves / their resumes in mind. Just turn it on its head– shift focus from the supply side of the equation to the demand side of the equation. After all, a role search, at its core, is a very simple process – a candidate offers a solution (via his skills/experience) to the needs of a firm!
While everyone knows about the importance of networking, I received a response which stated this in a simple & effective way – people hire people! So, go out there and get in touch with potential hiring managers (not gatekeepers).
Fourthly, why is this process “difficult”? Multiple reasons on both sides – the candidate as well as the firm. Candidates do not advertise their availability for various reasons (fear of being perceived as less valuable by the hiring firm, possibility of leakage of news to the current firm etc.). Firms do not advertise roles for various reasons (threat to the incumbent’s effectiveness, need for zero risk in hiring etc.). The lack of a full-fledged “marketplace” means this is a departure from the classic economic supply-demand model. This give rise to the need for approaches which many professionals are not very familiar or comfortable with. As a result, most career decisions are driven by reactive approaches (response to a call from a head hunter, for example) rather than a proactive, forward-looking strategy.
Fifthly, so, what should candidates do? Based on my research, a few prioritized action points.
A. Make efforts to become a brand rather than a commoditized face in the corporate crowd. These include speaking at industry events, writing in industry journals, volunteering for important industry committees / forums et al.
B. Develop expertise in one strong area so that one becomes synonymous with that expertise. For instance, there are several operations / technology folks out there but how many block chain experts do we have?
C. Be in touch with decision makers. As people get to know you, and most importantly, your reputation starts to precede you, you become an automatic pick when firms / head hunters have to dial a number quickly to fill a key position.
D. Enjoy the process. This is the key. Efforts made with pressure bring in a completely different outcome from those made with enthusiastic participation in the process.
A mentor of mind summed it up rather nicely. The day you “arrive” at parties and people walk up to you, saying that they have heard of you, read your article, heard you speak etc. is the day you know you have “arrived”! Your reputation arrived before you, and you just followed!"