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Executive Job Search - 8 Key Strategies for Maintaining Momentum and Your Sanity

Most executives like a good challenge, and I am no exception, but the executive job search process has certainly tested my resolve. At the end of last year, I became part of the unemployed population because I successfully helped sell a company to a public strategic buyer that did not need any corporate personnel. I knew at the outset of this transaction that I was putting myself out of a job, but I saw the sale through to closing in hopes that this experience would make me a more well-rounded and attractive senior executive.

As everyone knows, networking is the key to finding senior-level executive jobs, especially in this era of cost cutting. It is great to have recruiters in your corner but over 85% of jobs are not filled through recruiters. And most executive recruiters would rather find you than vice versa. As I started the search, the learning process began. Here are 8 recommendations for keeping your search vibrant and your sanity alive:

  1. Create your own brand. Besides having a resume, building a short biography is another way to help you articulate “the brand.” Use a LinkedIn profile to effectively expand your online presence (see below). Be able to articulate who you are and the type of opportunity you are seeking in 2 minutes or less. If it takes more than 2 minutes, many people will tune you out.

  2. Besides Bluesteps, use LinkedIn extensively. Given the recent cover article in Fortune Magazine (April 12 edition) and the feedback of many executive recruiters, it has become obvious that LinkedIn has become the tool of choice for many recruiters and human resource personnel. Ensure that your profile is robust, accurate and current. Fill out the specialties section with key words that executive recruiters and employers use. Get recommendations. Put up your picture. Join groups that are relevant. Many groups have job postings and the groups are also used for networking by other members.

  3. Build a list of companies you want to target. This involves extensive research but once you have the list, start targeting those companies. Most business periodicals have myriad types of lists of relevant companies. Monitor these companies for open positions and use LinkedIn as a source for networking into these companies.

  4. Dig deeply into your network. You will be surprised how old acquaintances with whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time will welcome a note or call. The most useful help I received came from unexpected and tier 3 networking contacts, and the contacts that I thought would be extremely helpful, were, for lack of a better word, useless.

  5. Most people do not know how to help you, so guide them to help you. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I don’t know anyone that can help.” Everyone has friends that can help. You just need to guide them in the right direction. My tennis group includes a trail lawyer, executive recruiters, a corporate consultant, a doctor, a real estate executive, etc… My biking group also includes an executive recruiter, a doctor, an insurance lawyer, an accountant, etc… In terms of my circle, this is just the tip of the iceberg. But all of us have these types of connections. When someone tells me they can’t help, I prod them with subtle questions about neighbors, church / synagogue friends, poker groups, etc… I always inevitably get a few names.

  6. Think and market yourself differently to get yourself noticed. I noticed that one person on LinkedIn had started the group “BusinessWeek’s 150 Most Influential Headhunters”. In 2 days, 20 of the 150 named signed up for his new group. That was brilliant.

  7. Don’t listen to the naysayers. There are going to be a lot of people who will unintentionally bring you down. Do not listen to them. Trust your good judgment. I have shattered a number of myths that people have bestowed on me. Be perseverant. Uncover every rock. Even in this environment, there are opportunities out there; they are just harder to find.

  8. Keep busy. It is very difficult to work 8 – 10 hours a day, 5 days a week on finding a job. Keeping busy by doing different activities during the day is the key to maintaining your sanity. Here are some things that have gotten me out of the house when appointments were few and far between: breakfast or lunch with friends or neighbors, a regular exercise routine, working off items on my home “to do” list and increased hobby activities.


By doing all these things, you are: taking control of your search, building your own brand, empowering yourself, keeping your sanity and learning some great survival techniques that you will need to continually enhance and sharpen as you settle in to your next executive position - which is just another stop on your branding tour.

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BlueSteps Member Guest Writer

Gary-StarrGary Starr is a senior financial executive with over 25 years of experience in mid-market and Fortune 500 companies. He just successfully managed the sale of private equity backed professional services firm to a strategic public buyer. He is currently interviewing and abiding by his 8 recommendations. Connect with Gary on LinkedIn or at gestarr@gmail.com.


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As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:

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About the author

Gary Starr's picture

BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer

Gary Starr is the CFO of Affinity Solutions, a SaaS based marketing technology firm. He has over 25 years of financial experience including mid market private equity backed firms and Fortune 500 companies. He is always on the look out for good networking opportunities.

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