This is an extract from the BlueSteps webinar ‘Navigating an Uncertain Business Climate: Salary Negotiation, Career Growth and More. Access the full recording here. 

Kathy Simmons: Director, BlueSteps Executive Career Services

Renee Arrington, President & COO, Pearson Partners International
Rosalie Harrison, Partner, Borderless 
Chris Swan, Managing Director, TRANSEARCH
Daniel Grassi, Managing Partner, Boyden

Kathy: What is the current landscape regarding executive recruitment? What are you seeing out there, Chris?

Chris: If you have backlog and you've got work that you've been doing for a while, I think most search firms are weathering the storm okay. But the concern is a little bit longer term. There certainly is going to be a drop off. We live and die based on the confidence in the future of the economy. It also can be that I had an executive tell me back in the last downturn, that it was really hard when things are going well to tell how good somebody was. But when things are falling apart, it's easier to see who's got the leadership skills to carry the business forward. There certainly will be continued need for people that can step up.

Chris: I think the people out there that are considering a career change, right now is really an opportunity with greater volatility. Greater risk, but also greater potential, reward, and an opportunity to show what you're made of, on both sides. For the executive search industry, we're going to continue to have assignments. There are going to be needs, no matter what the economic climate says and is, there are still companies going public, still companies looking to take advantage of the opportunities out there, but it is causing disruption. I think we all have to work a little bit harder to position ourselves in the right place.

Kathy: Renee, how about you? What do you think?

Renee: Thank you for that, and Chris I echo your sentiments. I think there will continue to be opportunities for clients who need leaders. I can speak to where we are at the moment as Pearson Partners. Our clients are proceeding with business as usual as best they can, and we work across a broad variety of business sectors. As is most of the country, we on the Pearson Partners team, to give it a local perspective, we're all working from home right now. Doing meetings via Zoom or Skype or any other way, and just focusing on getting our work done.

Renee: We still have clients that have retained us to find leaders for them, or assess candidates, or coach, or whatever the service is. We're all working hard to meet those commitments. We do think there will be new work in the pipeline. There are a couple of things out there we hope to even fit to the books still this month. Those are for businesses that are deemed essential to the current situation. I do think there'll be a slowdown. I think that's going to be driven by geography and industry sector. But I do think there will be an upside to it, and we all just need to be ready for that.

Kathy: Thank you. How has COVID-19 impacted careers in terms of long-term strategy and short-term strategy? What are new considerations? What's different for candidates now? Does this have a huge impact on their career strategy? Dan what would you say to that?

Daniel: I don't know if it has a huge impact on their career strategy. I think right now, everybody has just been turned upside down, and the unknown is what I think causes anxiety and fear. I think if people were looking at roles, like for example we're doing a search for a chief technology officer right now, and a couple of the candidates have just said, "You know what, I'm just going to take a little breather right now, and pull out of the process just to see what's going on with the world and the country and our families."

Daniel: I think that short-term it's going to be more impactful than a long-term strategy. I think that's true for candidates and clients. Renee and Rosalie and Chris, I think we would all agree. Everyone is just hunkering down a little bit just to see what's going to happen over the next several weeks. But I think long-term, like Renee had alluded to earlier, once we get past this, it'll be different, but people will still need talent at the executive level, and will need the services of retained firms to help them meet those goals.

Kathy: Thanks Dan. Rosalie you're on both the geographical and industry frontlines. What would you say to this?

Rosalie: That's absolutely true. I am exactly on the front lines sitting here in Italy and also working in life sciences. You're going to hear from me throughout this whole webinar, the idea of flexibility. Because I think I'm going to hone in on this in my career strategy, those three words. What I would say to people is, there's going to be a lot of change. There's short-term disruption. I wouldn't let your short-term thinking dictate you right now, especially in the life sciences area. But I think in other areas too where people are quickly learning that they can work a different way, and they have to going forward. There's going to be a lot of change across, for sure, across all of our sectors, and I would guess in a lot of sectors.

Rosalie: What that might mean for you, is that the strategy that you had in your head before all this started may not be the best way forward, to seize the opportunities that are going to come out of this situation with COVID. But just in general, some of the changes that might be made in the way we do business. By the way, some of the changes might be incredibly positive. I would just say try to ease up, don't make short-term decisions based out of fear or anxiety, which I think we all experience right now. But keep your eyes open and stay flexible when you think about what you might do in your career next, and how you might approach it.

Kathy: Great advice. Thank you, Rosalie.



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