As an executive, retained recruiter, I commonly get calls and LinkedIn messages from people on the job market asking if I have a job for which they could be considered. For the few I’m able to give time to speak with, I ask “What do you want to do next?” and “What industry sector and function is the best fit for you?” The responses are often purposefully vague in an effort to keep options open. Since candidates don’t know what I am working on, they understandably do not want to be eliminated unknowingly. Without a clear target neither of us will hit the bullseye. Keeping your options open can mean no options at all.

In address of navigating career and driving career progression, I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of Chief Communications Officers (CCO) about career path and professional development. This group happened to be comprised primarily of public school communications officers, and - no surprise - their number one question to an executive recruiter was “How do I transition to the corporate world, another industry, or even another role?”

At the CCO event, I posed a career question applicable to all candidates,“What companies share the same audiences you target or participate in?” For public school CCOs, who are business to business and business to consumer, it could be the corporate vendors that provide scholastic publications, curriculum media, software, suppliers, the local residential communities and government entities. To find your place in the job market, list the businesses that you utilize in your current role; the businesses that serve you now. While the answer may cover multiple industries (technology, publishing, scholastic, government), it provides the start of a framework where existing skills and experiences could be an advantage to a hiring company. Think about who in the business world would want your perspective. For public school CCOs, consider consultancies to the sector like research, media, analytics, communication agencies, realtors, businesses relocating their headquarters locations (which have teams for that specific project), insurance carriers, etc. 

Then what? Incorporate your personal audiences into a job search strategy with tailored messaging. Like writing a business plan, or in this case, a personal PR campaign:

1. Who are your audiences? Again, identify the audiences (or businesses) you already touch and consider the value or perspective you can offer accordingly. 

2. What is your strategy on the job market to reach your audiences? This where you would logically think about networking, but also think about your approach. That’s the “cha cha cha” that makes a cold outreach warmer. It can be mistaken for charisma or salesmanship, but actually it’s the homework of connecting the dots in your network or offering a compelling perspective, knowledge, or valuable insight to new contacts making it worth their time to engage.

Within your strategy for where you fit in the job market, also think carefully about title. Don’t make the assumption that your title as Vice President of Strategy & Quality translates to the job title of Mergers & Acquisitions without explanation. Add a dash after your title that defines your focus if it’s not clear. Look around for what your target companies label the function you fit. For CCOs, consider roles like:  Community Relations, Chief Advisor, Chief Customer Service Officer (a growing function!), Executive Director, and VP - Media Influence (reports to Global CCO).

3. What are your tactics? These are the granular, one foot in front of the other tools and resources you will use to make action on your strategy. So what are your tools?

  • LinkedIn – Connect with leaders of the companies you identify in your audience research. Name drop – a lot – to get connections. Even if it is simply to say you just connected with the COO and would like to do the same with the CHRO. Once edifies the other.
  • Boards of Directors– These people are in power and influence positions that can connect you at the right level. Use your Board relationships to understand where they may touch your target audiences.
  • Professional Societies & Organizations – This may be obvious but using the professional organization card on connections you are seeking establishes an instant, friendly and helpful context for communicating.
  • Resume or CV
  • Length - There is no rule, but 2-3 pages should convey your accomplishments.
  • Employer history - Define each employee in terms of $ REV/Budget, #employees, # students, purpose, define audiences served so how you fit the target company makes sense.
  • On-line portfolio link – For CCOs, you’ll want have samples of your campaigns.  For non CCO roles, noting successes on your resume should suffice.
  • Retained, executive search professionals – Get on their radar across many, many firms. Go for short, custom messages to the recruiters that are exactly in your target zone.
  • Job Boards and Databases – These are great places because you can confirm an interesting role is open and searching, but often feel like no man’s land. There is no trick except to say that using a broad, universal resume that fits many slots (in your perspective) rarely works. Use the titles in the posted position, note the accomplishments clearly that echo the qualifications advertised. You don’t have to spend hours re-writing your resume, but if this is your one shot why not make it read like the perfect fit you believe it could be?

Constantly refer to your audience list as a checklist. Conducting a weekly or monthly review of where you are, literally, on the job market is a great way to do this. Done well, a targeted job search can set you up with a rich, timely resource network and contact list to be effective in your new role.


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