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by Alan Royal
Aug 17 2014
Life was great, I had a once in a lifetime role, being the first foreigner ever appointed as an executive officer of a Vietnam State Owned Company, with a job charter to build IT from the ground up for a State-Owned Financial Services Conglomerate. I advised Boards, ran more IT related projects than I could count, had a car and driver, maid, cook, great company paid apartment, along with a great compensation plan. What more could a person ask for?
Unfortunately, all great things come to an end; and as I was reaching the end of my 5 year contract, my company was not entering new emerging markets, thus my new job would become conducting an executive job search. All my worldly possessions, dogs and family were repatriated to the US, along with a generous severance package, allowing for a material amount of time to find my next position.
As I considered my job search strategy, I found my resume was less compelling than Webster’s Dictionary, LinkedIn was a mystery, and when I searched on Google for my name, I didn’t find it until page 29 of the search results. My self-assessment of my readiness for a job search was dismal. I needed help, and the severance payment clock was ticking.
In my search for help, I spoke with executive resume writers, employer-focused recruiters (retained firms), recruiters who market candidates for a fee (contingency firms) and career coaches. My search for help suddenly became a time intensive endeavour.
Here are more details about the types of firms and services I encountered:
Retained Executive Search Firms While these firms were anxious to know about my skills and capabilities, they made it clear that they were driven by the searches their clients (the employer) were retaining them for, as they were being paid fees to fully meet the companies specific requirements. It was unlikely that a search assignment aligning to my capabilities, in my time frame would materialize.
Contingency Search Firms These firms, made it clear that they were candidate-focused, helping get candidates aligned to job openings. Generally, for these companies to take up my search, create all the requisite search collateral and then tap into their “proprietary” list of job openings, they required a material upfront payment for their services. Social media was suggestive that most contingency search firms failed to lead to a position. In contrast, these firms argued that what was on social media represented the small number of candidates not placed. Bottom line, this wasn’t for me, since I was not willing to take the upfront financial risk.
Resume Services As long as you check references and review sample resumes, I’ve found these services can create a great tool to use in your search: your high quality resume. From there, you are on your own. For in-demand candidates, a stellar resume is likely to be the only additional asset needed in your job search.
Career Coaches Lastly, I looked into the engagement of an executive career coach. Admittedly, the notion of “coach” was suggestive that I was going to be doing work with someone on the side-line “coaching.” Luckily, I had joined an executive job search service, provided by an association for retained executive recruiters, several years prior to get a view of the market at the time. This service morphed into a company that provided not only job listings and executive recruiter contact information, but in addition, a full menu of executive career service offerings as well.
My Experience with an Executive Career Coach
In considering the use of this service, they listed a number of career coaches, which were listed along with their experience. So I submitted my resume and indication of interest, which resulted in my being assigned a career coach for an initial complimentary consult. The individual I was assigned to specialized in unique skillsets related to global technology delivery. In our initial call, she was able to articulate an initial view of my value proposition and target market, better than I could myself. Based upon that initial call, I was ready to put a few thousand dollars “at risk” for the help I so desperately needed.
Engaging with my career coach, started out like I was being interrogated by the police. She went through my ten page resume line by line, slowly dragging out of me what really mattered. (I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was developing a view of my value proposition to the market). Not only did I have to endure reliving my career, but she made me endure a professional photo shoot, which I had not done since high school. I couldn’t even hide in a photo studio; no, I had to have my photo shoot on the grounds of an art museum.
She directed the photographer to exactly which photos would be used, and exactly how she wanted them enhanced. By this time, my relationship with my career coach, was one of pure obey and conform. I had no clue how all this interrogating and associated uncomfortable/foreign activities were going to play out. That said, just when I was wondering where all this was leading, she presented me with my completed web site, containing a summary of my career history and value proposition along with embedded photos which made me look a decade younger. Before I could fully appreciate my amazing website, she presented me with amazing Linkedin profile and final executive resume, which in totality, gave me a sense of self-worth and value to the job market that I hand never dreamed possible.
The key thing my career coach did was help me develop and communicate a view of me, my experience and my value proposition as a candidate, based upon her ability to have an experienced third party viewpoint, which I never could have developed on my own.
I would be remiss to not tell you that to this day I keep my career coach involved in my career decisions. She even convinced me to publish my unique experiences, which today are often picked up by Linkedin Pulse, resulting in thousands of views.
My career coach reinvented me, as the Best Candidate that I could be, given my experience, personality and desires for future employment. For me finding my career coach was like winning the employment lottery. If you find all of this hard to believe, Google my name, and you will not only find my name listed once on the first page, but often multiple times with links to my web site, Linkedin Profile and articles I have published.