If you were an executive set on launching a new line of business, what would your approach be?
Likely, you’d conduct in-depth market research, identify where the opportunities are, and formulate a solid plan for where to play and how to win, allocating resources on high-ROI bets. Finally, you’d create a compelling brand message that resonates with your customers. It’s unlikely you’d go it alone, rather you’d lean on trusted experts or consultants.
If you are engaged in an executive job search, you should approach it in exactly the same proactive way – like a strategic business initiative.
Following are 4 ways to execute your job search like the business leader you are.
1. Do your research
Spend time identifying the precise sectors – and companies – where your skill set, experience, and qualifications are in the highest demand.
If you were launching a new business line, it would be risky to only play in an overly saturated space. Likely, you would explore overlooked segments.
Use this same approach in your job search. Think beyond the biggest names in business where every other job seeker is trying to land a position too. Keep in mind that larger Fortune 100 companies typically have highly developed succession plans and systematically promote from within. SMEs represent a goldmine of opportunity since the competition is less fierce, and it can often be easier to network your way to the higher ups, as there will be fewer firewalls in place.
Come up with a list of a dozen or so target companies to start with and research the heck out of them. Go beyond the corporate websites and read as much as you can, poring over recent press. Perhaps most importantly, have conversations with insiders – not to ask about a job just yet – but to understand who’s who in the organization, what challenges and opportunities are on their horizon, and what the culture is like. Not only can this step get you referrals to opportunities but it will give you powerful information to leverage while interviewing.
2. Prioritize the highest ROI activities
As much as 80% of roles are filled through networking, and most of those are never even published in a job ad. Logically then, what would be the best use of your job search time? Should you spend hours on the Internet reading job ads and spraying out as many copies of your resume as possible? Or should you heed the data and spend the bulk of your time expanding and growing your network within your target companies? The answer is clear.
Start with people you already know: your best professional contacts – people who know and appreciate you, like former bosses, peers, and even people who reported to you. Reach out and communicate your goal of growing your network in a specific sector or sectors and within a select list of companies – and eventually transitioning to a new role when you’ve identified the right opportunity. This step alone could lead to opportunities, but more likely it will lead to introductions.
3. Create a compelling brand message
After you have done some preliminary research, but before aggressively networking inside the organizations you are targeting, you’ll want to create career documents that communicate a strong professional brand.
If you wanted to sell a new product or service, you would need to create a unique value proposition focused on your customer’s needs. Similarly, you’ll need to create a value proposition for yourself focused on your potential employer’s needs.
You’ll need to answer the question “Why you?” over all of the other candidates? What differentiates you from them? The answer to this question must be crystal clear in your resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, or any other document you use to conduct your search.
4. Don’t go it alone
You wouldn’t dream of trying to launch a new business line singlehandedly without any strategic advisors or without delegating the tasks that don’t fall within your wheelhouse of expertise. Don’t try to conduct your job search on your own either.
Identify a few people you trust who can serve as a sounding board, mentor, or accountability partner along the way. They could include a colleague you respect, someone who deeply understands your target sector, or someone who has already made the transition to the type of role you are seeking.
You can also lean into the experts: executive career coaches and executive resume writers. If you are having trouble identifying your target market or knowing where you should focus your search, consider adding an executive career coach who specializes in career exploration to your trusted team. If you struggle to formulate your unique value proposition, it can often be helpful to get the perspective of an executive resume writer, who will be able to easily spot what differentiates you from all of the other executives they have worked with.
Job search like the leader you are
Approach your executive job search as if it were a critical business initiative. Let the data and research drive you, prioritize the actions that will deliver the greatest impact, understand the importance of messaging, and know when to bring in the experts. If you do, you will be on the fast track to career transition success.