C-level executives work their way to the top of a company and then hold their jobs for many years. Therefore, many don’t have much experience with searching for a new job and may feel overwhelmed when they need to re-enter the job market. This uneasy feeling becomes compounded by the fact that a C-level job search differs quite dramatically from more traditional job searches in the following ways:
- The Need for a Deep Understanding of One’s Strengths
People who have recently graduated from a degree program typically have little work experience and thus haven’t fully identified their skills and weaknesses in different environments. This type of candidate may give off an impression of immaturity during job interviews. However, once someone has reached the point in their career where they have the word “chief” in their job title, they necessarily have a deep personal understanding what their individual strengths are and the benefits that they bring to a company. By understanding and embracing these strengths, C-level job seekers can develop a personal brand that they can use to sell themselves.
- The Need to be More Selective about Future Jobs
People who are relatively new to their career are not penalized for casting a large net when looking for a job. Unfortunately, when a C-level executive does this, he or she looks desperate and will not likely make a good impression on hiring companies. A former CFO who finds three companies seeking a new CFO should not automatically send in applications for all three positions. Instead, he or she should research each company and see how it aligns with his or her personal experiences and history. If little alignment exists, another company will probably prove a better fit. On the other hand, if much of what the CFO has done in the past aligns with the needs of the company, that person can create a strong case for why he or she will be an asset for the organization.
- The Need to Conduct Even More Industry Research
C-level executives usually have deep—but not very wide—knowledge of a certain industry. Before looking for a job, candidates at this level need to research other companies in the field, including the work of smaller startups. In addition to possibly revealing exciting job opportunities, this research will give C-level professionals a better sense of the current state of the industry as a whole and may provide a better sense of what projects they want to work on next. Before going in for an interview, or even calling upon any contacts, C-level executives need to have a clear understanding of what path they want their career to take. Without a sense of what projects a candidate wants to work on and why, that person will struggle during the interview process.
- The Need to Rely on Professional Networking
Networking is important at all levels of business, but new graduates rarely have the contacts they need to land a dream job. For this reason, people earlier in their career may need to rely on job fairs, online applications, and professional social media sites like LinkedIn. While LinkedIn is an important tool for C-level executives, these individuals cannot expect to get a response if they broadcast the fact that they are looking for a new job on the site. Similarly, they will not likely get a response from online applications and certainly cannot show up at a job fair and expect to find leads. Instead, C-level executives need to rely more on networking to make business connections, scout opportunities, and secure assistance.
C-level executives should not work with the first recruiter that they find. Instead, they should pull on their network to find recruiters and headhunters that understand their particular needs. This imperative relates back to the C-level professional’s brand. Not all recruiters are capable of representing that brand accurately, nor do they all have connections in every sector. Finding the right representation is an important part of securing the best job.
- The Need to Bring the Right Attitude to the Job Search
C-level executives hold a great deal of responsibility at a company. When people interview for these levels, they need to project confidence and demonstrate clear leadership skills. At the same time, they require humility. Other executives and board members will have done their research prior to a meeting so C-level candidates will not make a great impression if they rattle off their achievements. Instead, they need to show how those achievements link directly to job at hand. They also need to come in with a clear plan of how they will spearhead new initiatives starting on their first day in the new position.