In the last 20 years, I have recruited thousands of executive roles for a broad range of clients. As a result, I am regularly contacted by incumbent and aspiring senior executives, asking for advice as to how to position themselves for these opportunities in the future. Whilst most executives are fantastic at doing their job, few are implementing strategies to become the “logical first choice” for their “job of choice” in the future. Here are some easy to implement tactics that you can utilise to best position yourself in the market.
“Sell the sizzle, not the steak”
This is an old sales expression, which basically means that people want to buy a product or service because of its exciting features and benefits, rather than just its basic description. From a career perspective, I call this your key achievements and transferable skills.
Your LinkedIn profile is now being viewed by virtually every person you liaise with professionally. Employers, recruiters, suppliers, customers, prospective employees – the list goes on. So your LinkedIn profile must present you in the best possible light. Take the time to create a great LinkedIn profile that communicates clearly why you are awesome. The easiest way to do this is by adding in your key responsibilities (the steak) and more importantly your key achievements (the sizzle) for each of the roles in your career.
Headhunters and employers want to target executives who are awesome. You need to give us a compelling reason to target you.
Network directly with your employers of choice
One of the comments I hear regularly from senior executives is this, “You know Richard, I’ve been working so hard in my day job for the last few years that I haven’t spent any time building my networks. Now I’m looking for a new job, I realise that this was a big mistake”.
The vast majority of senior executive positions are never advertised or given to recruiters to fill. They are filled through the hidden job market. What do I mean by this? When vacancies become available, employers think, “Who do we know that has the requisite skill set, is a good culture fit and available?” Why would they want to go through an expensive, protracted recruitment process when they can just grab their preferred candidate and get on with business?
If you want these jobs, you have to be on their radar. Fortunately, LinkedIn makes this easy to do. Identify your employers of choice, work out who the key decision maker is and reach out to them directly requesting a 15 minute Zoom or Teams introductory meeting. For example, if you are looking for a CIO role, you should reach out to the MD or CEO. If you are not yet at that point in your career, then you would probably reach out to the incumbent CIO instead.
Even if you are not currently looking for a job, it’s critically important that you are proactively networking. Set yourself a KPI for how many of these introductory meetings you want to have each week or month. Remember, these people want to meet with you because you’re awesome. How do they know this? Because they’ve read your LinkedIn profile.
Build a relationship with relevant recruitment specialists
No matter where you work, there will be recruitment consultants who specialise in senior roles. It’s important that these specialists know you, understand your career goals, and are invested in helping you to achieve them. Rather than just applying for roles and praying you get an interview, instead be proactive in building these relationships.
I joke in my book about the fact that recruiters virtually never have candidates reach out and offer to buy them a coffee. A five-dollar investment is nothing to pay when potentially that recruiter could find you your dream job. One of my favourite contacts (who has now become a personal friend) is a CFO who is extremely proactive in maintaining a great relationship with me. At least twice a year we catch up for lunch or a coffee. Over the last 15 years I have placed him in three roles, plus he has been a client and engaged me to recruit multiple roles for him.
Doing a fantastic job and delivering excellent results for your employer is the foundation for positioning yourself for a great career. Having a LinkedIn profile that clearly articulates your key achievements and transferrable skills is a great way to promote your personal brand. Regularly getting in front of your employers of choice and key recruiters in your sector/city, and maintaining a strong relationship, will ensure you are preferentially considered for vacancies when they become available.
Remember – you are awesome and deserve a fantastic career. Doing these simple things well will position you for tremendous future opportunities.
Written by Richard Triggs.
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