When you’re working in an executive capacity,
your company provides a clear support system to take care of day-to-day tasks: administrative
assistants and other players within your organization free you up to focus on
the critical tasks that drive revenue or reduce costs.
You can’t do a high-level job without a
support system, and don’t fool yourself: You can’t conduct an executive job search without one, either.
Job seekers accustomed to a position atop a
team of many often fall into disarray when they find themselves a team of one.
Even after I was laid off and having an
outplacement program provider, it was still my responsibility and challenge to
come up with a system to organize myself and my search, said Allen Cantnor,
an executive health care administrator (who asked his real name not be used). Creating
a clear system to organize your search can be the key advantage you have over your
competition. Online resources, spreadsheets, e-mail records, LinkedIn and an
inventory of business cards can be helpful. But so many tools can become
chaotic; you need a system to organize them, whether you purchase it or create
it out of a raw Excel spreadsheet.
Then prioritize your activities as if your
full-time job is now your search. Isn’ that what it is, anyway? Who is the
real enemy in your job search? Is it the market? Is it your attitude? Is it
your preparation and organization? Is it your competition? Is it all simply in
Once you know your enemy, you can determine
your tactics. To start on the same page, here is the definition from
Main Entry: tac·tics
Etymology: New Latin tactica, of taktikos
of order, of tactics, fit for arranging, from tassein to arrange, place
in battle formation
a: the science and art of disposing and
maneuvering forces in combat
b: the art or skill of employing available
means to accomplish an end
c: a system or mode of procedure
Surefire Tactic 1: Remove obstacles.
In today’s job market, it sure feels like you
have to marshal and maneuver forces in combat. Barriers to your goal can slow
or stop your proper job-search maneuvers.
According to Cantnor, I found myself in a
sea of clutter at home. I had an office, a nook and a kind of man cave where I
put all my little awards, papers and files. I had a computer and a pretty nice
arrangement where my loving wife and two kids would even give me some space.
But the truth is, I stumbled over everything. I had no filing system, and the
acoustics when I talked on the phone made it sound more like an old phone booth
than an office.
If you have the means to do it, you need to optimize
your workspace. Create a place where you feel comfortable working. If you have
access to an outside-of-the-home office, take advantage of it.
I know many executives in transition who can
adapt easily. They have adapted for years by working on spreadsheets while
they’re on the road. They can work in hotel rooms; lobbies (of all kinds); or just
about anywhere. But others need the kind of quiet to hone resumes, cover
letters, applications and other paperwork for an intensive search.
Surefire Tactic 2: Be more prepared than your competition.
While you organize your workspace, get your
thinking in order, too. Prepare yourself to outmaneuver the competition.
On a job hunt, how do you prepare for a
competitor you haven’t seen?
Assume your competition has your skills or
above. To be more prepared than them, become more prepared than you are.
Anticipate the toughest interview questions
you will receive on the phone or in person answer them. I had wrong thinking
about practicing the interview, said Ron Caufey, a combined technical and
sales executive in transition from a major software firm. I really thought
that I had the gift of gab and could pretty articulately brag about my
What I did not have organized is a careful,
thoughtful and practiced interviewing plan, he said. In actually doing or
being part of the executive interview process at my last job, I found out that
we sometimes hired people who were the most prepared in the interview process
vs. the most qualified on paper, so to speak. So pulling off the live interview
to me was another way for me to win and have an advantage over my competition.
I knew my competition was not putting themselves through such pain!â€
Surefire Tactic 3: Have a backup plan.
Especially when times are tight and ideal
jobs are scarce, your goals need to be multilayered and realistic. Develop
goals associated with salary, bonuses, time and more. You may need help with
making these goals reasonable and obtainable. If you do not have a goal, then
all your organized plans won’t matter, Cantnor said. I had to set up a plan
for contract and consulting work if my full-time work didn’t happen. I had to
set a separate plan for a local job search and a distance search if I could not
transition in my local geographic area of 50 miles. Lastly, I had to get real
about salaries and income expectations. I had to be willing to take less or
give up more.
I was aware of what I needed from a job and
income perspective, Cantnor said. I was realistic but aggressive. I think
that’s the right frame of mind.
Image from stock.xchng (www.sxc.hu).