There are many reasons why you might find yourself looking for your next executive tenure:
- Your role is changing, for instance, as a result of role realignment, relocation or consolidation.
- Your career development has stalled, with few learning opportunities or avenues for progression.
- You have concerns about the company; for example, it’s strategy, leadership or industry outlook.
Whatever the reason, you’ve made a commitment to move on. However, having heard countless times that it’s easier to find a job when full-time employed, when faced with the prospect of doing so, you are finding the reality more challenging than anticipated. In this article, we explore the seven steps busy executives can take to go about finding their next executive appointment, hold down a demanding job and balance personal commitments.
After all, you’re in it for the long haul; expect it to take anywhere between three to nine months to secure your next executive tenure. Standing between you and that role is an arduous hiring process. While hiring organisations do their best to streamline proceedings, for leadership roles, more is at stake. Expect to be subject to psychometric tests, a variety of interviews with different stakeholders, and tough referencing techniques.
First things first, you’ll want to keep your executive job search and day job separate. As we’ll discuss later, keeping your job search discreet is of utmost importance, but there is another reason why you need to separate the two; success in your current role improves your hiring prospects.
Set aside time in your weekly schedule to conduct your executive job search outside working hours. Six to eight hours should be sufficient, spread over the course of a week. Depending on your routine and other commitments, you might be able to carve out time before you head to the office, though for most executives, evening and weekends are more palatable. However, be sure to allocate time for family or personal commitments.
Next, set actionable objectives. Your goal is to find your next executive tenure, so your objectives should help you achieve that goal. You’ve no doubt heard about SMART objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Keep yourself accountable by setting weekly and monthly objectives that adhere to these principles. Examples include:
- Job applications per week;
- Pain letters and CV’s sent per week;
- Meaningful conversations per week;
- Interviews attended per month;
- Networking events attended per month.
Job search touchpoints
Are you job search touchpoints up-to-date? Think LinkedIn profile, CV, cover letter and personal website, if you have one. If these are in poor fettle, you won’t be considered, let alone stand a chance of landing an interview. They should be up-to-date, highlight your achievements, and have a consistent tone-of-voice. Where possible, they should maintain a similar look and feel, with uniform fonts, formatting and use of colour. Just bear in mind that you will not have control over how touchpoints render on third party services like LinkedIn, so if in doubt, keep it simple.
Inform your references
Don’t underestimate the importance of a resounding reference in securing your next executive tenure. Candidates are giving increasingly polished interview performances, and hiring managers are getting wise. As such, hiring managers are increasingly relying on tough referencing techniques to uncover the real you. Keep one step ahead by informing your references that you are speculatively looking for new opportunities. That way, when the hiring manager calls, they can give you a glowing reference. Just ensure your references don’t include any of your current coworkers.
Warm-up your network
Employee referrals are the top source for new hires, so tentatively reach out to your wider network and make your intentions known. Up to eighty per cent of jobs are never listed online; you never who might be looking for their next senior-level hire! However, be sure you don’t reach out to your entire network at once, and never via a social media update. Cadence and discretion are key. Take the time to craft personalised emails to your network, and send them over the course of the next six-to-eight weeks, tweaking your messaging based on how well they are received.
3) Do your research
Compile a spreadsheet of the life science organisations you would like to work for, regardless of whether they are hiring. Include their name, sector, location and website URL. If they are advertising jobs, record any relevant ones you see. Once you’ve got your list, enter the search term “companies like [company name]” in Google to find other organisations that might be a good fit. Read up about their mission, values, solutions and localities, as well as any careers-related information. If you could see yourself working for that organisation, add them to your spreadsheet.
With your target organisations in mind, you need to find out whom to contact. Ideally, you’ll want to find the hiring manager – the individual responsible for the department or function you wish to join and whom you would report to. For senior-level roles, this could be the CEO. LinkedIn is a great asset in helping you determine whom to contact. Visit the companies LinkedIn page and click the “People” tab. You will then see a list of all the employees who work at the organisation which can be filtered by title, keyword or school/university. Add columns to your spreadsheet for “Hiring Manager Name”, “Linked Profile”, “Telephone”, “Email Address”, “Date Contacted”, “Response Received” and “Next Steps”. Shortlist complete, start reaching out with a carefully crafted pain letter.
Relevant job boards
While it is important not to become overly reliant on job boards, especially for leadership-level positions, they still play a valuable part in your executive job search for the following reasons:
- You can get a feel for the types of jobs available, their remit and compensation.
- You can find out who is advertising the positions.
- You can set up job alerts.
Search for relevant job boards advertising the types of roles you are interested in, qualifying them by the number of roles which fit your criteria in terms of job title, remit, location and salary. Where possible, seek out industry-specific job boards, for example, our very own Life Science Job Board for discerning senior managers and executives in the life sciences.
4) Keep it discreet
You’ll want to keep your executive job search under wraps from your employer and coworkers at all times. This is especially true for high-performing executives. A couple of Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do Interview outside of work hours where possible.
- Do use your personal email and non-work phone.
- Do ask companies/recruiters to be discreet.
- Don’t tell your coworkers or drop hints.
- Don’t upload your CV to job boards.
- Don’t advertise on social media.
5) Mix it up
Now that you’ve got your personal brand touchpoints in order and know what types of position and organisation you are targeting, it’s time to reach out to prospective hiring managers by:
- Apply to job advertisements.
- Emailing a pain letter and CV.
- Attending networking/industry events.
We recommend that you use all three channels to maximum effect in your executive job search, with emphasis on emailing your CV and pain letter (cold outreach). Unlike a cover letter, a pain letter does not focus on you, but the hiring managers pain. Research the organisation and, using your expertise, hypothesise as to what is causing the hiring manager sleepless nights. Then, craft a letter which demonstrates your mastery of this pain, backed by relevant experience, and attach your CV. For more on writing pain letter, check out this excellent article on pain letters by Liz Ryan.
Regardless of which channel you pursue, follow up is key. You should follow up at least once with the hiring manager or primary contact for every job application you submit, every prospective pain letter/CV you send and every person you meet at a networking event. You’ve already created a spreadsheet for your target organisations, complete with columns for “Date Contacted”, “Response Received” and “Next Steps” with which to log your progress with sending pain letters and CV’s. Create another workbook in your spreadsheet for logging your job applications
Finally, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If you are having success with a particular channel, invest more time in it. Moreover, if you’re not getting results, mix it up. You’re in the driving seat.
6) Seek help
Your executive job search might appear a lonely endeavour, but it doesn’t have to be. You can enlist the support of friends, family and your wider network to check-in on your progress against your job search objectives. Aim to touch base at least fortnightly, being honest, but not overcritical in your appraisal of your performance so that they can gauge when you need support or motivation.
Consider registering with a recruiter or boutique executive search firm specialising in your industry or function to help you find your next executive opportunity. Experts in their field, executive search consultants keep abreast of industry developments and hiring trends through networking with executives just like you. Not only are they likely to have active searches for which you might be a good fit, but they will know hiring managers whom they could approach on your behalf. What’s more, they can offer feedback on your job search touchpoints, most notably your CV.
7) Stay focused
It’s essential to stay focused on your end goal. Writing for Huffington Post, Dr Jim Tylor defines focus as “the ability to pay attention to things that will help and avoid distractions that will hurt your work efforts”. Simply put, the more you get done, the greater your chances of securing your next executive tenure, and with it, drawing your executive job search to a close. A win-win scenario.
Jim goes on to explain three ways to focus better, namely:
- Decluttering your mind by prioritising and actioning tasks;
- Creating a focused workspace by removing unnecessary clutter;
- Mastering your technology (and knowing when to switch it off).
You can read the full article here. To help keep you motivated as the week’s pass, consider offering yourself a reward tied to completing your job search objectives. Ideally, they’ll be non-tangible, for example, playing a round of golf, meeting up with your friends for coffee, or spending quality time with the family. Whatever it is, it should be something you look forward to.
So there you have it. Now you know how to juggle a demanding job, personal commitments and still find adequate time to conduct an effective executive job search. While your job search objectives will help keep you in check, don’t threat if some weeks you can’t put in the time to get everything done. A little and often approach is the best mindset to approach your executive job search.
For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life sciences…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.