By Lisa Morgan, Michigan Ross Executive MBA Career Coach
What do you see on the executive job search horizon?
The job market has really improved for mid- to senior-level job-seekers. In 2009 it was taking my clients as much as six to 12 months to land new positions. These days EMBA clients are landing jobs in two to four months. As the economy turns around, companies are looking for leadership talent, and recruiters are increasingly contacting me once again with job leads and for candidate referrals. Executive-level salaries are also beginning to rise again after a few years of downward pressures. We certainly haven’t returned to the opportunity boom of the 90s and mid-2000s, but things are definitely getting better.
In 2009 everyone was trying to get into emerging industries like medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and alternative energy. As these newer industries go through growing pains, we are seeing a comeback with more traditional industries, such as manufacturing and auto. Much of the growth is taking place in small to mid-sized companies, although in the last year larger companies have begun to rebound as well.
With what types of positions and employers do your clients land positions?
I coach clients seeking mid- to senior-level management positions, directorships, and VP-level and above positions. There’s often a perception that business school career resources are geared for people looking to enter large companies, but I coach clients in successfully landing positions with large and small employers, including private, public, and nonprofit organizations.
I’ve worked with clients in a wide range of industries, including health care, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, auto, aerospace, consumer electronics, finance, marketing, and manufacturing and operations, to name a few.
Do you work more with people looking to change employers or people looking to advance within their organization?
I’d say 80-90 percent of the clients I work with come to me looking to conduct an external search and change employers. But there are many advantages to pursuing your career goals within your organization, and I often counsel clients on those advantages before launching a comprehensive external search. The people you work with already know and trust you, and the body of knowledge you have developed within that organization can often best be leveraged by staying in-house.
What do you recommend to clients looking to make a career change right now?
You have to be more creative and do more to develop credible, relevant experience in a new field. EMBA’s ExecMAP is a great opportunity to develop experience you can leverage in your job search. In addition, joining professional organizations, speaking at conferences, and doing pro-bono consulting can be great ways to build a narrative around a new professional brand.
If you’re looking to change functions, again, the wisest strategy is often to do this first within your current organization. The leadership in your organization already knows you and what you’re capable of. In addition, they see the commitment and opportunity inherent in your MBA experience. If you feel there are barriers to moving within the organization, we can discuss individualized strategies for working through those perceived blocks. Often it comes down to developing an effective strategy for helping your organization see your potential. I’ve seen many EMBAs successfully re-brand themselves within their current organizations.
What’s different about what you do versus what a recruiter or headhunter does?
As your counselor and adviser, I help you identify and achieve your unique goals. Executive recruiters work for companies and are looking to find talent to fill a company’s next big opportunity. As your career coach, I’ll help you develop a customized, comprehensive job search strategy and leverage your network to great effect. Working with a headhunter may be an important part of your strategy. And if you do get an offer through a recruiter, I’ll help you assess whether it’s the right opportunity for you.
I always counsel clients that while many sought-after positions are managed by recruiters, relying on recruiters should not be your only career search strategy. Headhunters are always seeking candidates whose experience is a direct match with the position they’re looking to fill; therefore, if your goal is to change function or industry, it can be hard to make your pitch to a recruiter. The best approach is to seek to build relationships with multiple headhunters who recruit for your industry, function, and geographic area. This increases the odds that when the right opportunity opens up, the recruiter retained to staff that position will think of you.