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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Executive Coaching Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 03 Mar 2011 4:03 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    Here are a few best practices from successful executives in transition that I have worked with over the last few years:

    1. Accept and Learn from Rejection - Accept immediately that rejection occurs in almost every phase of transition. It means that your overture to "grab a cup of coffee" or to "just get a conversation going" with a key person might get derailed or might not happen. I have had to counsel executive job seekers on this. For example, one client let weeks pass by, and he really went through the motions on significant additional meetings and contacts because one of his main connections did not want to meet with him. Or at least that's what he thought. It turned out the person did not "reject" him but had other commitments. That person could have been key to helping him and turned out not to be the pivotal person. So he felt rejection. Rejection in any form can ensure that you lose momentum. That's the most dangerous part.

    2. No One Team Member Determines Your Fate (or Your Attitude) - You and your attitude matter the most in a search. In the 20+ years I have counseled executives in transition, it still surprises me a little that executives can get knocked down if people around them let them down. Many executives are used to getting things done, putting their credibility on the line and performing with a team. You depend upon your team. In your last job you may have had a level of accountability that you do not have in your transition. Other people, including your references, may not "produce" like your team at your last job. Your spouse may not be as supportive as you need them to be. Your key contacts may not churn up the best ideas for you or do it in the time you expect. But your overall plan may work if you don't push or let others determine your attitude or fate. Inspire others with your positive, proactive and exciting attitude. It is possible.

    3. Improve Everything You Do and Everything about Your Strategy - Transition can be an opportunity to improve relationships in your life, including your family. Invest time and energy into building relationships with key decision-makers. Write and produce professionally. Do self-study and push yourself to take courses or improve, on faith, the skills you will need to perform at the highest levels. Get professional help from a qualified career coach to assist you in creating the right mindset and tactics for your search strategy. Take pressure off those around you and be accountable for your attitude and your results. Own this transition. Invest time with family, friends and laugh a lot. Learn to laugh at yourself.

    Lastly, most clients I have worked with report that they are better off in a year after they transition then they were in their last opportunity. Funny, isn't it? A transition can be a great reprieve from your career. I know a lot of you don't like it, and it feels empty at times. But I challenge you to revise and recreate your work life mission now. This is a time to find your next calling. Accept the challenges. Solve them. Work a schedule. The evidence of things hoped for will be revealed in your attitude and actions - the only two things you can control in this life.

  • 29 Nov 2010 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    One of my executive clients said this: "I am looking for a new position but there is no way I want my company knowing that I am looking." It's a refrain we hear a lot. Looking for a new position can be dicey and jeopardize your current employment. The majority of people looking to make a move don't want to tip off their employer that they are looking. So what do you do if you are looking now and you are running a confidential search? Here are three ideas to consider. A good way to run a confidential search is to start tapping into the job market and job search marketing techniques quietly, confidentially and with a little less exposure. So what might you consider doing now to start this process with a little less anxiety?

    1. Develop a Quiet Linked In and Online Communications Strategy. Depending upon your industry, you should not necessarily start showing high activity on LinkedIn and in your professional networks. Develop a clear cut plan to become more active by slowing adding contacts, joining groups and networking through associations. Integrate these habits into your weekly routine and try to tie it into your current position. But often clients need a networking plan and search strategy that's more stealthy, carefully planned and, to some extent, quiet. Any "loud" moves or aggressive networking can tip off your network that something has changed. They may assume you are looking.

    2. Imagine the Job You Want with The Company You Want. If you would take a time to write a brief job advertisement or job description at one of your ideal target companies, you have a strong start. Start to create a "fantasy" list of target companies. Why will this fantasy work possibly help you? Jobs open up like chapters of a book. In the first chapter, almost all employers look for top talent and have their eyes open for top talent. Next, employers often begin to formulate an idea of what they need to drive revenue or reduce costs. Usually that means the employer, internally, notices a need to look for talent. The employer will often try to fill the position internally. Lastly, the key hiring managers and the employer will think about externally advertising for this position. As you quietly network your "ideal" job description can become a map to guide you through your quietly effective networking.

    3. Carefully Research and Prepare. Start reading industry association news, create a research portfolio and develop a sense of what kind of talent your target companies want. Begin to orient your potential resume, achievement portfolio, writing samples, and reference/reference material toward your target companies. Why should you do this before a position is clearly defined? A job seeker should use his imagination to power his search. Look at the culture, attitude and "feel" that the new target companies seem to have. Find out the buzz from employees, former employees, industry writers and more. What is it really like to work for these companies or organizations? Does this fit with what you want? By preparing for the hidden job market in this way, you hold a clear advantage over his competition.

  • 12 Nov 2010 5:39 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    Employers who bring on new candidates should have a strong "onboarding" program. Ensuring that a new employee gets the right orientation and mainstreaming (onboarding) used to be a big priority. For some companies it's still a priority; however, too many companies don't equip new employees and executives with proper onboarding programs. With a general cutback mentality malaise, many companies hurriedly bring new talent on. Doing this haphazardly creates confusion and lessens the impact new talent can have. They don't create the kind of new employee experience that they should. But you can help them and make it a priority to create your own onboarding experience if your new company falls short. Feeling welcome, valued and prepared needs to be a priority for companies but you can have a lot to do with the onboarding process. Here are three ways to ensure you have a positive onboarding experience:

    ENSURE THAT YOU INVEST IN TRAINING - Even as an executive, especially now, many companies don't think they need to train you on how their company works. They need to invest in training, invest in you and if you can insist on anything extra then insist on training. But look for ways you can ensure that you get the training you need. Create your own mini-training program. Develop a "I need to know" list and ensure that you find out about the little things. For example, one of my clients knew that having SAP knowledge would be an extra benefit to him in coming months at his new company. So instead of waiting for the company to train him, he pushed himself to get that training, off-hours and on his own in the first 30 days of his new job. An executive team member reported that the CEO was "surprised and impressed" that he "took this kind of ownership mentality" in his new position.

    PROPERLY INTRODUCE YOURSELF, EVEN INFORMALLY TO KEY PERSONNEL - According to one of my clients, half the time companies that hire don't introduce you to anybody who will be important to you. Taking the time to make proper, very personalized introductions to each person you need to know matters. It's worth the time. So if the company doesn't do it, you need to find out who you need to know and quietly, subtly get to know them one by one. A recent client who transitioned made it a point to have a cup of coffee with one new person twice a week quite informally. This created trust. Getting to know people without a hard agenda helped him "adjust" to the new culture quickly.

    LACK OF HR INVOLVEMENT - Sometimes companies that hire just give you a benefits book and forms. They will often send an electronic forms, and new employees have no idea how to get this properly in place. This can create a lot of problems down the road. Who do you contact when a health issue arises regarding payment or reimbursement? Do you contact the company or the benefits department? Without being a pest, a recent executive client of ours found out about "what happens if" and actually helped HR at his new company create new standards for onboarding by improving the benefits communication process in the new employee manual. He made a friend in HR and improved the company.

    Find out creative ways you can define onboarding to create the new employee experience you need for a fast start. As an executive, take it upon yourself to refine the experience.

  • 01 Jun 2010 5:08 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    Focusing on networking, I have noticed that many executives are willing to network and reach out more than ever.  Executives who are employed now have shown more interest in networking for their long term career. They are now getting outside of their comfort zone to create new relationships and are often more open about those who are reaching out to them. Unfortunately, many executives are networking by trial and error (employed or unemployed). They don't usually have a value proposition-based plan.

    So let's examine what can be done about the networking by trial and error executives. "I am just all over LinkedIn and a bunch of sites posting questions and discussing things, but I don't really have a plan," suggested an executive client during his first session with me. "I think I put in about 15 hours a week online and offline but it just seems like it's not resulting in anything that useful so far. It's depleting me of my patience too. I am asking for connections but not really leading with value." The same executive attended several volunteer groups, church groups and other job seeker networking meetings during the week. But all of it had not led to a job or any real offers. To change his trial and error networking, we worked for about sixty days on these core issues:

    Blogs, Online Forums or Discussion Groups - We found ways to read and respond to messages, add value and always take a positive spin. He would give opinions and sometimes complain. I reminded him that anything said on email, in person, and online (anywhere) can be a negative. Remember, anything you write online could be read; assume that it will be read. Savvy job seekers build value and ask questions on these forums. They do it intentionally and they do it with a plan. They find ways to contribute professionally and start networking conversations that can lead to positive contacts, research and tangible results. We reinvented his networking to focus on a plan that would build his career and knowledge base. 

    Presentations and Publications - We focused our executive on selected book reviews and professional contributions vs. just answering random questions on forums like LinkedIn. One of the most overlooked ways to "network" is to keep building your value proposition in writing. One of the ways our executive and any executive can do this is to add to a trade journal, a blog, or industry specific website. By doing this, our executive interviewed people and continued building his professional brand. It also helps those in a confidential career search brand themselves by leading with value and getting noticed. Another executive we worked with is enjoying the benefits of an article she wrote that has had a positive bearing on her current company. It also has attracted the attention of a few industry recruiters eager to network with her. Our executive in the non-confidential search also found ways to present and lead discussions on a subject that he wanted to be known for in his field. He said: "This is great, because I am showing my business expertise, not my need. People are interacting with me on a professional basis first, and then I can bring up my needs later. I am much more comfortable this way. It's not a sales pitch but a value offer."

    Whether you are a confidential executive job seeker or an executive who has been "pounding away" at the job search, it pays dividends to plan a clear networking approach that is long-term. After 60 days, our executive has developed professional content and made deeper, more productive relationships. Those relationships have led to contacts, connections, introductions, interview assistance preparation, and more.

  • 15 Feb 2010 9:17 PM | Anonymous

    By John O'Connor

    When you have decided to make a career move at the executive level, issues impacting your search may be different than other job seekers, especially if you are still currently in an executive position. You must know the special issues that surround this kind of search. Here are three tips that should not be ignored in an executive confidential search:

    1. Watch Yourself - Know Who You Can Trust: Not all contacts, recruiters or friends may have your best interests in mind. Be very careful who you tell that you are interested in making a transition. An example comes to mind--a senior executive talked to some neighbors and acquaintances at a party in his home about several area companies. Weeks later a friend said "I heard you were looking - what's up?" That shocked my executive contact. He said to me: "I didn't think I had to watch myself." You do.

    2. No Sloppy Posts or Fishing Expeditions: Many executives and more than you might believe throw out some bait on websites, blogs and search engines. One example I have found through the years is that executives in transition try to disguise their resumes and put them into online sites. Most recruiters can tell by reading your content where you work. Good work. Your company can find out. Other executives create new patterns and really dust up digital footprints that can be tracked and followed...by people who don't need to know but may want to know.

    3. Watch Big Changes in Your Schedule (Others Are): Nothing tips off people more than clear or radical schedule or behavioral changes. One executive I coached wanted to immediately reduce time at work and start networking in groups he hadn't been active in for years. He said: "If I am ready I am ready." We had to invest a couple of hours in convincing him to ease into his new networking schedule so as not to alert others who, for now, didn't need to know.

    If you are an executive looking for your next move, don't incur unnecessary suspicion. As an executive career coach and outplacement partner to many executives, I advise a carefully thought-out, intentional process, so that you can remain confidential in your pursuit of your next meaningful work.

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