Getting To The “Next Level”

Last night to a convivial drinks event in Mayfair, London for a group of C-level executives, who are shortly about to or who have recently left market-leading mid and large organisations in technology, manufacturing, finance and professional services. The purpose being for most attendees to build new relationships and to identify new “openings”(full-time, interim management or consulting services) in corporate organisations or private equity portfolio companies.  To a man and lady, the conversation went along the lines of, “I have recently left XYZ after an impressive career in that industry or related sector, I am now looking for a leadership position in a market-leading firm, say £300 million turnover who wants to get to the “next level” (of growth). I am working with X to help me….” Here is what these successful people missed, as I suspect many executives and managers do when seeking to get hired into or building a trusting relationship with a future employer:

  1. They talk too much about their “past” (accomplishments, track record, expertise) and too little about (A) who their ideal employer is (by industry, company, by name and title), (B) what future “needs” of market-leading employers they are ideally positioned to help with (increased revenue, more impressive clients, attract smarter people etc.) and (C) how they are (or plan to) attract those individuals, who could hire them into their desired role.
  2. They don’t use the valuable “in the moment” time with others well (foregoing valuable information or names of people volunteered by others)
  3. They don’t leave a lasting impression (a memorable imprint that allows the listener to rapidly discern their tremendous value and give thought to others with potential interest)
  4. When there is interest, they don’t convert (agree a definitive time and date to meet in person or speak by phone). They leave with a “perhaps we will talk more when we next see each other” response.
  5. They spend far too much time talking about themselves and far too little time listening (fail to unearth or identify the other party’s priorities and potential value).

Most of these people have developed their careers in a structured corporate environment, where opportunities have been largely been offered to them or they have had a pretty clear view into close competitor firms seeking very similar expertise. Suddenly, they have reached a point in their late 40s to early 60s, where they need to more assertively market themselves. Boards, investors and fellow top management in market-leading mid-sized growth companies in particular have a perception about the ideal candidate in an executive role and the value of their future contribution. The onus is on candidates to assertively promote their value to these individuals. They can rarely be too “forward” (most are so weak and unmemorable). Above all they need to excite the other party with their passion for the role and the results they could reasonably achieve in a brief time period.

When so few people do this well, it is actually rather easy for an executive to stand out from the crowd. It of course supposes that the individual is aware of the above and has the requisite talent and volition to move their personal marketing to the “next level”.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.



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