I'd like to tell you about an excellent client I worked with more than a decade ago. He had been working as a Chief Marketing Officer for a top, global financial services brand in the payment processing industry. Since his marketing group was a cost rather than a profit center, when the firm took a hit during a less-than-robust business quarter, the CEO and CFO reduced the headcount in the marketing unit until staffing was skeletal--compared to its fully functioning former structure. This senior executive--although not forced to make a move--decided to take a package out of the company and enter the job marketplace for the first time in more than 15 years. He contacted me and I introduced him to my thinking about the overall scale, shape and timeline of a job-search plan that he could execute to satisfy his goals.
But my client did what too many others do when starting a job search--even with the help of an executive coach, business and resume writer. Although he accepted the wisdom of constructing an integrated strategy--one with clear goals, targets, action plans with subsets, accountability and well-reasoned allocation of resources--he let emotion prevail and retreated into the comfort zone of a standard job search. To clarify, that was his comfort zone because it was familiar and felt right, and he accepted "security blanket" assumptions that other senior executives make when they want fast results. All of this is understandable, because we are all capable of letting emotion take the lead in a very subjective process. His standard job search began with full reliance on a recruiter, and, while working with a good recruiter is validating, it is by no means the only activity nor the highest and best investment of your time at the start. It is not proactive, and it generally will not accelerate the timeline.
Career transition and growth is ultimately about change management. As a business leader, for example, you would never make important decisions without developing a strategic plan and conducting research at the outset. Research provides information, closes gaps in knowledge and sparks ideas. You cannot and should not begin the market-entry phase of a job search without comprehensive research. It is a crucial tool, and one that shouldn't be outsourced 100% to a third party.
I like fast starts, and so do my C-Suite clients. I flip chronology, ideas, plans and execution to put real speed on the process. Research opens the gateway to targeting and decsion making.
What was the remedy for this client?
I refocused his acknowledgment of a better process, and coached to turn off the background noise of those around him who wanted an "action first" approach. Spending a few hours a day for a week (or a little more) actively engaged in research doesn't look active at all to others, even though it is. If it doesn't make sense in business, then don't do it in job search. Common sense rules.
Here are 3 myths about research that can derail any executive job search:
- It will take too much time becasue there is too much information to wade through.
- It will cost a lot of money to get the precise information that matters.
- It is too late to add to the "what you know" as opposed to the "who you know."
The above is pure mythology, not reality. In my one-on-one and group coaching programs, I show executives (even truly busy ones) how they can work around what are really minor challenges in appropriating platinum information and current data.
How to launch the research process:
Shortly, I will release an updated summary version of a "clients-only" guide to the public and include interesting, curated research tools that are low- or no-cost. For now, here are several questions that must be asked and answered to build and tighten research activities.
Do-It-Yourself Q&A to shorten the research timeline in job search ~
- What do you read--online and offline?
- What business issues matter most to you, and what have you learned in the last 6 months about these issues?
- What and how much do you know about activity in local and regional domestic markets in your industry? In international markets?
- Are you able to identify and speak about new or emerging markets that relate to your industry or field?
- Do you know about well-funded startups in growth areas?
- How will you uncover information about target companies in the privately held sector?
There are numerous other questions that I put into my coaching process and action plans with executives in order to research efficiently and secure meaningful information. It is easier to do than you might imagine, and really, really worth it.