Congratulations! You failed!
With all due respect to Friedrich “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” Nietzsche, failing may be overrated. Of course, after you failed, you should at least try to take a lesson from your failure if for no other reason than not to repeat it.
In a nutshell, I was interviewing as a managing director for a business in an industry about which I knew relatively little at the outset. But I researched and studied diligently and by the time I was to meet the two principal owners of the company, I had a pretty good understanding—perhaps too good. After the interview, a somewhat sheepish executive recruiter who had organized it told me “They thought you were too well prepared.” He sounded puzzled.
But for me the lesson was clear. I talked too much during the interview instead of asking questions and listening. Interviews are not the time to show off your knowledge. Instead, interviews should be used to collect information so that you can really understand what the potential employer needs and requires. Once you understand that, then you can position yourself…but, not before.
On another occasion, I was due to have “the compensation discussion” for a CEO position. The phone rang and the principal shareholder laid out the verbal offer. It was along the lines of “The base salary is $200,000 and there is a bonus potential of another $200,000.” I asked whether there was any flexibility in this proportion of fixed and variable compensation. The shareholder said, “Is that your response?” I replied something like, “It was merely a question.” He said, “Very well, then we withdraw the offer.”
Well, yes, I was extremely disappointed. But what did I learn? Very simply, try to never enter a negotiation that you are not willing to lose. In other words, try to always have multiple options.
Even when you are learning as your fail, frankly, it does not feel good. Instead, let’s focus on avoiding failure instead. In the context of career management, the first step is to know clearly what your targets are. For example, when I was a client of the Barrett Group in 2014 I really had no idea what I wanted to do. And as a result, I oscillated back and forth between objectives pursuing first this direction and then that one. I accomplished pretty much nothing in my first few months.
That is why the Barrett Group career change program now begins with the targeting step. We call it the Clarity Program©. This holistic examination of personality, current life circumstances, and longer-term objectives generally assures that clients do not waste time in the market (as I did) trying to figure out what they really want to do.
Once you are clear on your targets it is so much easier to filter your experience and achievements. You want to position and market yourself to the right audiences. That is the personal branding or “packaging” step of our program. Here is how one client described our value-add:
“I thought I already had a good resume, but man! When the TBG team got hold of my resume and LinkedIn profile, they overhauled them in a way that made such good business sense […] They used language that is not my vernacular. And the way they told my story, by incorporating skills, results, and numerical values from my background to quantify my experience, really showed off how much I had accomplished…” [Joel Engle, Read more.]
Here’s how one client described our impact on her search:
“What I learned about the unpublished market changed my whole approach to job seeking and led to a very successful ending […] To say it’s a dream come true is an understatement. I’m still in shock! I would never have gotten this job without The Barrett Group.” [Bibi, Read more.]
In this stage, the preparation step, clients learn how to effectively interview. Clients prepare for those awkward transferability questions. They learn how to explain gaps in their work history. Additionally, due to more than 30 years of experience, we help clients virtually always add $10,000, $20,00, $30,000, or more in total compensation once the offers start to materialize.
Here’s how one client described this step in his program:
“During one interview, I spoke in great detail about my experience because I wanted them to know how broad my background was. What I learned […] is that I should tell them only about talents that relate to the job description – be very specific in my responses to what they need. I found that to be surprising, but it made all the difference. The next interview went much better!” [Ray White, Read more.]
Lastly, even when you have the offer you can still make mistakes during your entry into a new company, industry, and/or role. Our fifth and final “onboarding” step helps highlight the pitfalls in advance and sets clients up to achieve promotion and professional advancement sooner than they might otherwise expect.
You can try and sometimes fail on your own, or you can hedge your bets in the executive market by hiring someone who knows the ropes. Forbes magazine says we are one of the very best in the business, so perhaps your key to professional success is indeed the Barrett Group. Give us a call and find out.
Peter Irish, CEO
The Barrett Group