How To Be the Right Person at the Right Time
By Julie Norwell
One Saturday morning in early July Ray Cleary connected with the hiring manager of a position that he was very excited about. The position was for general manager of fleet management of a large airline. Although Ray had years of experience in the airline industry, it was all on the financial side. The new position was an ideal opportunity for him to realize his goal of moving toward a commercial role in the industry.
The hiring manager asked Ray if he was available for a virtual group interview later that evening. He was. The evening interview turned out to be 90-minutes of intense back and forth and, to Ray’s surprise, the only interview necessary to secure the position. Once he had proven his mettle, he got an offer. Despite the challenge, Ray felt fully prepared for the moment.
“I faced off with four to five people on the call. I had to think on my feet, and the whole process brought home to me that you need to be well-prepared when a good opportunity comes to you,” said Ray. “There was a significant amount of work that I put in during the three months leading up to that interview. From reflecting on what I wanted to do, to recognizing my skills, to building up contacts – I was prepped for that interview.”
Ray had no way of knowing what opportunities would crop up when he began his job search, of course, but when his dream job presented itself, he handily convinced the hiring team that he was the best candidate for the role. He succeeded in being the right person at the right time.
How did he do it? Three things: Relationships, Timing, and Homework.
Nurture Your Relationships
The biggest part in planning an executive job search should be continually nurturing your relationships. It’s through relationships that most jobs at the executive level are found – as many as 75% of them. It’s called the unpublished market and there are always career opportunities there if you know how to look.
The professional dividends that you reap by maintaining good relationships with people throughout your career are invaluable. You don’t want to call upon your network for the first time only when you need it. If you have been maintaining your connections and a job search is suddenly cast upon you, you will be ready.
Ray credits several relationships for his success in finding his new position. First, it was the thesis supervisor of the executive MBA program that Ray was pursuing that alerted him to the job posting on LinkedIn. Then, by coincidence, one of the people on the adjudication panel for a group MBA project Ray was working on turned out to be a senior member of the consultancy firm that had advertised the job opening. Ray later discovered that a former boss of his now worked at that consultancy firm, too.
“Lo and behold, the connections from past, future, and current were all involved in this role coming together. The need to maintain a good network was evident to me!” Ray said.
If you have let your relationships go cold, don’t worry. It’s never too late to rekindle them. How? Simply pick up the phone or send a message to check in with people and ask how they’re doing. Get in the habit of paying things forward. Go out of your way to help others in their careers so that when the time comes for you to need advice or help in forwarding a resume to a hiring manager it won’t be the first time in 10 years that they’re hearing from you.
Timing is a key component of a successful executive job search. Because you don’t know when a great job opportunity will cross your plate, you should be ready for one at all times. Many executives are scouted for jobs when they aren’t even looking, so best to be on your toes.
If you are actively looking for a job, it’s important to set reasonable expectations to avoid disappointment. Even in the best of circumstances, an executive job search is often a lengthy process. An executive career change takes, on average, six to nine months. Sometimes longer.
The duration of a job search depends on various factors, such as whether you’re currently employed (unfair as it is, employed jobseekers tend to enjoy more advantages in the job market and land more quickly), how senior your position is (the higher up the corporate ladder you are, the fewer the available roles, and the greater the competition for those roles), and the time of the year.
January is a popular time of year to initiate job transitions because people think about life and career and companies renew their annual hiring budgets at that time. The January-February timeframe is typically the springboard of a hiring season that continues throughout the spring and summer. [Click here to read more about Hiring Cycles.] But hiring trends have changed since the pandemic began, so don’t wait for an optimal time to start.
If you are considering a career change, keep in mind that an effective executive career change takes weeks of planning. So, do now whatever you can to ensure that you’re ready when a prime opportunity falls in your lap.
Do Your Homework
When it comes to preparing for a job search, revising your resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, and writing cover letters are just the tip of the iceberg. The first and most important step should always be to step back and reflect on why you are leaving your current job, where you want your career to go, and what it will take to get you there.
Ask yourself what you like and don’t like about your current situation. What would you like to see in a new job? Knowing the answers to those questions will help you narrow down the types of industries, companies, roles, and environments that you target in your job search. It will also help you assess what skills you need to develop to be the right fit for the job you want.
Done right, this won’t be a quick and easy exercise. It may require some soul-searching. What is important to you? What are your must-haves, your nice-to-haves, and your absolutely-nots? If you’re going to be the right person for a job, you must know who you are.
The next step is to research the companies and the people with whom you’ll interview so that you know what challenges they face. Practice how to talk about yourself and your strengths in various situations so you can sell yourself to hiring managers and convince them that you can solve their problems. This is especially true if you are making a career shift as Ray did because it may not be clear to a hiring manager how your experience relates to the needs of the position they are trying to fill. Have stories to back up the metrics on your resume.
Learn how to read your audience and adapt your narrative accordingly. No one knows you like you know yourself, so learn how to be your best salesperson no matter who you are talking to. Always try to connect with someone on a personal level. Do you know the same person? Do your kids play the same sport? Perhaps the person is on the board of an organization that you have a connection to. This human connection may increase the chances of someone wanting to work with you.
It may not be easy and it may not be quick, but if you take the time to do your homework and cultivate your relationships, you will be the right person at any time when the right job comes along.
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