April 5th, 2022

More executives than ever are considering a career move. Their motivations are varied – and tend to go beyond looking for a more attractive compensation package. Many job seekers are on the hunt for a new sense of purpose, and a deep desire to feel valued and appreciated. In the last year alone, more than 19 million US workers have changed jobs in what is now being referred to as the “Great Resignation”. It’s still going strong: research by McKinsey reports that 40% of employees say they will change jobs in the next three to six months. 

For executives who are committed to a job change, there are a wide range of tools and strategies to lean on. The vast majority of executive roles will never be advertised – instead, executives must put creative strategies to work to target these “hidden” opportunities. From executive branding and networking to recruiters and investors, the following are five strategies for executives who are in a career transition. 

Understand and communicate your personal brand.

Even senior executives need practice and polish when it comes to their personal brand. You should feel comfortable speaking your personal “elevator pitch” in casual, comfortable language. Practice sharing with others what it is that you do and what you’re best at. Savvy executives can practice with trusted peers, in writing, and even just by looking in the mirror. And, when the conversation goes further, you should feel comfortable drawing on specific examples of career achievements. Have at least one go-to example for every single job. These are great exercises to ensure you’re ready to network and to introduce yourself in interviews and with recruiters. 

You also should ensure your career documents are up to date. Athena refers to these as your “Branded Career Portfolio” – your resume, your bio, and your LinkedIn. It’s very likely that these documents need a polish, or even a complete rework. At the very least, ensure your LinkedIn is current, that you have a recent profile image, and that your main headline speaks well to your goals and areas of expertise.

Lean on your personal network.

Your network is the best place to find your next opportunity, whether it’s a new executive role or a board seat. This is the time to be intentional and proactive. Let those in your network know that you’re seeking a new role and ask them for referrals. Target former colleagues, college classmates, alumni groups, and professional networking organizations.

Nurturing your network takes time. Proactively schedule catch-up phone calls, virtual meetings, and coffee meetings. Grow your network by searching for meaningful connections via LinkedIn (those in similar roles, roles above you, those you may have gone to school with, etc.). Share your latest resume in every interaction. Also, take the time to meaningfully respond to others’ posts on LinkedIn, ensuring that you’re “giving” in return. 

Form relationships with recruiters.

Many executives find success through forming relationships with recruiters in your industry. Good recruiters are deeply connected and may hear of opportunities before they are formally advertised. Make sure they have your latest resume and bio, and that your LinkedIn is in sync with your other documents.

Leverage VCs and PE investors

If you have experience driving growth, transformation, and scaling, you may want to consider reaching out to venture capital and private equity investors. Investors have insider access to company decision-makers; they’re also motivated to make connections and help the company find the right fit.

A good starting point is to research firms in the industries you’re interested in. Introduce yourself to each firm or individual partner who interests you – cold emails are just fine! This is a great opportunity to try different approaches, to get personal, and to test out different subject lines. 

Give in order to get.

This strategy ties closely to networking and relationship building. Giving, whether it be time, advice, mentoring, or introductions – is a foundational approach to building trust and expanding those in your circle who will readily support you in return. Through giving, you’re increasing your chances at others thinking of you when opportunities arise and being more than happy to return similar favors. 

Again, this approach can be time-consuming, but it’s extremely effective. Many executives carve out dedicated time in their schedules to give and to network, which makes it more manageable and allows these efforts to build slowly over time.

Athena can support you in your executive job search

The Athena community is comprised of the world’s most senior women leaders. They come to us to connect with one another, and to engage in ongoing live and on-demand executive learning. Not only can Athena help you strategically expand your network through dedicated networking events – what we refer to as Salons – but we can ensure your career documents are polished and ready to share with the world. Learn more about Athena membership here.

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