April 4, 2014

Former CEOs Face Job Hunt Challenges Too

Man Admits Defeat Waiting For A CallSome CEOs may make hundreds of times the median salary of their employees but that doesn’t mean when they’re let go their job hunt is any easier. They can struggle just like ordinary workers (but granted with much more resources).

According to a Wall Street Journal article, ” … interviews with chief executives and recruiters indicate that, in many ways, the miseries of everyone’s job hunt are theirs, too: They spend hours online researching potential employers and searching for leads, or carefully striking the right tone in emails to contacts and former colleagues. They also play a waiting game that some recruiters and executive coaches say has gotten longer and more intense as companies cast a wider, international net for talent and seek chiefs with highly specific skill sets.”

A CEO’s job hunt is rarely resolved in a fortnight. Gail Meneley, who provides outplacement services for executives, said landing a new CEO role usually takes 10 to 12 months. She added that “her clients, usually executives who were pushed out of their companies, are now taking posts at smaller firms or settling for lower pay.”

“Former chiefs can’t stay out of the game too long, however: After more than a year out of the corner office, candidates get stale, search experts say,” the article reports. It cited the case of a “former Fortune 1,000 CEO in her 60s [who] has spent several years attempting a corner-office comeback. Fired in 2008, she expected another top executive job but had to sit on the sidelines waiting out a two-year-long noncompete agreement. By the time she was able to hit the job market, the trail had gone cold. She didn’t get an interview, much less an offer.”

Another Wall Street Journal article shows noncompete agreements are on the rise, which could further dampen the ability of CEOs to find new jobs if they are held off the market for a significant amount of time. Research for the article showed, “Agreements were included in 78.7 percent of 1,000 chief-executive employment contracts at U.S. businesses in 2010, compared with 72.5% in 2000, according to a study released in February and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, New Mexico State University and Vanderbilt University.”

Interestingly, even CEOs who have had spectacular failures during their tenure are not crippled in the hunt for new work. Kim Van Der Zon, a senior partner with executive search firm Egon Zehnder International Inc., says corporate boards tend to be forgiving toward executives pushed out during a merger, according to the article. “There’s always going to be a loser, so to speak, But that doesn’t mean they’re viewed as a loser in the market,” she is quoted as saying.

In an interview at Forbes.com, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman and chief executive of OgilvyOne, the digital and direct marketing arm of Ogilvy & Mather, suggests former CEOs may want to move their careers in an entirely different direction to what he calls “the third chapter” of their professional lives.

Fetherstonhaugh says, “One of the most nourishing and satisfying things you can do as you’re entering or going through it is to spend a lot of time teaching.” He explains it can be “lecturing at colleges or mentoring at work or having advisory roles on boards and not-for-profits.”

He adds, ” I think people lose gas when they don’t feel they’re contributing in meaningful ways; teaching gives you a sense of contribution. It’s also deeply nourishing to see that what you do or know matters. Almost every month I teach at places like MIT’s Sloan School of Management, Columbia, Yale, McGill and NYU. It’s fun and makes me sharper in crystallizing my thinking. And I absolutely get energy from the students, no question.”

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Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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