January 12, 2021

6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Executive Job Search

Overwork and burnout. An unexpected layoff. Uncertainty about your next move. An urge to pivot to something new in your career. 

There are many reasons why a senior leader might reach a professional crossroads and embark on an executive job search. In our work with corporate vice president and C-suite leaders, we see a number of common mistakes these executive job seekers often make, putting themselves at risk for missing opportunities. 

If you’re a senior leader in transition or considering your next step, your actions, messages and attitude are critical to your success. Here’s how to recognize — and avoid — six common pitfalls that can hamper an executive job search.

1. Projecting Negative Emotions

A job search can generate a roller coaster of emotions, especially when it is spurred by an unexpected layoff or separation. Particularly in the early days of transition, job seekers may experience a real sense of loss, anger, and frustration. 

Until you acknowledge and address these feelings, they will sabotage your job search. Negative emotions can sap your confidence, and that in turn can hinder you from applying to great opportunities — even though the only person doubting your ability is you.

Take time to process your transition. Talk to friends and family; see a therapist when needed. Then, look forward. When asked, share a brief and truthful reason for leaving your last employer, and then focus on what’s next. 

2. Pausing Without Purpose

It’s common take some time off to relax and decompress before a job transition. However, that downtime can end up lengthening your search and draining your energy if you don’t use it wisely.

Make sure your pause has purpose: taking a class, doing self-discovery exercises, or working through negative emotions, for example. If you do take an extended sabbatical, use some of your free time to reflect on your future. 

3. Missing the Message

A strong executive job search requires a focused message. Until you can succinctly articulate who you are, what you do best, and how you can add value for a potential employer, there’s a good chance you’re doing your job search more harm than good.

Take the time to reflect on who you are as a professional and as a person; think about how you can benefit a company in ways other senior leaders can’t. Recruiters, hiring managers, and networking connections don’t need a recap of your resume. They don’t want to guess how they could apply your skills. They need a clear picture of your ideal next opportunity. 

Check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine for more career advice and recruiting trends:

4. Unproductive Networking

The majority of vice president and C-suite roles come through people, not job posts. That makes active professional networking essential to any executive job search.

To make the most of your meetings, target the individuals who have connections within the sectors or markets where you can add the most value. Keep conversations brief and targeted; let the other person do most of the talking. Be sure to ask for a warm introduction to at least two more people. Be specific about what you need and how your experience will help a new employer. Then, make sure those conversations are mutually beneficial. Networking isn’t just about how they can help you; it’s about how you can both help each other. Have an objective for each meeting and use others’ time wisely. 

5. Asking Too Much of Recruiters

Many executive job seekers place too much emphasis on executive search firms. Others misunderstand the role that executive recruiters play. While connecting with an executive recruiter can be beneficial, the recruiter’s job is to find talent for their clients, not to find your next role. Do introduce yourself to recruiters in your field; don’t expect them to polish your resume, introduce you to hiring managers, or advocate for your candidacy unless you match a specific client role they need to fill. 

6. Neglecting LinkedIn

Having an active presence on the world’s largest professional network is essential for all executive job seekers, even those aiming for president, general manager, and C-suite roles. By some estimates, the average CEO has 930 connections on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has more than 766 million members, and an estimated 95 percent of recruiters use it to find talent.

Because your LinkedIn profile is often the first impression you’ll make on recruiters, networking connections, and others in your professional community, knowing how to use the platform properly can make a big difference in your job search. Make sure to update your profile and picture, because LinkedIn profiles with professional headshots can get as much as 14 times more views than those without. Respond quickly to connection requests and messages, and leverage the platform in your own job search activities.

Being aware of the above tips can help you create a smoother transition between jobs and find the company that fulfills you the most. In addition to the foregoing advice, you may also find it useful to seek support from career consultants and outplacement professionals, especially if you are running into job search obstacles you find difficult to overcome on your own. Just as a personal trainer helps you achieve your fitness goals more easily, career consultants can help you navigate your job search more effectively.

Anne deBruin Sample is CEO of Navigate Forward.

Read more in Job Search

Anne deBruin Sample is an experienced business and HR leader and the CEO and owner of Navigate Forward. Anne has an enviable track record of leading business-building transformation and developing top talent. Anne has engaged her passion for helping leaders find new destinations during times of transition. She is a strong believer in the power and impact of transition coaching and leadership development.
https://www.navigateforward.com/