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The Daily Grind

Job Seeking CEOs

wsjA recent WSJ article “When Chief Executives Become Job Seekers” “When Chief Executives Become Job Seekers” by Rachel Feintzeig (March 5, 2014) focuses on the issues that prior CEOs face when they are looking for a new CEO position.

Ravi Saligram, former CEO of OfficeMax and Shields Meneley Partners client, along with our firm co-founder Gail Meneley were quoted in this article. The author points out that a CEO search is not that different from other C-suite searches in the current job market. She notes and we agree that with rare exception prior CEOs need to engage in similar career transition activities as other unemployed executives; they must contact recruiters, join LinkedIn and network, network, network to land that next position.

We expect that the typical “50-something” CEO has built up a stable of executive recruiters who he or she can reach out to during a career transition. Even still we have found that most CEO searches do take longer than other C-suite positions.However, the length of time to find that next CEO role is even greater now than before the recession. Gail points out in this article that it is not unusual for the search to take 10 to 12 months, as compared to 8 to 10 months a few years ago.

The main reason for this longer “shelf time” for CEOs is that during the recession C-suite churn slowed as boards and CEOs were reluctant to change out top executives. author notes that even though CEOs have a relatively low unemployment rate—1.6% compared with 6.6% for all workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics) turnover in the top job has been fairly low. She writes, “The number of larger companies appointing new leaders reached a nine-year low in 2012, when only 37 companies appointed new chiefs, according to search firm Spencer Stuart.”

Ms. Feintzeig quotes one former CEO, “’My entire career, I had always been the one who was so actively pursued,’ she says, and she now feels ‘lulled’ into semiretirement … she wishes she had been more aggressive in pursuing opportunities when she could.” This is a common experience for our CEO clients as well. As such, we believe that unemployed CEOs need to focus their search in a manner similar to other C-suite executives. Put simply, he or she must be pro-active and not just wait by the phone or computer in reactive mode. We believe getting the next job is your current job.

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