As an equity stakeholder in Shields Meneley Partners, a career transition and coaching firm dedicated to the C-Suite; as well as the managing partner to the Sierra Institute, an invitation-only group of 50 CHROs, one of the most frequently-asked questions is what a person should do when he or she is perfectly happy in their job.
The simple answer is to be prudent and prepare for the inevitable.
Most clients are incredulous with that answer, but the time to prepare for unemployment is when you are employed. Managing the emotional toll of losing your job is difficult enough, but if you don’t have the “what if” pieces in place, it makes the search process much more difficult. The “life” of a C-Suite executive averages three years.
Here are four easy steps to prepare for that transition:
The first step is to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and that it reflects who you are. This may not be a primary source for your next role, but it has become the No. 1 source that people turn to when they want to know more about you. Take the time to build a creative, straightforward profile. The picture should be up-to-date and professionally done, under your name is the most important real estate because it should reflect “who you are” rather than “Where I am.” This is the best online networking platform in existence. With 400 million users, it is essential. Do not ignore LinkedIn!
As a coach to C-Suite executives, the most common mistake I see with clients is not having their resume up-to-date. Many clients don’t think they need to have their resumes ready when they are happily ensconced in their current jobs, but situations change unexpectedly and you want to have your credentials ready to show right away. Your resume doesn’t have to be up to the minute, but at least have the basics done, especially the last 10 years, so you could respond quickly to requests.
Although the resume is becoming less-and-less important in terms of hiring, it still serves an important function. Think of it as a placeholder or ticket with your name on it that will sit on someone’s desk until it is needed.
You are sitting in your office and thinking about how much you love your job. The phone rings and breaks your concentration. It is a recruiter trying to get in touch with you about another job. Your first response is to ignore it because you love where you are. That is exactly what you shouldn’t do.
At the very least, take the time to respond even only to politely explain that you are not in the market but appreciate their reaching out to you. More importantly, refer other suitable candidates. This lays the groundwork for a positive future relationship with someone you will likely need to call on in the future.
Many of my clients claim they are too busy to network. Wrong answer. It may be the single most important use of time in remaining relevant and visible because this group of people will create many opportunities for you. Don’t just take my word for it. Check out this great piece written by one of our clients for none other than CFO Magazine about the power of networking.
Not everyone is comfortable putting him/herself “out there,” but there are simple steps to take even while you are happy in your current role. At a minimum, download Outlook, Google contacts, or your connections from LinkedIn into an Excel spreadsheet. Pick 10 people – the “connectors” – with whom you should stay in touch. Make a point of seeing, calling, or at least emailing those people a couple of times a year.
If you are happy in your job and you don’t have a plan in place should your circumstances change, you are setting yourself up for a difficult career transition. Termination decisions can be made in an instant and have absolutely nothing to do with your job performance. All it takes is the loss of your biggest customer, the business is sold, or a new boss decides to bring in his/her own team. Be prepared so that your career stays on a successful trajectory.
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