Whenever we teach a job-search workshop at Human Workplace we ask the participants “How do executives in C-level jobs — the folks at the head of a corporation — get hired? They don’t fill out online application forms.
“They don’t pitch resumes into Black Hole recruiting sites. How do they ever get hired without following the traditional job-search process?”
C-level folks like a CFO, CEO or Chief Anything Officer don’t follow the rules laid out for job-seekers, but they get hired anyway.
How do they do it?
Here’s what C-level executives do that anyone can do, whether you’re pursuing your first career job after college or looking for a job in the executive suite:
They treat their careers like businesses. They decide what kinds of jobs they want and go after them. They don’t let the Help Wanted ads dictate where they’ll end up working. They talk to people who have job openings and people who don’t. You never know who knows somebody you might be glad to meet!
They brand themselves for the jobs they want. They don’t go to the talent marketplace saying “I can do everything — please, somebody, hire me!”
They know what they’re good at and what they love to do. In their LinkedIn profiles and their Human-Voiced Resumes, they differentiate themselves from other people who may have held the exact same job titles they have.
Let’s say that you’re a head of HR. There are a lot of those folks around, of course — there are gazillions of employers, and every one of them needs a head of HR. The executive HR position is called CHRO — Chief Human Resources Officer.
Every CHRO is a little bit different from every other CHRO. Some of them are formal and some are informal. Some of them love numbers and others love the people side of the job. Every single CHRO has a slightly different brand and persona from every other one — after all, they are people!
You have your own unique brand and persona too, and your job is to figure out what you’re meant to be doing and which environments are exactly right for you. Then, you’ll brand yourself for those opportunities specifically. You’ll pursue the jobs you want, rather than letting the job ads dictate where your career is headed.
Over time in the working world, you will learn which workplace cultures reinforce who you are and which ones will never be a good fit for you.
Then you can use your energy and time to go after the opportunities where you will make the greatest contribution and have the most fun!
C-level job seekers network. They talk to everybody, including people they’ve known for years and new people they’re meeting for the first time. They sit down for coffee with old friends and strangers and when they do, their job search is not the focus of the coffee conversation.
The point of a networking get-together is the relationship you are building. The focus is not somebody’s job search or somebody’s new-client-acquisition project but the relationship itself between the people having coffee.
Networking done right is not about a transaction. If you ever go to a networking meeting with a person who is desperate to get something out of the meeting (an introduction or a job search lead, for instance) you will be able to feel that fearful energy and it doesn’t feel good.
Networking is a long-term activity, like tending a garden. You don’t plant seeds and harvest them on the same day!
C-level job seekers are consultants. All of us are consultants now. C-level job-seekers can always find something useful to do and figure out how to earn a little money doing it.
Some of the consulting gigs will turn into full-time job opportunities and others won’t.
If you run your career like a business and focus on Business Pain and its solutions rather than the cozy security of a full-time job (I’m kidding) you will see that your career possibilities are much broader and more exciting than you may have believed.
You can get a C-level job when there is no job advertised. You can make your own position. You have to cultivate a nose for Business Pain and know how to start a conversation with a leader in distress. C-level job-seekers don’t grovel and beg for a job.
No one would ever hire them if they did, because the CEOs, Presidents and Board members who hire C-level executives don’t hire people who beg for a job. They hire people they trust to run an organization — a far different yardstick!
The last thing C-level job seekers do is use more than one channel in their job search. A channel is a way to reach buyers. In a job search, the buyer is the manager in pain who might pay you to make his or her pain go away.
Recruiters are one channel, but a C-level job seeker (or any job seeker) could get old and die waiting for a recruiter to call with the perfect opportunity. You have to make your own channels, too! Networking is a channel. Consulting is another one.
Believing in yourself is a far more important ingredient for success in your job search and career than any other factor, including your education and your work experience.
People trust people who know what they bring over people who look to an employer to save them from the state of unemployment.
The economy is getting much better, but the pain employers face is no less severe when the economy is bad than when it is good! Luckily for job-seekers, there is pain everywhere. Can you spot some and start a conversation about pain and solutions this week? Your muscles will grow more and more every time you do!