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How to be a Professional Job-Seeker

Hans R. Langeveld

How to be a Professional Job-Seeker when looking for your next Leadership Position

So, as a successful leader you want something different now, a new position somewhere else. Perhaps a promotion and more responsibility. You think it’s time for the next step and to take the helm somewhere else.

So, you call a few headhunters and you expect them to meet with you and then you wait to see what they will come up with. You know some of them well and now it’s time for them to help you. After all, you have an
excellent track record as a successful board member, so the right role must surely be waiting for you. This may very well be the case, but it may not… There can be a number of reasons for this.


The Career Pyramid

You have worked your way up through the years in what we call, here at EMA Partners, ‘the career pyramid’. The pyramid is wide at the bottom; narrow and pointed at the top. When you were still in the middle of that pyramid you looked up, left and right and you saw a great number of opportunities for someone with your position, skills and capabilities. Over time you managed to go further up the pyramid, and you achieved an impressive career over the years. Well done.

And now you are somewhere in the small top triangle of that pyramid and that is much different from, say 10 or 15 years ago. You have now passed all those desired options you were once looking at when you were in the middle of that pyramid. But now you find out that in the top of the pyramid there are many less options than before (maybe just one position) and the competition for these positions (or just that one position) is fierce because everybody wants to be in that top chair or Boardroom. You’re playing in the top league and the person next to you is also outstanding. It’s probably a matter of just inches but this is the difference for win or lose in the top league.


Different Relationship with Headhunters

First of all: this time they don't work for you. They work for their clients. Second: headhunters only work on exclusive mandates. They don’t go shopping for you. And if you really want a serious change like changing sector, it is even more difficult. Because it is very very likely that you are not able to articulate well enough what you really want. Maybe all you know is what you don't want.


So how do you approach your job-hunting?

You want to take control of one of the most important events in your life. You have to take the lead and you have to take it very seriously. It’s funny that when we lead a project or process at work, like for example an acquisition or an investment, we do that very carefully and professionally with deadlines and proven process technology and with a ton of leadership skills and solid assessments about risks and chances. I notice a change in the same people when they are looking for a new job. They just think it will be handed to them because they are so great and experienced etc. Because it’s always been like that for you. This time it is different, though. You should show your leadership and manage that opportunity to a maximum chance and minimum failure. Like you did in your job, right? Where is the careful planning and solid process about assessing chances and risks, like you do as a professional? It’s seems forgotten when you are actively looking for a new position or career while this may the most important change in your life next to your kids, partner, friends and family? Think about that.

But getting a job is a serious job in itself. Let us assist you in how you could approach this.


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