Unemployment is soaring, companies are folding, and the future of the economy is unclear at best. For senior-level and executive professionals who are looking for a new job, this means that what worked for a month ago simply will not make the cut today. Today’s hiring climate demands not just patience and persistence, but a fundamental shift in job searching strategies. Key among them is ensuring that you don’t just make a good impression, you make a lasting impression. Standing out and sticking in peoples’ memories is going to be more critical, and more difficult than ever before. As an executive, it’s more important than ever to zero-in on your expertise and take a strategic approach to your job search efforts. Here are a few steps that you can take to make sure you present yourself as a candidate that companies need to hire.
Update and Upgrade Your Marketing Assets
Your guiding word for your job search should be “targeted.” In order to have a finely-tuned search, you need to have finely tuned personal marketing materials. This includes your resume, but also any other assets that show off your brand, your achievements, and your experience. Before you begin your search, take a moment to write down what you bring to the table from an employer’s perspective, not from your own. For example, you want to change “I lead cross-functional, international teams” to “I ensure that companies’ cross-functional teams around the world are highly coordinated and effective, driving revenue and innovation.” Once you define your core offering, evaluate all of your materials to make sure they each drive a consistent message.
While you’re working on your marketing, remember to highlight your soft skills alongside your achievements. Soft skills are the key to implementing a vision and being a successful manager. Highlighting such skills on your resume can truly set you apart from the other candidates. When building your resume remember to weave soft skill examples into accomplishments and job responsibilities. Even if it’s not something you realized at the time, you likely used soft skills such as communication, empowerment, and decision-making every day. When it comes to your resume, just remember to highlight how each played a part in your success. The pandemic has served to make companies more empathetic to individual needs and you want to show that you’re a capable and personable leader.
Need to Pivot? Work From the Inside Out.
Shifting industries at the senior or executive level is challenging, but it can be done. If, in particular, the opportunities in your own sector have been hard hit by the pandemic you may feel that your only option is to pivot. This requires an extra level of finesse for professionals at your level. This is where your core competencies that you’ve identified earlier will be essential. If you have 20 years of experience as an international hotel chain executive, for example, identify what core skills you’ve developed in this industry that could be relevant in other, adjacent industries. For example, perhaps you’re experienced in identifying new potential markets, building teams from the ground up, and ensuring company standards are upheld across global locations. These skills and experiences could be highly useful for other industries which have a global view, even if they aren’t the exact field you’ve established yourself in.
Address Soft Skills That Are Important to Remote Workforces.
Think about the onboarding process for companies that are newly remote. HR departments are struggling to bridge communication breakdowns and encourage employee engagement; managers have trouble training new hires, monitoring their progress, and connecting team members.
When you interview for a position, or do any kind of outreach, show that you can anticipate these obstacles and make the process easier for the hiring manager. Highlight your soft communication skills and give examples in your work and the way you conduct yourself.
Target the Right Employers.
For executives and upper-level employees, the job search is more than just a numbers game. Because hiring is a large investment, businesses want to find the right fit. Target employers and tailor your application to their specific needs. Companies that are still developing their product (and therefore have a lean payroll) are most likely to hire outside talent during a crisis. Also consider looking at businesses with in-demand digital services that need to increase productivity. The video game sector, for example, has seen revenue increases since the lockdown. At your level, you need to remember the key word: targeted. Focus on cultivating connections to 15-20 people at different companies, no more. You want to conduct highly-targeted, respectful, and engaging outreach that always focuses on demonstrating value to them rather than why they should want to be connected to you.
Turn the Tables by Interviewing Potential Employers.
A creative way to connect with potential employers and simultaneously strengthen your professional network is to start a small content series that interviews leaders in your industry. Your goal is always understanding their business, their needs, and focusing on them. However, be sure to present why you’re in a unique position to do so, and what you can do to help them grow.
It’s easy to find a platform for sharing professional content such as LinkedIn Pulse or Medium, and it’s not too complicated to set up a personal website with a blog. With a platform in place, start by creating a few thoughtful articles on important topics relevant to your industry. Then identify leadership at companies that present interesting employment opportunities and reach out with a request to interview them for your next article. This will act as a soft way to engage with potential employers, generate interesting conversation related to your industry, and demonstrate your expertise and thoughtfulness within your field.
Not only could this start some interesting conversations, but the process will also help you build out a strong online presence that will aid your application to other jobs.
Network Extensively Within Your Sector.
More jobs are found through networking than by responding to job postings at all times, especially for senior-level professionals. That’s especially true in times like these. Take two steps in networking. First, get in touch with your existing network. Reach out for Zoom chats or virtual coffee hours. Let your network know you are furloughed and job searching.
Second, grow your network with Zoom chats and virtual coffee hours. Consider getting in touch with professionals you’ve long admired for informational interviews,
mentorship, and advice. Join new professional associations.
Throughout your networking, remember to offer support, information, and advice to your network as well as seeking it. Reciprocity is key to successful networking.
Use LinkedIn’s messaging features to strike up connections with relevant contacts. Remember, at your level this is probably not the HR professional but rather the leaders in the departments that are relevant to you. Remember though, if the other side is wary or dismissive, be respectful and take the hint. You don’t want to burn any bridges before you’ve built them, and you never know when someone may remember that you reached out to them and that they could use a connection like you.
Check Out Remote Conferences.
Many conferences have pivoted to provide an alternative remote version of the events that were canceled this year. This is one smart way to connect with people within your industry and with those who hold similar interests.
Keep a keen eye on the attendee lists and look for ways to connect with those people directly through social media or email. Some online events even have an open chat function to get things started.
Make it Easy To Learn More About You.
An online portfolio or website that highlights your accomplishments and experience is a smart way to stand out from other applicants. Most people do not take the time to do this, but it will leave a more lasting impression than a PDF resume or standard submission form. It will also give employers a better impression when they google your name (which they will do) and your own, personalized website is at the top of the results. This is also a great way to highlight the work you’ve done earlier of creating thought leadership pieces or interacting with other companies and leaders.
The market today simply isn’t like it was six months ago, and your executive job search can’t be the same either. In today’s challenging market, you need to take the extra time and effort to ensure that you’ve got a highly-focused strategy for showing potential employers how you are going to be the key to them making it through and succeeding in these times. Your efforts should always be focused on their needs not yours.
No matter what tactic you take to making a strong impression, the most important thing is to put a strong show of your best qualities and accomplishments. Give hiring managers and employers the opportunity to connect to you, your story, and your mission and you’ll stand out as a stronger candidate in your field. Not every approach will feel right for every person, but by choosing a few of these strategies and applying your own special spin on them you’ll be far from another face in the crowd. Ultimately, you want it to be crystal clear how you fit into the puzzle of their needs, that you understand what their pain points are and you have the skills and experience to overcome them. Focus on what your target employers need, and they’ll be more likely to see that you’re the missing piece.