Focus Your Executive Career Transition Strategy

Focus Your Executive Career Transition Strategy

When you’re focusing on the quotidian details of your job, you hardly have time to think about the larger issues surrounding your executive career trajectory. It might be too overwhelming, too abstract, or simply not relevant to your finishing tasks a, b, and c before deadlines 1, 2, and 3. Here are some tips to help you create simple steps to advancing your career in a way that empowers you, makes you feel successful, and, more importantly, enables to believe in your own success.

Set Manageable Goals Today

The first item on your career change agenda should be to set manageable goals today. This item really has two parts: The goals need to be manageable, and you need to set them today. So stop what you are doing, take a pen and paper, and create a wish list of all the things you wish your current executive role did for you, or all the things that it does do for you that you love. Remember, delaying your decision to make a choice is also a choice, so be sure that if you are putting off making a decision that it’s for the right reasons, not because choosing to act is simply too hard.

Now examine this list:

  • Are all of these rewards possible in your current job? If not, what executive role might you be targeting next?
  • Are all of these ideal factors achievable in a reasonable time frame, assuming you put a reasonable amount of resources toward achieving them?
  • Do you believe that you are empowered on your own to achieve these goals? If not, whom might you call on among your personal board of directors to help you reach these goals?

Devise Several Sets of Plans to Achieve Your Goals

The second item on your executive career change agenda is to look critically at the goals you just established and think, broadly, about how you will layer your plans to accomplish them. For example, if one of your goals for your own executive career satisfaction is to lead a larger team, does that mean your current company needs to hire more people (an internal business decision), or do you need to look outside your company for a role that gives you this opportunity? If the former, with whom do you need to speak to start building a business case to grow your team? If the latter, what executive job offer would be so compelling that you couldn’t ignore it? Could you define this role more clearly? If you can define it, are you ready to set that level of change in motion? Knowing how you will plan for various outcomes of your research can help you establish a series of steps that won’t overwhelm your busy schedule.

Overall, plan for your executive career change in several layers–what you can do today, what you can achieve in the medium term, and what you need to do to ensure that you reach your long-term goals. Also think about what you can do on your own to achieve your goals and what will require you to involve others who can support your goal-achievement strategy.

Find a Sounding Board to Test Your Logic and Help You Move Forward

If you’re working through this exercise, you might be finding that you don’t have answers advance your decision-making process. Don’t be afraid to call on your personal board of directors, including a career coach if necessary, to help you take your questions apart and build a plan that will help you win the executive career that supports your specific aspirations.

How to Prepare for a Volatile Executive Employment Marketplace

How to Prepare for a Volatile Executive Employment Marketplace

Executive career change, particularly for those who have not engaged in it for a decade or more, is inherently destabilizing for the individual, that person’s family, and maybe even for that person’s company. So how do you create a “career strategy emergency kit” to prepare for a time when your situation demands change?

Build Your Network Now

Do not wait another day to reach out to that person you met last week—or six months ago—but with whom you never reconnected. Start becoming more active on specific LinkedIn groups of your choice, and turn those online connections into human ones. The executive job market is still about who you know, and you need to meet the right people to advance your career. In the process, you might find the chance to help out others who are in similar situations, so the transactions are not always unidirectional. Always try to give more than you get, and you’ll develop significant goodwill that you can use when you need it.

Talk to Your Boss Today

This is critical–don’t wait for projects to land in your lap by accident. Research your company’s direction and start to feel out your executive leadership about the ways you can contribute. In this process, you’ll achieve two goals. First, you’ll start to interact with key decision makers. Rather than becoming one of those who is always asking for something, you’re communicating with them to offer your expertise and your assistance and asking for nothing but the opportunity to provide it in return.

Second, when you are put onto new projects, you’re developing significant new skills, leadership, and talents. You might find that these will power your plan to apply your talents to an advanced role, a different company, or even a different industry.

Think about What You Want Next

We often hear about executives who have separated from their companies prematurely, whether by choice or by structural change. All of a sudden, they are confronted with a world of opportunities, all of which could be viable choices, some of which are likely, and a few of which are exactly right. Identifying the types of positions, verticals, product groups, and industries ahead of time will save you time as you go through the volatility of looking for a new position.

In conclusion, smart executives need to prepare themselves for a volatile employment marketplace. Executives in career transition seeking stability need to create a solid career change strategy long before they embark on it.

Get to the Heart of Your Fear of Career Change

Get to the Heart of Your Fear of Career Change

Recently, I posted about fear in the executive job search. I was extremely surprised by the level of interest in this blog post (What Do You Fear Most About Your Career Change–search for it on my web site). I could not have predicted the response that this topic received. I think that means that more people are afraid of changing jobs or changing careers then meets the eye. Likely, fear is not an acceptable or common topic of conversation among extremely well-positioned executive leaders; the executive team is supposed to be, evidently, stoic, proud, and fearless. But behind every executive title is a real human being, with his or her own attitudes—and fears.

You know that as an executive you should portray fearlessness every day, so you might quietly stew about your executive job search. You may have many reasons for delaying action on it. For example, the holidays are coming, and you need to maintain some stability. Your spouse is also in transition. You’re in the middle of an exciting—or draining—series of projects at work. Your team is counting on you. Your boss is counting on you. Your company is counting on you. On the other hand, perhaps you have made tentative overtures into exploring the market. Either way, you’re probably in a relatively balanced state of ambivalence—not enough pressure from either side to force a decision.

thinking man

Perhaps this ambivalence comes from the fact that your reasons for staying in your current role have nothing to do with your specific needs. Does that mean you think (or I think) that you are a fearful person, or that you treat every challenge to improve your situation as an opportunity to retreat? Of course not. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in right now if you rejected chances to grow and change and lead in your industry. Based on the profiles of the executives I have worked with in the past, I would venture to say that you are extremely good at what you do; ready to fight for what your company, your industry, your team needs; and well-known as an excellent leader and mentor, not to mention humble and willing to give your team credit rather than take it yourself. Moreover, you probably don’t want to rock the boat in which you are standing. But you have to think about your career in terms of your individual needs and requirements for growth.

Give Yourself Some Thought

Your feelings about going to work every day in your executive role may range from true excitement to straight-up dread. But the job is yours to love or hate, and you may feel very protective of it. You would never let anyone else disparage you or your company, so you prevent yourself from the close examination of it that might reveal that it is not perfect for you. Because you know how to do your job better than anyone else does, and you’ve proven that, you might think that moving on to another position would diminish your level of comfort in your role. I venture to guess that you have not shrunk from other types of challenges, so I strongly urge you to consider the fact that simply because something is not familiar that it is bad. And simply because something is familiar it is not necessarily universally good for you, as you progress through your career.

I would encourage you to ask yourself some of the following questions. They are not easy questions to answer, but your responses might surprise you– either in a good or frustrating way.

  • Do you answer every one of my challenges above with “Yes, but…”?
  • Are you sure that what you have in your current executive role is the best situation for you? (It might be, but you have to evaluate it to be certain.)
  • Are you afraid that change necessarily means failure?
  • Are you afraid that you might not have the experience or know how to succeed outside of your current organization?

Overall, this article is an attempt to help you identify and perhaps confront what might be holding you back in changing your mindset about your executive job search. In no way is it an indictment of your capability or your willingness to rise to every challenge that confronts you on a professional level. But I hope it does meet you where you are in your thought process about any fears related to career change.

What Do You Fear Most About Your Career Change

What Do You Fear Most About Your Career Change

Updated February 2017

Fans of Dune by Frank Herbert will remember two famous bits from the book:

“Fear is the mindkiller.”


“A beginning is a very delicate time.”

Executive job seekers may let fear cloud their judgement on moving forward with a job search, but knowing how to leave those fears aside and create a new beginning is crucial to job search success.

“When is the right time for me to make a career change?”  There is no easy answer to this question. If you are scared to change your job, then clearly this is not the right time. But if you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some thoughts about how to evaluate what is holding you back.

executive job search fears

Executive job search fears will get in your way.

One of the clearest markers that you are ready to leave your current company and join a new one, is simply the knowledge that you can do more or to better in another environment. Once you have come to this decision, however, you might struggle with understanding your motivations, your need to elevate your income, or your commitment to the incredible team you have created. These fears are natural, because we all fear change. The status quo is a known quantity, whereas moving toward something new, even if it’s what you really want, can provoke some anxiety even in the most accomplished of executives.

If you are looking for a clear reason to leave, you can always find one. But if you’re looking for a smart reason to leave, you need to face a few key fears that all people in career transition experience at one time or another:

  1. Fear of change away from the familiar. What you have now in your current role, even if it is not ideal, is familiar—even comfortable in its frustration. We often fear making changes because we don’t know what we will find on the other side of our decision. If you are considering making an executive career change, you need to believe in your ability to make good decisions, just the way you do in your executive role.
  2. Fear of disappointing the team. As much as you may love the team you are working on, you have to look out for yourself in your career. As deep as your commitment to your team may be, you have to make a decision about your career that is best for you.
  3. Fear of killing a relationship trusted mentor or boss. The relationships you have built with mentors and superiors in your current company are still going to be important, even if you leave your current company. As you decide to make a move to a new organization, or even to a new executive role, you need to preserve the good relationships you’ve built. Your current network will continue to be important in your new company; you never know when you will need the help from or support of your network in the future. Also, people in your network may reach out to you as well, and you need to give back to as much as you have ever taken from these people who have helped you.

In conclusion, fears of job change, especially for executives, are not insurmountable, but neither are they trivial. You need to be mindful of your underlying self-talk to understand what about career change makes you fearful. You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I mentally ready to leave my organization?
  • Will I have no regrets if I leave my organization?
  • Will I truly be happy in a new role that challenges me and elevate my professional game?

If you are able to answer “yes” to all three of these questions you can feel confident that you are ready to leave your fears behind as you move to a new executive position.