Are Companies Still Looking for Young Leaders?

07/26/2012 10.10 EST

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In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many of our clients eagerly sought candidates in their mid-thirties.  They wanted executives with high energy levels, excellent educational pedigrees and – most importantly – runway.  They wanted potential leaders who had a lot of room to grow and expand.   Today, in post-recessionary times, companies have broadened their focus.  Although they are still interested in “up and comers” now, more than ever, they are looking for leaders with the maturity, a proven track record and seasoning to be successful in their organization.  What does this mean?  Why have organizations shifted their focus?  I’ve summarized below my theories on this topic.   50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30:  People are living longer and, as a result, working longer.  Most of us are taking better care of ourselves through diet, exercise and a focus on overall well-being.  We look and feel better, and it shows!   Mature is now “cool”:  Maturity or seasoning is now viewed as a good thing.  The more experience you have, the more you can share with others.  A seasoned leader is often less focused on climbing the corporate ladder and is motivated more by sharing knowledge and coaching others to be successful.  These workers don’t feel as much of an intense competitive nature with their peers, allowing them to relax, let others be successful and revel in their own accomplishments.   Lean Organizations:  Throughout the past decade, organizations have become leaner...

An Overlooked Professional Development Opportunity

06/26/2012 08.53 EST

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When clients engage us to conduct a search to fill a critical position in their organization, they have almost always considered internal candidates for the role. Sometimes they just don’t have the internal talent needed for the position or they are specifically seeking an “outsider” – someone who is not from their company and may not even be from their industry. Outsiders are attractive to organizations because they bring a fresh perspective and have a different take on things like corporate culture, strategy and leadership style.   So how can a company try to develop that “outsider” perspective in high potential leaders in their own company? I would like to suggest a very effective, inexpensive strategy that will benefit the executive as well as the reputation of the company. Encourage your up-and-coming leaders to serve as board directors for non-profit organizations in your region.   There are countless non-profit organizations, large and small, working to improve the quality of life in your community. They focus on any number of things – education, child welfare, senior citizens, the arts – the list goes on and on. All of them are hungry for board leadership and need volunteers with business skills to help them achieve their missions while maintaining their margins.   I joined my first non-profit board when I was in my early 30s and about ten years into my career. I have been involved with one board or another ever since. Right now, I serve on four...

Five Steps Every College Graduate Should Take to Find and Land a Job

06/12/2012 03.27 EST

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This is the month for college graduations, and after the celebrations are over, roughly two million new alumni will be out in the “real world.” Although it is quite an exciting time in the lives of these students, it has also become a time of great anxiety. Students and their parents worry about the job market and which potential opportunities may be available. Many students leave college with a great deal of debt and, as a result, are even more nervous about finding the right job to not only lead them on a positive career path but also put them on stronger financial footing. The job market has been challenging for new graduates overall in the past few years, but there are some hopeful signs as it appears the market has slightly improved for the class of 2012.  The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently surveyed employers and found that companies expect to hire 29,237 new graduates this year, a 10.2% improvement from the hiring of 26,529 college graduates from the class of 2011.   Although the market is still not robust and needs to improve, many students are completely unprepared to conduct an effective job search. Making the process even more difficult, this year’s graduates face competition from 2011 grads who are still seeking a job in their field. Many students have not taken advantage of the career services offerings on campus and have become reliant on applying for jobs online. Unfortunately, their resumes become...

Professional Development? Me?

03/12/2012 10.42 EST

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As leaders, we encourage our staff members to think about professional development.   What do they want to do to keep current in their field? What additional skill sets or experiences do they want to add to their portfolio? What seminars would they be interested in attending? Are they interested in becoming more involved in the community to broaden their background and network?   Hopefully, we provide opportunities that will stretch them and expand their thinking.  As my career was just launching, I had a very forward-thinking boss.  She sat me down and asked me what specific organizations I wanted to get involved with in the community.  I truly had never thought about it before and remember being stumped for an answer.  She rightfully thought it was never too early to volunteer, expose myself to different experiences and expand my network.  I don’t know if I appreciated it at the time, but I certainly do now.   Where do you begin when thinking about focusing on your own professional development?  Here are a few thoughts to get started:   What are you passionate about?  It may be helpful to begin expanding your knowledge in areas where you have the most interest.  If you are interested in the subject or topic, you most likely will be eager to spend the time to learn more and will naturally be good at it. Identify specific gaps or areas where you need to improve.  If there is a functional area that...

Seven Ways to Land a New Job in 2012

01/04/2012 04.51 EST

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I know.  We always start out the New Year with a resolution and try hard to stick with it.  Most times, we stray from our goal.  Whether it is fitting more exercise in our daily routine or spending more quality time with our family – we always have good intentions.  Our busy lives just get in the way.   As an executive search consultant, I receive a sizeable number of calls at the beginning of the year from candidates expressing interest in changing jobs.  Finding a new position becomes their New Year’s resolution.  Some individuals are blocked from a promotion, interested in a new challenge or just feeling unappreciated.  My colleagues and I try to make the time to spend a few minutes listening.  Typically, job seekers describe the kind of role and industry sector that interests them.   Conducting a job search can be loaded with several emotions that may sometimes cloud a person’s thoughts about how to start a search as well as how to manage one.   So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to find a new job but you are not sure how to get started, these suggestions may help guide you:   Have you exhausted all options within your current company?  Have you made your career interests known to your boss and other colleagues so they may have you in mind as new opportunities emerge? In addition to updating your resume, put together a list of target companies.  This list...

Do the Right Thing: Why Helping Always Pays Off

10/17/2011 04.32 EST

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How many times a week do you receive a call or email from someone who is out of work and looking for a job?  Do you respond to those messages or do you purposefully ignore them because you are too busy?  I know all of us who are fortunate enough to be working are likely to be performing more than one job.  Frankly, all of us are thinly stretched and our daily schedules can be overwhelming.   Let me tell you why I think it is important to answer that call or email.  First of all, it is the right thing to do.  Secondly, all of us may find ourselves in that same place at some time in the future – looking for our next job and hopeful that others are willing to talk to us.   Believe me, there are days when I feel overwhelmed and don’t have one minute to devote to talking to someone who is looking for a position.  However, whenever I do take the time for the conversation, I always feel it was worthwhile.  I hopefully gave them a new resource, job search strategy or direction to approach in their job search efforts.  In return, I usually gain some interesting, new perspective about the market.  At the same time, I’ve added someone new to my network.  Basically, I feel energized afterwards and in retrospect, I am glad I made the time.   When you do make the time to help someone network,...

How Are You Preparing for Your Next Interview?

08/31/2011 10.53 EST

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I coach many candidates before they interview for a position.  I do it as part of my role at Salveson Stetson Group and as a favor to help others, and, frankly, I just enjoy doing it.  I often find that candidates are underprepared for an interview and are essentially “winging it.”  But sometimes, it’s the opposite – candidates are over-prepared to the point that their presentation can seem canned or even insincere.  If you are coaching others on the job hunt or you, yourself, are interviewing, I’ve outlined a few suggestions that may be helpful.  Some of this information is common sense but worth mentioning:    Do your homework before your meeting.  Does the hiring executive have a profile on LinkedIn?  Review the company website, gather information from news sites and talk to others who have worked for the company in the past. Make a strong first impression.  Smile, make eye contact and firmly shake the person’s hand.  I know this is something that your mother and father have told you time and time again – but it really is important! Turn off your cell phone, completely.  Don’t put it on vibrate. There is nothing more irritating than to have someone’s cell phone ring or vibrate during an interview.  It is distracting and sends the message that you are not fully engaged in the conversation. Come prepared with specific examples of accomplishments that relate to the needs for the role.  You should be able to provide a...

Don’t Be “That Guy”

08/24/2011 12.59 EST

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As you might imagine, I get many calls and emails from people looking for jobs.  I do my best to keep up with them and help where I can.  On rare occasions where serendipity intervenes, the job seeker actually is a good fit for a current assignment.  However, most of the time, I can only help in terms of advice or networking support, both of which I am more than happy to do.  I reserve Friday mornings for any job seeker who can get on my calendar.  It’s the right thing to do, particularly in this economy.   Service providers are great sources of information and referrals for job seekers.   We are in the market on a daily basis and, as part of our responsibilities, we do our best to keep current.  Lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, human resources consultants, etc. – our book and trade is in knowing what changes are afoot before anyone else does.  By and large, this community is the job seeker’s friend.  While there is no immediate payoff for the service provider, the good ones know that lending a hand is not only the right thing to do, but a great long-term business development strategy.  Most job seekers remember this help and are eager to maintain these relationships after they’ve successfully concluded their job searches.  However, there is a small minority that doesn’t.  If I can offer any executive just one piece of career advice, it would be “don’t be that guy.”  ...

Interviewing Star Candidates

07/06/2011 02.40 EST

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Given the number of interviews I do on a weekly basis, it’s easy for them to blend together.  Not that I get candidates mixed up with one another; I take good notes and do my best to be focused in every interaction.  But it’s hard for a candidate to stand out in a calendar that may contain 15 to 20 interviews, but the “stars” do.   In my opinion, what differentiates stars in an interview setting is their ability to engage their interviewer.  Typically, they are focused and succinctly describe their strengths. Accomplishments are linked to results.  They have an engaging style and as a result, I rarely look at my watch or even wonder what time it is – the conversation flows naturally.   This notion of brevity is worthwhile for every executive-level candidate to consider.  The human attention span is short, even under the best of circumstances.  The more concise you can be in an interview while still driving your point home, the more likely you will be to engage the person on the other side of the table.  I find that star candidates have the ability to provide specific examples that sound more like short stories than novels.  The novelists, on the other hand, often lose track of the questions they’re in the middle of answering, as do those asking the questions.   Other distinguishing traits include bringing a focused energy to the conversation and an observable passion for one’s work.  These qualities shine...

Questions I Have Stopped Asking

06/22/2011 11.31 EST

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This is a second installment in which I am reflecting on what I have learned and observed while interviewing more than 1,000 executives as candidates for senior-level positions in our client companies. Conducting interviews with potential candidates over the past 15 years has allowed me to develop a standard list of questions to ask and avoid. I have stopped using a few questions, because they either elicit “canned” answers or just don’t get at the information I am looking for. Here are two examples. “How would the people who work for you describe your management/leadership style”? This sounds like an obvious question that should elicit useful information, right? Think again. Nearly 90 percent of the people asked this question give some version of this answer: “I work with people to set clear goals and then get out of the way and let them do their jobs. I am available to them when they need me but I don’t micromanage them”. How do I know this isn’t really true for 90% of today’s leaders? All I have to do is talk to people about their bosses and their corporate cultures. I seldom hear that management style description. When I get the predictable, vanilla answer described above, I ask a second question: “What is it about your leadership style that drives people nuts on your team? What would they change about you?” Believe me when I tell you that, again, 90 percent of the people I interview are completely...