Staying focused will help you tap into the hidden job market where there is less competition than when applying to posted positions online. You can’t be all things to all people/companies so concentrate on what you like to do, what you do well, and what new learning you’d like to develop when looking for companies/positions that need an executive.
1. Emphasize your executive value. First and foremost, a company needs to know why they should hire you over other executives.
What makes you unique and the best candidate for a position within their organization? To answer this question you will need to know what skills and experience are important to the prospective employer. Sell yourself with what you have to offer.
Be as specific as possible to spell out your value, mirroring your accomplishments, experience and training/certificates with what this employer wants/needs in an executive candidate. Make their job easy by showing this parallel, starting with your resume.
2. Limit your search to a key position and industry. To develop a viable list of target employers, you need to stay focused on what position and company might be the best match for you. At some point in your executive job search, you may need to widen the net you are casting, but I caution you from doing so in the first steps of job search. It might dilute the strength of your value and, frankly, can be overwhelming.
3. Create a target list. Start with one industry. Take advantage of technology to research companies that match your focus. Search for companies by developing a list using keywords associated with your industry to help you drill down to specific companies. For example if interested in the Food & Beverage industry:
- Restaurant chains
- Retail Food Service
a. Current and previous employer’s competitors
b. Trade associations
c. Business publications
d. Industry reports
4. Network. In this step, you are looking for people who either work at your target company or know someone who does. You never know who knows who so don’t limit your thinking of whom you might approach. Consider:
a. Personal contacts – friends, neighbors, college alumni, and personal club members (tennis, golf, running, boating, etc).
b. Professional contacts – trusted colleagues, customers, clients, former employers and bosses, and professional association members.
c. Online contacts – LinkedIn connections and contacts in LinkedIn Groups.
Once you have people in your network identified who can be helpful, don’t make the mistake of just sending them an unsolicited resume. The best approach is to reach out to the individuals with a plan. Share a tidbit of information that might be helpful to them and identify you up as a good resource for the future. Or, if approaching a friend of a friend, start with “John Jones said you’d be the best person to talk about…..” When you help others first, they are more likely to return the favor.
5. Contact the company. Many company websites display their executive team on the site and possibly contact information. Getting past the gatekeeper can be challenging, but if you call just to verify the name and title of someone in the company, you might get the information you want. If you don’t know the person you are looking for simply state, “I need to write a letter to the head of sales. What is his/her name?” You may encounter objections and voicemail along the way. Don’t let this discourage you.
A strategically targeted cover letter and resume to the decision maker of your target company with a call to action is the next step. Presenting your talents and skills as a solution to an issue the company is experiencing helps the reader to see you as a possible employee.
A success story from one of my clients who followed these five steps resulted in creating an executive marketing position at a pharmaceutical company who did not have a job opening. Another client transitioned from his career in the medical field to an executive position in the insurance industry.
Tapping into the hidden job market can be challenging and a lot of work, while on the other hand, it can reap the biggest rewards. Put your executive skills to work (research, project management, problem-solving talents, etc.) to help you find your next executive position.