The Evolving Executive: Invest In Evolving Your Career to Avoid Needing To Change Your Career
Advice from Ron Bates, Managing Principal, Executive Advantage Group, Inc.
Answers to the questions you haven’t been afraid to ask me.
I’m Ron Bates, Managing Principal of Executive Advantage Group. We’ve been specializing in executive search and leadership transformation consulting since 2001. Our retained search closure and repeat business rates far exceed industry averages, and we attribute our success to unique best practices and exceptional network-driven methodology. We have the largest candidate reach of any search firm in the world.
I personally have almost 30 years of experience in this field, and as you can imagine, I get a lot of questions from candidates in one form or another regarding "how do I reinvent myself?"
The credit for giving me the idea to write this article goes to a colleague, Ian Dix, Chief Marketing Officer at Xtendwave, a semiconductor technology company, who recently said to me, "Another article you should consider writing is how can folks "reinvent" themselves for new positions or industries. I have found that most of my 45 year-old-and-over friends who are looking for new positions are not finding them, and - frankly - probably won't find a position like the ones they left. What to do? How does one get hired in a new industry, or at a different position level, maybe lower in salary and responsibility, but nonetheless, a good job?"
As an executive recruiter and executive coach, I get asked this a lot, and my answer has two parts: Part A is you can avoid being in a situation where you find you need to "reinvent" yourself in the first place; Part B is what you can do if you skipped Part A.
Before we dive in through, I want to shine a spotlight on your resume. There's a very simple measurement of a resume's value - it either opens doors or it doesn't. It has to be “pin sharp,” concisely articulating the scope of each position you've held in your career, and the business impact your efforts have produced - in quantifiable terms. If you want a great resume, watch this:
The Evolving Executive: Invest In Evolving Your Career to Avoid Needing to Change Your Career
Part A: How to Avoid Needing to "Reinvent" Yourself
At the risk of sounding simplistic, you need to continually invest in evolving your career to avoid needing to change your career. How do you do this? Consciously choose to be on the cutting edge of what you do. What does that mean? Well, at a high level this breaks down into 3 steps: Read - everything; develop networking relationships; write.
Step 1: Read - Everything
Start reading everything you can that is associated with your discipline, even stuff that's remotely related to what you do. This includes books, periodicals and everything you can find on the internet, and the topics should include business perspective, functional discipline perspective, and leadership perspective.
Step 2: Develop Networking Relationships
Start developing networking relationships with every person you can that is associated with your discipline, and anyone even tangentially related to what you do. Become a magnet for making contacts with anyone associated with your current career discipline. Include authors you find on the internet with respect to articles and blogs as well. Make contacts from a business networking perspective, a functional discipline networking perspective, and from a mentorship perspective - both finding mentors and being a mentor to someone else.
Step 3: Write
Start writing - now. Start blogging, create your own and comment on other blogs. Self-publish articles about your expertise, problems you've solved, and opinions you have. Exchange emails with every person you can that is associated with your discipline of choice, and anyone that is even remotely related to what you do. Become a fountain of information, observation, questions, and opinion for business networking contacts associated with your current career discipline. I don't care if you just graduated from college or if you're 2 years from hanging it up because you're going to retire. It's never too late or too early to start doing this. What does this massive investment of time result in? It results in innovation. It results in accelerated learning curve. It results in massive exposure. It results in - you - being connected to the cutting edge of your discipline, and after you've been doing it for a while - being the one that others are listening to because you're actually defining the cutting edge of your discipline. This investment will also lead you to be exposed to, connected to, and capitalize on opportunity that will naturally evolve your career in a direction that represents value to employers and investors.
Okay I lied. There are more than 3 steps.
Step 4: Know Your Executive Value Proposition (EVP)
Your EVP is a combination of "What" you've accomplished plus "How" you got it done: EVP = What + How
Know "What" You've Accomplished: Profit = Revenue - Costs
Ask yourself, "What is the quantified outcome/objective associated with everything I do?" Minimize or eliminate just expending effort. If you can't quantify the outcome/objective you expect from your effort you risk just spinning your wheels. Careers are too short to waste them spinning your wheels. Always try to identify and associate your effort with results achieved. The biggest failing in executive level resumes (or any level) is failure to quantify accomplishments. Effort, all too often, masquerades as outcome in executive level resumes. You must quantify your accomplishments, and do so using the metrics terminology associated with the business you are in.
Know "How" You Got It Done: Skills, Abilities, Acumen
Ask yourself, "How did I accomplish this quantified outcome?"
What skills, abilities and acumen did you leverage to achieve a result? What's the story, method, process you leveraged when employing the skills, abilities, and acumen you leveraged to achieve the result? Assess this, and inventory it. This is the best way to be able to communicate your value, and this is the best way to know where you need to invest in improving and/or acquiring new skills, abilities and acumen based on what you're doing in Steps 1, 2 and 3 above.
As you move through your career you are in the best possible position to assess where you can you fit and can add the most value. You are moving through your career with awareness of your value and how it can be effectively employed. This awareness also fuels the fire of innovation. This awareness will enable you to naturally evolve your career in a direction that represents value to employers and investors. You'll also interview infinitely better than anyone you'll ever compete with for a job as a result. Why? Because you'll have the ability to communicate your quantified ability to add value in any situation.
Practice all of Part A throughout your career, and your career will naturally "reinvent" itself everyday of your life. As a result, you will always be on the cutting edge, and always possess a leveragable value.
Part B: How To "Reinvent" Yourself If You Skipped Part A.
Do Part A. It's that simple. That said, never confuse "simple" with "easy." Breaking rocks with a sledgehammer is simple, but it's far from easy. The difference now is you have to compress all of what you're doing in Part A into a very short timeframe, and now you're depending on your memory to accomplish Step 4 above.
If you find you haven't really done any of what's discussed in Part A, the best way to approach all of it is in reverse order - start with Step 4. Why? As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Magnum Force, "A man's got to know his limitations." This is where you're going to take inventory of all your quantified accomplishments and really develop an understanding of the skills, abilities, and acumen you leveraged to drive those quantified outcomes. That means you will understand your value. You can't figure out how to redeploy your value until you can quantify what it is. Equally important is being able to recognize where your value would not be a fit.
By developing an understanding of your value, and more specifically the skills, abilities, and acumen you possess, you can now kick off the rest of the process by asking yourself the following question:
What industries, markets, and roles leverage the same skills, abilities, and acumen I possess, and can drive similar quantified impact on business metrics?
In other words, what scenarios can I successfully map my value toward? That's what you'll have to do in any interview; you have to be able to convince someone how your value maps into their needs. Even though many roles require "the right experience," experience is nothing more than a commodity. Once you can put a check in the box, it's all about your skills, abilities, and acumen to accomplish quantified objectives. While some roles and employers place more importance on direct experience, there are a lot of roles and employers that value individuals who possess a track record of successfully leveraging their skills, abilities, and acumen to drive quantified impact on business metrics.
By understanding your value, you'll develop an ability to recognize opportunities to deploy your value.
Now you just need to create exposure for yourself, and minimize the chance of any negative perception associated with lacking direct experience by educating yourself. In other words, you now move to Steps 1, 2 and 3 of Part A.
Turning on a dime and "reinventing" yourself is a lot of work, but if you find yourself in a position where you need to do so, the process I've described here will take you a long way down the road to achieving your objectives.
For more information to support your objectives, read 10 Steps to a Successful Job Search (www.job-search-campaign.com).
Many job searchers have told me the information in this article helped them greatly. I hope it helps you, too - and if you believe it will help others, please forward the link to them. And let me know how I can help going forward - by email, of course!
Thank you for investing your time in reading this article.
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Ron Bates is a Managing Principal with the retained executive search firm Executive Advantage Group, Inc. His search practice focuses on mission critical retained searches for pre-IPO Venture Capital backed start-ups to Fortune500 clients. He has delivered personal executive coaching projects to former EMC, Deloitte Consulting, IBM, SAP, Merck, E&Y, Harte Hanks, Oracle, Red Hat, WorldCom et al. executives responsible for multi-billion dollar business units, and co-founded www.CV-Advantage.com a self guided job search oriented executive coaching process. In addition to his role at Executive Advantage Group, Ron is also Executive Director, Global Sourcing & Recruiting Network with ExecutiveNetworks.com. With a 25-year legacy as a leading provider of executive peer networks to more than 225 large mostly global corporations –Executive Networks is focused on building the world's foremost constellation of HR-related executive peer networks. With +43,000 direct contacts, Ron is also the most connected individual in the world on www.LinkedIn.com. As a recognized expert in on-line networking, personal branding and building a personal Internet presence, Ron has been an invited speaker at venues such as the Human Capital Institute, Marketing Executive Networking Group, British America Business Council, Expert Connections, Business of Success Radio is a regular guest on Netshare’s "Ask the Coach", and most recently Ron's interview was included in Leadership Without Borders: Successful Strategies From World-Class Leaders, by Ed Cohen, © 2007 John Wiley & Sons.
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