Changing Jobs

Critical first steps for executives in the job market

Written by Guest Contributor

If you are a C-suite level executive looking for a new job, then you are likely in uncharted waters. There is a good chance that you have worked your way up at your existing company and have been out of the job market for years, and now that you’re looking for a new position, you are a little lost.

In addition to being out of the game, you will find that the competition for upper-level management positions is stiff. Think about the list of Fortune 500 companies and realize that there are only 500 CEO positions available at those businesses, and not many are likely to be vacant. With that said, where there is a will, there is a way, and you can make progress in finding a new job by focusing on the critical first steps that will set you up for success.

Make a plan

Once you are ready to look for a new C-level management position, you need to come up with a plan of action. First, look inside yourself and think about what you brought to your previous organization and how you will use your skills to benefit the new one. Think not only about your hard skills, like how you can improve processes and sales numbers, but also your soft skills, such as your values and positive traits, and use those to start targeting companies that share those attributes or could be made better with you as the CEO.

Now that you know what you bring to the table, it is time to start looking for open positions. Unfortunately, the chances of finding an open CEO listing on Indeed or CareerBuilder will be slim, so you will need to take a more targeted approach. Find companies in your area whose business is comparable to your experience, or find something totally different if you think you would be a great fit. Then, do your research and find the HR and upper-level reps and contact them directly about open positions and your desire to join the team.

While it is true that CEO and executive-level jobs are harder to find online, there are a few job search websites that cater to your objective. Websites such as Ivy Exec and Experteer specialize in this type of job recruitment. Other resources like ExecuNet have a career center in addition to offering guidance and tips for executives who are new to the job hunt. Sign up for websites like these and get the helping hand that you need.

Update your resume

After years with one organization, it is now time to dust off your resume and write a cover letter. While it will share many of the same aspects, your executive resume will need to be much tighter and results-oriented than those for lower positions. You have likely reviewed a few resumes in your time, so when writing yours, think about qualities you want to see when hiring an employee and write your resume through that lens.

Your resume should be filled with specific examples of what you did at your previous company and how you helped grow the business. Choose your words carefully. If you use a generic sentence like “encouraged effectiveness in the workforce,” then you are not separating yourself from the pack because every executive or manager is going to have something like this on their resume. Instead, show numbers and statistics and add real power to the words. So you elaborate with language like “streamlined warehouse processing for a 25% increase in shipping while reducing payroll by $100,000.”

Write a cover letter to accompany your resume. Most people consider the cover letter to be unnecessary, and some employers might agree, but you are not like most people. You need to display your accomplishments with gusto to prove that you are the right person for the job. It is incredibly important that you modify each resume to the position you are applying for and list how you can help their unique product succeed. As a final note, make sure to review your resume and cover letter several times before submission with an eye on typos, font issues, and sentence structure. As a CEO, your paperwork should be flawless.

Networking and LinkedIn

As a past executive or CEO, you likely have a vast network of contacts and connections that you have made over the years, and these individuals could be incredibly important when looking for a new opportunity. Make a call and ask them about positions open at their company, and if you can list them as a reference to get your foot in the door. You can also ask your contacts to reach out to people who they know that also may be able to help.

It is highly recommended that you also network online with LinkedIn. This is the social network for professionals, and a well-written listing could attract the attention of potential businesses. This page needs to be clear and packed with information, and this all should be paired with a professional photo. You don’t want a picture of you on vacation, but instead a studious shot of you in professional dress with flattering lighting and a clean background. Just be sure not to look like you visited Headshots during the late 80s.

Beyond that, your LinkedIn page should include the past job experience and results that you listed on your resume. Take your most impressive statistic and place it in the profile summary section as this will be the blurb that companies first see when searching for applicants. Also, take advantage of the recommendations section by asking high-level executives and past collaborators to share a few words about your experience and how you improved the companies you worked for.  Yes, as a previous CEO or executive, the job hunt can be daunting, but there is a new job out there for you. Take the time to think about what you offer, present it properly, work your connections, and you will find the position that you desire.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

About the author

Guest Contributor