I have a handful of mentoring clients who are in the midst of career transition. In coaching them, I find myself reiterating five relationship-centric pillars that support finding the opportunity that will be a great fit, not just the next job. These should be focal points for anyone similarly seeking a successful step upward.
- Cast a wider net.
What are your sources for new opportunities? These typically fall into three categories: your personal network, recruiting professionals, and what I call the epicenter of your respective world. For one individual, that might be private equity groups. For another, it might be an industry association. If you are a banker, it is the banking community. It’s where your industry comes together to share thought- and practice-leadership.
First devote your attention to nurturing and expanding those sources, which become fewer and more focused as you progress up the career ladder. If you want to avoid relocating, emphasize those in your geographic area. Are there academic institutions, alumni groups, or high quality events you can attend? Are there international sources worth exploring—not just the option to work abroad, but companies that are coming here that could use your preferred skills, unique experiences and portfolio of relationships? Expand the number of viable relationships within each category.
- Be cognizant of risk filters.
As you think of this expanded “net,” consider how these sources think of you for potential opportunities, and how you think of them. We all have unconscious biases that cause us to dismiss someone or something as “too risky,” “not the right fit.” How are you being pigeonholed? If you are known as one type of an executive, or experienced in only one geography or industry, you are probably missing out on what might be good opportunities outside that “bucket.”
Likewise, you may be pigeonholing employers as “not right for you” when in fact, there is good opportunity there below the surface perceptions. You need to be savvy enough to figure out where doubts reflect solely unconscious bias, and where they reflect actual risk. If there is an elephant in the room, it should be addressed. If you’ve spent most of your managerial career in industrial applications, you are not going to be a good fit for retail. If you don’t push to disqualify yourself when risks are too great, you will have opportunities drag out that ultimately never materialize.
There is no need to widen your net to the point where you are catching opportunities that are wholly illogical and inappropriate. Thus, the first two pillars are a wider net and cognizance of risk filters.
- Proactively nurture the sources that make it past the risk filter.
With those potential employers who DO show signs of being a good fit, start to intentionally develop relationships. The higher the position you aspire to, the more important in-person visits become. These are dramatically more impactful than emails or even calls. Get on a plane and go where the opportunity is for 2 or 3 days, or if you already have travel plans, schedule extra time to nurture relationships. Schedule 3, 4, 5 visits a day. Invite someone to dinner. Make yourself an object of interest by putting your body of work out there, write insightful articles on LinkedIn, for example. Leverage travel to nurture sources of opportunity.
- Use metrics and analysis.
It’s odd to me that people in job search mode don’t typically think of setting metrics for themselves. They seldom analyze what worked and what didn’t. I’ve long believed “a sale is a series of yeses.” A job is a sale, so what are the yeses you need? If you have solidly built the first three pillars, you should now be getting considered for positions. If you are making it to the second round of interviews but typically not the third, what are you doing wrong? You can’t improve anything you don’t measure. Analyze your win/loss ratio and identify behaviors that need to change to increase the percentage of wins.
- Invest in developing the asset that is you.
People in job search mode tend to isolate themselves simply because they quit spending on anything they deem unnecessary. Like businesses that cut back on travel, marketing and training when times are tight, individuals cut down on investment in self-development. It may seem counterintuitive, but this is exactly the RIGHT time to invest in your growth. Get an executive coach. Attend unique conferences. Put yourself in environments to meet other intelligent, interesting people. You can’t be an asset to that next employer if you don’t have an intelligent perspective, if you don’t know what’s currently happening in your field.
And the beautiful thing about this fifth pillar is that it brings us full circle, back to casting a wider net, by getting you out in the world where strategic relationships lead to phenomenal opportunities.
- Anyone seeking a successful career transition needs to intentionally focus on the five relationship-centric pillars I have identified.
- Strategic relationships lead to phenomenal opportunities, so expand and nurture your relationship portfolio, with attention to filtering out opportunities for which you would never be a good fit.
- Do what you would do if this job search were your job: use metrics and analysis, and invest in training/development.
David Nour has spent the past two decades being a student of business relationships. In the process, he has developed Relationship Economics® – the art and science of becoming more intentional and strategic in the relationships one chooses to invest in. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has worked with clients such as Hilton, ThyssenKrupp, Disney, KPMG and over 100 other marquee organizations in driving profitable growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possess, large and small, public and private. He is the author of nine books translated in eight languages, including the best selling Relationship Economics – Revised (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger), Return on Impact (ASAE), and the forthcoming CO-CREATE. (St. Martin’s Press), an essential guide showing C-level leaders how to optimize relationships, create market gravity, and greatly increase revenue. Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.