There is an old adage that men hate to ask for directions even when they are hopelessly lost.
Asking for directions is apparently an admission that we made a mistake and asking for help only makes the matter worse, especially for those who like to be in control and think they know a lot.
This also applies to accomplished executives who suddenly find themselves out of a job, especially when the termination was through no fault of their own. They know how to lead an organization but they are less knowledgeable or confident about how to navigate the uncertain waters that reflect today’s job market. Many are lost. Guess what? They do not like to ask for directions. As that great American philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra — Yogi, to devoted Yankees fans — once said, “If you do not know where you are going [or how to get there] you might end up someplace else.”
Sometimes that “someplace else” is an unwanted forced retirement or a reluctant career change. Yet it is surprising how many CEOs and other senior executives do not think to ask for help to avoid a career damaging or career ending job transition that ends up in the ditch.
While the fundamentals of searching for a new job are the same — the resume, the job interview and the references — the strategy and tactics have dramatically changed. You cannot sit back and wait for the phone to ring, nor can you launch a wholesale campaign to respond to every job opening you run across. For those executives who leave under a cloud you cannot wait around and let someone else define your story. Johnny Parker, DSL, an in-demand coach and speaker said this: “Master your story or someone else will assign you a script.” More than likely you will not be happy with the story that is being told. When I hear executives say that recruiters are not calling, or they get only one perfunctory telephone interview, more often than not someone else has already defined their story for them and it is not favorable.
For some executives the process of finding their next position is a matter of organizing and flawlessly implementing a strategy or job search campaign. If there have been issues, then the career transition could be more like a crisis management campaign where messaging and aggressive tactics will be necessary.
Finding your next job has indeed changed. The digital age, and speed-of-light connectivity have upended all the career management rules that most people think they know.
© 2021 John Gregory Self