Finding an executive leadership job in some industries is one tough slog, even with a pristine record, but if you have a background glitch or two, nothing major but you received some media attention, well your job search just got a lot harder.

Executives make mistakes.  It is not uncommon.  Most of the time it is not career ending.  A little time heals all wounds, but in industries in which there are more executives looking for work than there are jobs, like healthcare, for example, the smallest of blemishes can still create real job search challenges.

Five Issues Executives Should Consider

If you are a senior leader and you stumble, there are five issues that are important for you to address:

  1. Severance Agreement – When an executive is forced to leave an organization under a cloud, presumably with bad press, it is important to engage an attorney to negotiate a severance agreement.  Usually the employer will offer a severance package unless there is serious cause for the termination.  If you have an employment contract, hopefully one that your attorney helped you negotiate when you were hired, then insist that it be followed.  If you did not include a provision for outplacement consulting, make the ask.  They may not agree, but crisis management transition advisory services can run from $12,000 to $25,000 or $30,000.
  2. Clear Reference Process – Surprisingly, many executives do no clarify how any possible references will be handled. We recommend that this language be placed in the severance agreement which will be covered by any breach of agreement language. Identify an officer of the organization who will be the official spokesman for this subject. Prior to completing the severance agreement, ensure that this individual understands what should and should not be said.
  3. Career Transition Coach – Engage a career transition coach who understands career crisis management, preferably someone with experience in public relations.  Notice I said a career transition coach with crisis management experience.  There are PR firms that handle this type of situation but most have zero experience in dealing with the re-employment strategy, and that will be critical.
  4. Leave Town – Unless you live in a major metropolitan area with ample networking opportunities, leave town.  Losing a high-profile job is embarrassing.  If your organization is located in a smaller community, that can only magnify the challenges of moving beyond this career setback.  Consult your career transition advisor, but I cannot imagine they will want you to stay in a smaller community where everyone seems to know everyone’s business – whether they do or not. 
  5. Take Your Patience Pill – Do not plunge back into the job market unless a friend offers to hire you. Consider forming a consulting “storefront” and work with your advisor to develop and execute a career restoration strategy.  Finding a new opportunity will probably take a while so do not set unreasonable expectations regarding the time it will take to land another position.

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