Typically, the most successful executives are often perceived as being highly focused on their own careers and have a clear career progression pathway towards achieving success at the very highest level. Very often, this is not the case where successful progression is as much to do with a bit of luck as much as determination, leadership skills, exceptional personal qualities, outstanding achievements, specialist expertise, professional development and leveraging industry contacts.
In reality, executives often do not get sufficient opportunity to consider the bigger picture and help drive forward the agenda regarding their careers because they are too busy, have too many distractions or have a family to manage. However, there are several ‘quick wins’ that can help get executives started and motivated towards achieving greater success. The main thing is to dedicate some time to begin putting those thoughts, career aspirations and ultimate ambitions into a structure by defining simple steps for building momentum into a wider process.
Quick Wins for Executive Success!
Speaking to executives and business leaders one recurring theme is that career aspirations are often put on the ‘back-burner’ or they have little time or motivation to get started. The reality is that much of the work is done, contacts networks have been built and they have often gained a long track record of success, so it is more about fast-tracking those ideas, writing them down and executing the plan.
Commitment to Making Things Happen
The most important thing is to commit to developing a plan of action and periodically reviewing progress and making adjustments where necessary. Plans will evolve over time and will inevitably become delayed if there is not enough willing or motivation for action. Executives must be committed towards making a change otherwise it may not happen!
Take one morning away from everything and do some soul-searching about what you want to do next (and why), define ultimate career aspirations or whether there are any particular employers out there that you want to work for. The idea is to quickly critically evaluate options and research next steps to narrow down possibilities (strategic alternatives) for creating an outline plan based on what executives want to do next. This gives some important clarity in direction, help executives become forward-thinking about their careers and define a clearer vision of where they want to be. Knowing what executives want to do next is half the battle!
Setting SMART Objectives
Next, it is important to translate identified options into specific objectives. Setting SMART objectives helps underpin career plans and motivates executives towards taking action. Ensure objectives are SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT and TIME-FOCUSED. From this, a plan of action can emerge with distinct targets, strategy and stages for achieving goals.
Identifying Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Identifying unique selling points, key strengths and knowing own limitations are important. This is what employers are attracted to and need to see clear benefits of employing someone over other candidates. Conduct a personal SWOT analysis or skills evaluation. It may be a combination of skills, qualities and expertise that combine to create USPs rather than just one single element. Executives must stand out from the competition, especially when operating at the very highest levels within organisations. Clearly document these and if necessary get someone to critically evaluate them.
Executive CV / Resume
Recruiters acknowledge the CV / Resume is still arguably the single most important element for creating an initial impression and deciding on whether to shortlist candidates. Great attention must be given to the CV / Resume – it should be treated as a marketing document with clear selling points, not just an outline career summary. This includes translating unique selling points within the context of writing a marketable CV with a clear message and benefits of employing someone.
Establishing an Online Presence (LinkedIn)
Having an online presence is essential, especially with the way LinkedIn and other social media or networking platforms have grown in popularity. It is an expectation for executives to have an online presence with a network of industry contacts. This means executives must clearly articulate key credentials (i.e. industry expertise, leadership skills, main achievements, personal qualities and what they can bring to a future employer). From this, it is necessary to build contacts networks as recruiters and headhunters will inevitably look at LinkedIn profiles but also who candidates are linking with.
Develop a Personal Brand
Executives need to define clearly what they are all about and what they can bring to organisations. Being nicely assured in approach, being confident when dealing with people and having an aura of confidence can be a key differentiator between candidates, especially when there is a split decision on who to hire. It goes without saying that being consistent in approach, refining behaviours, impeccable presentation, confident communication, being warm / friendly, staying positive and remaining highly professional at all times will make a favourable impression with employers. Effective people interaction and communication skills are essential boardroom requirements.
Building Executive Headhunter Relationships
Once everything else has been put in place, executives are ready to execute plans. Invariably, this involves building relationships with executive headhunting firms. Therefore, having going through these previous processes means executives are in a far better position to quickly respond to opportunities. For this to happen, executives must be credible to headhunters and be able to sell a vision of how they will fit into organisations. Equally, headhunters must also be able to ‘buy-into’ the same vision / personal brand as they need to understand how best to place candidates within their extended recruitment networks.
Improving Career Success for Executives: Conclusion
Overall, there are simple ways executives can improve chances of career success for achieving ultimate career aspirations. This is not re-inventing the wheel or going through hours of executive coaching / mentoring, it is often a matter of taking time out to focus and turning ideas into clear actions. Most of the components are there, so it is a matter of bringing everything together into an outline plan with some clearly defined objectives. The most ironic thing is that executives apply strategic approaches in everyday boardroom scenarios, though they often forget to apply a similar approach to themselves when thinking about the ‘bigger picture’ and executing career plans.