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The Best Job Search Strategy: Job Seek Like a CEO

The Best Job Search Strategy: Job Seek Like a CEO

When you’re desperately looking to leave your current position, there’s a tendency to panic and start putting out resumes, hit the "easy apply" button on LinkedIn a ton, and share with everyone that you’re looking for your next gig.

But is that really the best way to land your next position? Probably not.

If you’re finding yourself urgently trying to find a new job, here’s a new strategy to consider: Job seek like you’re a CEO.

Think about it: What CEO do you know who decides it’s time to find a new job and is out there updating their resume, submitting it to all kinds of jobs, attending random happy hours, or sending a big blast email communicating they’re looking for work?

Right. They’re not. So how are they getting their next gig?

Through strategic networking.

[Related: Executive Presence Isn’t Just for Executives]

CEOs think about who they know in their network who is working on interesting things and they have drinks or coffees with them. They "talk shop" with other CEOs and senior leaders about the common challenges they’re facing, the trends they’re seeing, the new ideas, opportunities, and pain points that have come up for them. They talk about the meat of the work – not their resume.

When you focus your networking on "talking shop" and getting into the substance of the sector or role you’ve been in, you get to demonstrate your strategic thoughts and knowledge. You get to uncover where there might be potential opportunities to lead a new initiative, or address a pain point or roadblock with another person’s team or organization.

CEOs position themselves as senior thought leaders who can advise and consult with others on challenges and opportunities. What does this look like in practice?

It means the questions you ask while talking with others allow you to understand where you might fit in or where there might be an opportunity to address a challenge. Questions like:

  • What’s keeping you up at night?
  • If you had more bandwidth, where would you focus your time?
  • What’s on the horizon for next quarter or year?
  • What’s your biggest pain point right now?
  • I’ve been seeing [trend/challenge/opportunity] recently, are you also?

[Related: Three Common Personal Brand Mistakes and How to Fix Them]

People who network by "talking shop" with others are often able to demonstrate their expertise and abilities in real time and position themselves for opportunities down the road. Here's what this can look like in reality:

  • Jennie’s senior brand marketing experience led her to talk shop with a new venture that was having trouble with how to adjust their marketing given their new branding work. After demonstrating her skills by sharing ideas and making some connections for them, she was hired on to lead the work.
  • James was a huge MLS (Major League Soccer) fan. Over coffee with a marketing team member at MLS, he was able to share ideas for their biggest pain points that led to the MLS person saying to him, “Wow. We’ve been thinking about this for weeks, and you just came up with a great idea in less than 30 minutes.” He’s on their list for when a position they'll be hiring for in the next three months.
  • Rishi’s genuine curiosity about shifting into social impact investing after building up a lot of experience in the financial sector led him to talk with someone running a new social impact investing arm of a large private equity firm. Over lunch they got into the meat around trends and opportunities for this new investing arm and Rishi is about to meet with senior level folks in the firm about opportunities.

These three individuals, just like CEOs, target specific individuals for networking – either folks they know, or cold contacts who they want to "talk shop" with. CEOs don’t show up at in-person or virtual happy hours hoping they randomly connect with interesting people. They’re targeted and strategic in their outreach. Plus, our hybrid virtual world right now further pushes us to target people we want to talk to as the days of randomly bumping into people aren’t as common.

Lastly, senior leaders offer to consult with or be a thought partner to others in their work. They sit on boards, they speak at roundtables and events which allow them to demonstrate their knowledge, and they offer their counsel to others. Sometimes "putting yourself out there" isn’t actually about putting your resume out there, but putting offers out there to guide, support, advise, and consult. This is how senior leaders find out about other opportunities and meet others in places to bring them on.

Want to start job seeking like a CEO?

  1. Shift your networking from random people to targeted folks who you can "talk shop" with.
  2. Prepare to show your knowledge of the work by getting into the meat of what people are working on. Uncover their pain points and what they’re excited about.
  3. Make offers to consult with and/or be a thought partner for them in their work, looking for opportunities to add value.

[Related: An Entrepreneurial Mindset is Essential for Leaders]

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Emily Lamia has been helping people grow and develop in their careers for over a decade. In 2015, she founded Pivot Journeys to create experiences to help individuals navigate their next career move and find meaningful work.


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