Job Search Pointers for SMB Owners and Executive Management – Pt. I

After several years of serving as an interim CFO, COO or CEO to companies going through transitions, I have decided to go to work indefinitely (5 years or more??) for a rapidly growing company with no more than $150 million in revenues, preferably decidedly smaller. To this end, I have listened to a few webinars and spoken to several recruiters and career advisors because I’ve been interested in what they have to say. I don’t always agree with them. (Okay, the career advisor I spoke with through the Wharton Alumni career center was superb and I actually appreciated everything she had to say. Fancy that!) But I don’t think anyone always agrees with everyone, right? These individuals did make some great points which I thought I’d pass on here. Why? Because some of you business owners may decide to sell your business and move into an executive role at another organization. Or, like with builders and contractors after the housing meltdown, you may need to go pitch your skill set for an executive role. Whatever the reason, I thought the information and job search pointers would be relevant to this audience.

It behooves you to use online networking as much as you do in-person networking, if not more. If you are looking to relocate, then online networking and phone calls may be one of the best ways to spend your time. Otherwise, there is no substitute for direct human interaction. To leverage this, according to Peter Wendell of Wendell’s LLC, you need to make sure your online profiles – LinkedIn, Twitter, executive recruiter sites, etc. –  are as complete as possible and are as public as possible. Just like in-person, Peter says, “It’s the depth that matters online.”  In other words, just as meeting a bunch of people and getting their business cards but never following up doesn’t constitute real networking, neither does having an online presence but never getting to know anyone who connects to you. Hence, you should seek out and join discussion forums, chats, list servs, and groups. Engage in these regularly. Offer advice, share valuable information and insights, ask and answer questions. This will help you build relationships.

Stay away from the online or offline job seeking groups. As an executive, according to Peter, “You don’t want to connect with the recruiters. You want to connect with your peers. These are the folks who will hear” about the opportunities. Remember even recruiters use relationships. How many times have you been contacted by a recruiter and asked to recommend someone for a position? Connect with your peers through trade groups, professional associations, and alumni business associations. I have believed this for a while but it was interesting to hear someone from the industry say this.

Why would I think this? Why would Mr. Weddell say this? Because, according to Peter, “Recruiters are not experts” in the high level area that needs to be filled. Except for the few who, like Peter, ran their own businesses or served as COO or CEO of organizations, most recruiters have not had the exposure to what is necessary to run an organization…or a large department in an organization. Therefore they are “captive to the requirements of a hiring manager, Board” or executive committee. The recruiters use a checklist to screen candidates. Only those that typically meet the minimal requirements get referred on. If you did not follow a linear path to a more specialized position (i.e., CTO or CFO) or if you do not have the direct industry experience that’s stated, you likely will be excluded from consideration.