Companies block recruiter calls and emails to prevent headhunters from poaching talent. The puppetmaster impulse is understandable. Most enterprises invest a small fortune to recruit, train, and onboard senior executives and technologists. In fact, it may cost a company in excess of $100-thousand in search firm fees just to get a senior executive in the door. Moreover, company fortunes are made by that talent. The very best CEOs spot the blue sky, set the strategy, and lead companies to massive multi-billion dollar valuations. Chief Revenue Officers capture millions in sales. Chief Technology Officers and Chief Architects deliver technologies and devices that create markets where none existed before. That’s why we call it human capital. Attempting to protect one’s investment seems a reasonable thing to do. In a Machiavellian eat-or-be-eaten business world, losing a key executive or genius technologist to a competitor can do serious damage to a company’s bottom line. In some circumstances, it can take a company down. So, it is no wonder companies try to hang on as long as possible to the best talent that they have.
Only thing is employers don’t own you: they can’t.
One way companies try to own top executives and engineers is by cutting off recruiter access. They block recruiter calls. They instruct switchboard operators to heavily screen and refuse to forward calls to a prospective candidate’s extension. Some companies monitor emails and set up filters to keep recruiter email from landing in executive inboxes. In fact, some corporations go to great lengths to wall off every mode of communication with their employees. While recruiters have ways of reaching out through other means to ensure discretion — in fact, we prefer it — sometimes that doesn’t work. Prospective candidates don’t always check their social media inboxes. They may ignore texts from people they don’t know. Cell phone voice mail may be turned off or full. So if those target candidates also have employers who block recruiter calls and emails, those people are out of luck. The better opportunity passes them by.
Cutting off communications is what cults and abusive partners do.
After cutting off communications, the next thing controlling companies do is keep talent hidden under a bushel. Some refuse to feature executives on their website, in press releases, or otherwise, make them discoverable on the Internet. Others don’t give leaders opportunities to speak at conferences or raise their profiles among their peers. They don’t want them getting credit or public acclaim for all their accomplishments for fear of attracting a swarm of recruiters to all that honey. The problem with companies that attempt to control the destiny of their top talent is they never asked for your permission. You never opted in. They do this while at the same time they claim to want the best for you because you’re a member of the company “family”. They dazzle you with corporate events and shiny promises. Controlling employers move like Jagger but don’t be fooled. It is all designed to keep you under their thumb.
The problem with employers that attempt to control your destiny is they never asked for your permission. You never opted in. At the same time, they claim to want the best for you. They say you’re a member of the company “family”. They dazzle you with corporate events and shiny promises. Controlling employers move like Jagger but don’t be fooled. It is all designed to keep you under their thumb.
You are not your company’s possession: you are not chattel.
While building a moat around your talent is common, I would argue the practice treats employees as if they were possessions that the companies don’t want to have stolen. Yet, senior executives and brilliant technologists are not property. They are people. At last check, one cannot own another human. That is why companies need to stop treating their most gifted workers like chattel. You wouldn’t want a loved one or friend to lose a shot at a better job just because their employer made him or her impossible to reach. You wouldn’t want a company to do that to you. How is it okay to turn around and do it to everyone that works for you?
Blocking recruiters is a bad idea. It does real harm.
When a company prevents someone from getting a better job elsewhere, it is actively doing harm to that person. First, there’s the financial harm that has life-long implications. That individual, in all likelihood, will make less in every job from that point forward. Since most people make more money when they join a new employer, you are suppressing that person’s wages into perpetuity. The cost in reduced income adds up. So maybe that worker puts off buying their dream home for half a decade or more. They steer their kids to the local community college because that’s all they can afford. They don’t save for a rainy day or retirement. Maybe they can’t afford certain life-sustaining medications. Employers need to think about the long-term impact that their recruiter-blocking practices are having.
You disempower diverse talent.
By treating their top employees like chattel, suppressing their wages, and blocking career advancement, they are disempowering them. So companies who claim to encourage the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities are proving themselves either hypocritical, insincere, or both when they prevent their best workers from grasping hold of the brass ring. When you consider the impact on women, particularly those in technology, the practice could be viewed as a form of unconscious gender bias.
When you consider the impact on underrepresented minorities — Black/African-American and Latino/Hispanic leaders — blocking advancement comes off as white privilege. The primarily white and male leadership has not paused long enough to consider the financial damage controlling access to better opportunities does. That harm is not to be underestimated. Frequently, the opportunities that I represent are once-in-a-lifetime, career-making, wealth-creating roles. I say that in all seriousness. There are times when compensation is in the millions and where the equity compensation holds the potential to make the executive a billionaire — as in three commas. Yes, in the technology industry in which we specialize, tres commas is actually a thing.
The same companies that block recruitment of their employees often have hoards of talent acquisition professionals actively poaching from competitors, partners, and even clients. That’s because companies have to recruit talent to grow. With all that recruiter outreach, gifted executives and engineers soon realize that they’re in demand and many leverage their market value to earn what they are worth. Poaching candidates from a competitor is common practice — a longstanding game of cat and mouse. Target companies hide the mice as a defensive move. To win, poaching companies simply offer more cheese.
I recruit top-performing executives and technologists into pretty extraordinary opportunities because clients require leaders of that caliber. The candidates are considered the best-of-the-best because they earned it. Most got there by working harder and longer than their peers — clocking more hours the same way Michael Jordan put in more time practicing. So from where I sit, it just isn’t fair or right to punish deserving leaders by holding them back. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to a loved one, so why actively fend off approaches by recruiters in an effort that may very well be crushing dreams.
If you build it, they will stay.
The simple truth is if you are an employer-of-choice that recruits the right executives and technologists and treats them well, for the most part, they will stay. They stick around not simply for the job, but for the work environment, the corporate culture, the scope of the role, and the opportunities to thrive. They stay because they have developed a sense of community with co-workers, some of whom now are friends. In fact, if you recruit the right people and treat your team well they will stick with you through the tough times. It doesn’t matter what kinds of opportunities are dangled in front of them. They stay put. So becoming Big Brother by monitoring and blocking outreach to your team is focusing on the wrong thing. You need to focus on the things that keep your best people engaged.
When a leader leaves, it is an opportunity.
The simple truth is if an executive does leave, chances are he or she was halfway out the door already. Exiting leaders whose hearts are no longer in their work often invest less and effort in serving their current company as they focus on the shiny objects at prospective next employers. Their productivity suffers. That stresses out other team members. So enabling less committed leaders to leave may be a strategy worth considering. It sets up an opportunity to replace an underperforming executive with a leader who will be more successful in the role.
Big Brother is a bad idea. Pay it forward instead.
So what’s a company to do? Stop playing Big Brother by blocking calls and monitoring email. It is wasted effort focused on the wrong things to retain talent and makes you look bad. Make sure you are treating your talent right. Make sure you’re paying your people what they are worth, but also understand that great talent thrives on opportunities to grow and learn, to lead, and to building relationships and community with team members. Make sure you are growing a bench of succession talent. And if one of your best people tells you they are leaving for an amazing opportunity at another company, be happy for that person. Congratulate them. Foster goodwill. Life is far to short. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a path to doing business together or working again. Of course, there may be a time it will give a competitor an advantage. But companies are stronger when they foster a culture of trust and community. If you are in it for the long play, it pays to take the high road. So do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There’s a reason the golden rule is golden. Paying it forward has its rewards.
Of course, I wonder what you think and what you’ve observed in your own career and company.
Whenever I receive a LinkedIn Skill Endorsement, I get a little thrill that someone has recognized my expertise. But when click to review the LinkedIn profile of the endorser, I am puzzled. Clearly, the person is in my network as a 1st-degree connection, so I likely met that person at a conference or other event. However, I wonder how he could possibly vouch for my work when I don’t believe I have ever worked with that individual. Perhaps the endorser heard good things from mutual colleagues who have worked with me. Perhaps I”m flippin’ famous out there. However, as much as I would like to believe that, I suspect it is not the case. Maybe the reason that near strangers endorse my skills is to set up an implied quid pro quo as in I’ll endorse your skills if you endorse mine. But I also don’t think that is what is happening here. When you get right down to it, I suspect that the endorser simply wants to engage my interest for networking or recruiting purposes. In other words, the vast majority of my LinkedIn Skill Endorsements have been given by LinkedIn members who have never witnessed my work or any of the skills they have chosen to endorse. Of course, I could be an outlier. So please let me know what you have observed.
The Purpose of Skills Endorsements
Here is the way LinkedIn Skill Endorsements are supposed to work. First, a LinkedIn user lists up to 50 skills on their profile. Next, a 1st-degree connection of that user endorses one of that persn’s skills. When that happens, LinkedIn contends the skill is “validated”, which reinforces their “weighting” of what skill endorsements rise to the top of the user’s list of skills.
Skills endorsements are treated by LinkedIn as validations of the abilities they endorse. From where I sit, it is a false premise since most of the endorsements come from people who know little, if anything, about the quality of my work. Those relatively bogus endorsements are then used algorithmically to tell LinkedIn members which of my skills are the strongest. From what I’m able to gather, skills with the most endorsements rise to the top. Like the ingredients list on a food label, the skills are sorted from the most to the least.
Question: why does LinkedIn cap the number of endorsements at 99+? Is it that I’ve received too many to seem legit? (I honestly don’t know the answer. Let me know if you do.
LinkedIn explains that the purpose of LinkedIn Skill Endorsements is to help “recognize and discover your 1st-degree connections’ skills with one click, They’re also a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network.” True, they are simple. But because they are, for the most part, untrue, are they the most effective way? Do you really want to begin a relationship by demonstrating you are comfortable being dishonest?
Skill endorsers are not the problem . . .
Though often my LinkedIn skill endorser is technically fudging the facts, I do not blame the messenger. I see the bogus endorsement more as a shout out from the virtual wilderness as in, “Is anybody out there?” And with so much online that is incredibly destructive and bullying, I feel a sense of gratitude that there are people out there that want to give me “put ups” rather than putting me down. So I am not complaining about those who have endorsed my skills. Not in the least. Rather, I am questioning the frame, the LinkedIn Skill Endorsements themselves.
. . . endorsements are.
Qualitatively, skill endorsements would not hold up under the least bit of scrutiny. They are not a reliable indicator or measure of excellence. They are more a nicety designed to help us make friends on LinkedIn. I get that. Besides, what would we do instead? A “Can we please be friends?” button would come off as a little too needy. A “Let’s network” button might do the trick, but it demands a reply. I guess that’s the beauty of Skill Endorsements. You have LinkedIn members out there spreading good will as an entré to forging a real relationship. Let me do you a favor by saying you’re really great at something though I don’t really know you and haven’t a clue whether you’re really great at that something.
Endorse Me If You Wish: But Shared Secrets Are Better
So if you want to befriend me on LinkedIn, you can endorse me as a kind of shorthand that you are a good person who does good things. However, I find it far more interesting to cut the B.S. and have heart-to-hearts with people I trust who share similar passions and interests. At the end of the day, what we really want in this world, even at work, is a safe place to be our authentic selves. In fact, you can “Google” it, with a capital “G”. In research code named Project Aristotle, Google studied what makes top performing teams. Yet for the longest time, Google couldn’t quite figure it out because the best teams all seemed so very different. Then finally, one day, the secret revealed itself. The leader of one group spontaneously shared with his team that he was battling stage 4 cancer. With that, other team members shared their struggles. Eventually, their discussion returned to work and by then, the team dynamic had shifted, enabling it to excel. Google realized that “the behaviors that create psychological safety — conversational turn-taking and empathy — are part of the same unwritten rules we often turn to, as individuals, when we need to establish a bond.”
What To Do Instead
So what’s a LinkedIn member to do if Skill Endorsements are not the best way to network? I’ve written about how to polish your LinkedIn profile to optimize networking on LinkedIn. That is essential. Without a polished profile, everything else you do on LinkedIn will fall short. That’s because the moment you say or do something interesting, members will check out your profile. So, while you can spend time endorsing the skills of virtual strangers, I’d recommend taking a more direct route. Focus on a handful of people you’d like to get to know. Do them a solid. Share a meaningful insight. Find a way to break through this virtual medium to get real. It isn’t easy, but it will yield greater results. I often follow people I want to get to know here and on Twitter. I read their blogs. I do that to get to know them. I then formulate an approach. Commenting on a someone’s blog often is a great way to open the door if what you say is halfway intelligent. People write with the intent of being read. Your comment fulfills that basic human desire and forges an instant bond over a shared interest. But for that method to work, you have to be real. That is something of an art in a virtual environment where truthiness in LInkedIn Skills Endorsements is accepted practice.
Senior executives are often advised to cultivate a relationship with a leading retained executive recruiter as a way to get ahead. However, that is not an easy thing to do. Let’s say you’ve done all that a good executive should do. You’ve polished your resume to a high shine and have built out your social media profile on LinkedIn. You’ve demonstrated just how witty you are in tweets on Twitter. You’ve served as featured speaker at a leading conference or two to raise your profile. Yet for some inexplicable reason, retained recruiters aren’t the least bit interested. You can’t get them to return your calls or reply to your emails. The few times you manage to get a retained recruiter on the phone, you don’t sense any real connection. The goal of forging a meaningful relationship with a top retained recruiter remains frustratingly elusive.
Finding your calling is worth the effort, say the experts. According to a recent study published in Psychological Science, it can help you live longer. Lead researcher Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada says the research has clear implications for promoting positive aging and adult development.
Though I didn’t fully understand why until recently, my work has always been a calling — first as a journalist and then later as an executive recruiter. I have always felt compelled to do what I do.
As a teenager, I was inextricably drawn to television news. I knew I didn’t want to get stuck working in the same office every day. I longed for the kind of travel and adventure detailed in CBS correspondent Eric Severeid’s book Not So Wild a Dream. I wanted to witness history in the making first hand.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, there was another deeper motivation that drove me.
Shortly after starting work as a reporter at KTVI-TV in St. Louis, I started reporting on nursing home fraud. I met confused and frail elderly victims whose life savings had been stolen by nursing homes owned by the mob as in the Mafia. While covering congressional hearings on organized crime, I met a newspaper reporter who introduced me to investigative journalism — uncovering and reporting on closely held and difficult to obtain information. It was then I realized this form of reporting held the power to right wrongs and, actually, tosavelives.
And still I didn’t fully understand what drew me to reporting.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered the wonders of computer-assisted journalism. It could prove wrongdoing that had previously been impossible to nail down. For some twenty years, I broke award-winning stories that made a difference.
I did it by uncovering secrets.
Then I left reporting to found an executive search firm, a new career that leveraged all my investigative skills. I found searching for the perfect candidate incredibly rewarding.
All along the way, my work has been a calling. It has resonated deep within me like I was meant to do this. Then one day, I realized why.
I am an adult adoptee.
My adoption records are sealed by the court in California.
While I was growing up — though it was natural for a child to wonder — I never knew who my birth parents were. I never knew the story of how I came to be, what my birth was like, or why I was given up for adoption. My birth certificate is amended. Though it is not true, it lists my adoptive parents as the ones that gave birth to me.
In my early twenties, I spent 2 years searching for my birth parents and I found them. It was a good thing. Moreover, I believe it essential for health reasons to update one’s familial medical history.
But that experience explains why uncovering secrets and searching for people has been so incredibly rewarding as a journalist and as an executive recruiter.
I was meant to do this.
In my personal life, I am involved in the adoption reform movement: we are the only class of Americans denied our original birth certificates, access to our own heritage, and to current medical histories.
For the reasons above, my work has been a calling. What has your work experience been like? How does it speak to who you are?
Let’s face it: This has been a long, slow, jobless economic recovery. We have noticed it in the executive search and recruiting industry. Ever since America’s economic downturn reached its nadir, economists — the optimistic ones, anyway — have touted each year as THE ONE that the job market would bounce back. Yet while Wall Street rebounded, Main Street suffered. To date, we have witnessed a strange dichotomy: a recovery desperately in need of decent jobs. But what if 2015 is that year? Could be. Economists are feeling good about this one, and here are three reasons why.
3 Reasons for Economic Optimism in 2015
Unemployment is Down. Way Down.
We got a good jump on an upturn last year.
There are some caveats (stagnant pay, for example) but 2014 brought us a sizable uptick in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and a serious drop in the nation’s unemployment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart below on the U.S. Unemployment rate from 2007 to today, we’re nearly back to where we were before the Great Recession began.
Oil Prices are Down. Way Down.
Oil prices are down, and that’s a good thing. Every time consumers fill ‘er up at the gas station, they’re reminded the economy is better. They have ten or twenty extra dollars in savings per tank to show for it. GasBuddy.com reveals Gas Prices are nearly half what they were just a year or two ago.B
Households and businesses alike are benefiting from cheaper gas. More expendable income means more spending.
Housing starts are up.
Know what houses have to do with jobs? A lot. When the economy grows, people buy homes. When people buy new homes, they create construction jobs. It’s a strong indicator.
Bottom line: If the economy really is healing, companies are hiring. And if companies are hiring, we are helping them find top talent, working our executive recruiting magic. It’s a good thing all around, and we’re as optimistic as the economists.
Listed below is a Top 20 “hot list” of the things I look for in the LinkedIn profiles of senior executives and technologists that I recruit. And I am not alone. Over more than a decade of recruiting for the most powerful companies in technology and media, colleagues in retained search and in corporate recruiting have told me they look for many of the same details. In fact, one Fortune 100 client counted among the “Best Companies to Work for” uses the same criteria as a hard filter to separate the contenders from those who are not.
The Quest for Top Talent
While every industry has its high-profile VIPs, the best and brightest are not so easy to find. Often, the usual suspects turn out to be empty suits or executives that have lost their mojo. That’s where I come in. A former investigative-journalist-turned-investigative-recruiter, I look for clues to locate and calibrate top talent. In doing so, I seek off-radar luminaries and up-and-coming stars who may not be as adept at self-promotion. Frequently, gifted technologists become so engrossed in inventing the Next Big Thing that they operate in perpetual stealth mode.
However, common sense would suggest if you want to get ahead, it shouldn’t require detective work to discover you. If you have worked hard to become the best, it makes little sense to undermine your own success with a neglected and outdated LinkedIn profile. Worse, you can do real harm to your chances of advancement with a LinkedIn profile that is so haphazardly slapped together that it is riddled with typographical errors and topped off with a photo that more resembles a Nick Nolte mug shot.
Conversely, even if your LinkedIn profile is pretty polished and complete, you should double-check to make sure you haven’t left out something important. For instance, you may not think your high GPA and academic honors are worth mentioning on LinkedIn — in fact, you may find it a tad obnoxious to overtly tout achievements in so public a place. However, your ideal next employer may quietly exclude you from consideration if you fail to list those very
achievements in on LinkedIn.
Three Kinds of Critical Information to Include
Our Top 20 Things into three main categories of LinkedIn data:
Easy ways to find you and reach you
Sufficient and current career detail
Evidence that suggests you are a top performer
So grab a cup of coffee, pull up your LinkedIn profile, and then step through the punch list below to see if there is anything you’ve overlooked and then, if needed, pop in a detail or two.. It takes but a minute, but the effect is lasting. It functions as your virtual publicist and agent round-the-clock. Moreover, the benefit extends beyond impressing executive search consultants and prospective employers. It raises your profile and stature in your current role — so that good things come your way.
Top 20 Things Headhunters Want to See in Your LinkedIn Profile
A public profile so we can find you
A polished profile photo
Evidence you like to network: OpenLink Network or 100+ connections
Ways to reach you: shared phone, email, social links with 1st connections
Summary that includes corporate biography and specialties
Up-to-date title, employer, and location.
Previous jobs since graduation with full job titles
Month and year for job start and end dates
Descriptions detailing job responsibilities and accomplishments
Education detail of college and degree obtained
Evidence of academic achievement, such as high GPA or graduating with honors
Extracurricular leadership roles, such as intramural sports, fraternity, or sorority
Video, such as a keynote address, that give us a sense of how you “present”
Honors and awards that set you apart as a top performer
Patents that created valuable intellectual property for your employer
Volunteer work or other giving back that speaks to your character
A consistent track record of success with pattern of increasingly senior titles and greater responsibility with each successive job
Recommendations from former direct superiors that speak to the quality of your work
A network filled with respected colleagues, luminaries, and VIPs
A question for the reader: What would and would not be on your top 20 list of must-haves for LinkedIn profiles?
Most everyone knows it is easier to get a job when you have a job. Employers are inclined to suspect that there may be something wrong with an executive who has been downsized. The reason? Companies often use downsizing as a way to rid themselves of underperforming employees. However, while it has always been hard for someone who is unemployed to get a new job, it has never been harder than it is today. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow recently noted that people who are unemployed are staying unemployed for an average of 40 weeks — the highest level ever since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track.
Former Chief Economist and Economic Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden Jared Bernstein recently published a chart on his blog that breaks unemployment into three groups. There’s the recently downsized, the new entrants to the job market, and then there’s everyone else mired in continued unemployment.
As leadership in Washington grapples with job stimulus programs, the biggest problem that needs solving is that of not being able to get a job unless you have a job — a classic catch-22. We at The Good Search and at our recruiting research division Intellerati regularly hear from strong candidates who through a perfect storm of event have found themselves unemployed longer than they — or anyone really — thought possible. Author Joseph Heller first coined the term in an historical novel by the same name. His satire on bureaucratic think and circular logic resonated so deeply that “catch-22” has since come to mean any “no-win situation”. Until we solve the catch-22 of persistent unemployment, nobody wins. Our recovery will remain elusive as Major Major’s sanity.
What does it take to get hired these days? Try a website, a video, a mustache, and no pants. A brilliant marketing campaign has been waged by a jobseeker Matthew Epstein targeting Google as his next employer. He has set up a website that speaks to Google and Google alone. To leave no doubt as to the purpose of his website, you can find it at the web address http://googlepleasehire.me/
Matthews effort has “gone viral”. In the Internet world, that’s not an easy thing to do and that fact certainly qualifies him for further scrutiny. He’s proven he can write and demonstrates a wry sense of humor along the lines of what you’d see on The Office or, dare I say, 30 Rock. Moreover, it takes courage to apply for a job dans pans. Courage, I tell you. Moreover, he brings it all home by allowing us to meet the the real Matthew at the video’s end. Matthew’s “grand gesture” is a tried and true device used by industry icons that include Donny Deutsch, one of the most successful CEOs in advertising history. Donny is reported to have sent car parts to the home of the Pontiac rep to land an account with Tri-State Pontiac dealers. He sent a fender with a note that read, “We’ll cover your rear end.” Donny won the account, doubling its size. Matthew, the savvy marketer that he is proving himself to be, has set up a blog where we can track his progress. His latest post: Matthew has a second phone interview with Google this Friday.
If you are a candidate looking for your next opportunity or know someone who is, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a lesson in the power of the executive makeover. Steve Corell portrays a man who has gotten so comfortable in his marriage that he has stopped trying, much in the same way some executives do later on in their careers. He meets Ryan Gosling who is, in every sense of the word, a “player”.
Boomers are competing with the Ryan Goslings of the work force. It may sound hash, but as a television-journalist-turned-recruiter, I am painfully aware of the power of first impressions. In television, there are whole armies of people that help polish talent to such an high-buff shine that it is as if you are staring into the sun: nutritionists, fitness trainers, hair stylists, colorists, make-up artists, fashion stylists, alterations tailors, dermatologists, cosmetic dentists, plastic surgeons, photographers, lighting pros, photo shopping air-brushers, publicists, and, if you’re lonely, an entourage. One minute, you’re an average Joe or Jill fading into the woodwork. The next minute — cue music — you are making an entrance. Of course, you then have to live up to the promise of all that, but that’s a problem every candidate should have.
However, far too often, gifted executives get overlooked because they haven’t paid enough attention to how they “present”. In the world of executive search, we talk about whether a candidate “presents well”. Tragically, whenever there are layoffs, boomers are among the first to go and they are among the last to be hired back because, well, they often look so old. I’m not talking actual age, but rather a state of body and mind. We can’t pull all nighters like we used to. Our bodies don’t bounce back like they did before. Suddenly, we really do have to start taking care of ourselves. So our habits need to change at a time when we’re old dogs contemplating new tricks.
As a culture, we have grown very sophisticated in our sense of style. In earlier years, young girls looked to their mothers for fashion cues. Now, according to new research reported in the Atlantic Monthly that’s coming out in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, girls look to celebrities, and mothers, in turn, look to their daughters for guidance on style. Celebrity style is now the standard, from head to toe.
While baby boomers are often really good at what they do, frequently they stop trying in other ways. They’re not as hungry as they used to be and most of them stopped dating long ago. So they rarely worry about looking hot or keeping up with the latest fashion trends and coolest technologies. On top of that, physical aging definitely exerts a downward drag on efforts to profile as a player. Time is not our friend. That is why most senior executives need to de-emphasize the “senior”: increasingly they’re up against the Ryan Goslings of the business world.
The good news is that boomers now have the secret to remain as young as nature will allow: simply exercise, big time. The book Younger Next Year can serve as your guide. In addition, it helps to bring in expert advice. The Good Search makes it a practice to refer senior executives to a “dream team” of image experts for a simple refresh to update your look. In the end, an executive makeover for jobseekers isn’t about making you into someone you’re not. It’s about making you all that you can be.
Within each of us, in the collective unconscious, there lies a hero — an archetype that Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed lays dormant until called to action. Studying world mythology, Joseph Campbell built upon Jung’s work, discovering that no matter what the myth, a hero’s journey remains the same. All heroes must leave what is familiar, venture forth, do battle, and then return, forever changed, with new talents and gifts to share. For those of us in executive search, that means we deal with something far more important than recruiting metrics and candidate tracking systems: with each and every recruiting engagement, we bear witness to the hero’s journey.
The classic hero’s journey begins with a call to action. For executive search, this would be the point at which a candidate is first given notice that everything is going to change. That step is often followed by a refusal of the call. A candidate may not be ready to make a move out of fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or a sense of duty or obligation. Once the hero has committed to the quest, a magical guide or helper appears. The most gifted recruiters and executive search consultants naturally assume that role, helping usher candidates across the threshold to enter the world of the unknown.
Executive search done well is inspired. We are participants in a spiritual quest that involves forces far greater than any one of us, including Jung’s collective unconscious and Campbell’s monomyth. Each and every day, let us remember the hero’s journey.