Planning a career move: Be ready to catch the wave!

Jodie Charlop

by Jodie Charlop 82Ox 85C
Executive Career Coach, EAA
July 2010

Many professionals would love to be on the educational calendar. After all, summertime conjures up images of slowing down, taking much needed R&R, hitting the beach, and barbecue gatherings. But don’t let summertime slow you down if you want to make a strategic career move. In fact, given some market indicators, now is a critical time to put some sizzle into your proactive networking.

Over the past two years, layoffs have pushed millions of workers into the marketplace nationwide. Job offers have slowed, and even clients who are interviewing have waited more than four months to receive an offer. The average mid-level job seeker can easily find that a search takes seven to nine months under the best of circumstances. A search for senior-level executives unprepared to make a career move can easily take a year or more.

But the job market is showing some signs of improvement.


As the job market shows some signs of improvement, are you in the market now having consistent, proactive conversation or are you on beach waiting until it fully recovers? If it’s the latter, you may miss the wave.

In coaching clients these past two years, one prominent theme has emerged. Many professionals are tasked with doing more with less. It’s not uncommon for a client to be promoted and straddle two positions while the backfilling of positions is put on hold quarter after quarter. Many professionals in our coaching program are already leveraging conversations about future openings in August, September, and October. Smart talent managers and business professionals get people on their radar long before the openings are approved so that, when the door opens, hiring managers ready for relief will move very quickly.

For example, one New York alumna has been proactively networking in financial services for nearly seven months. This June, she received four offers within two weeks from firms like Deutsche Bank and CitiGroup, as well as two boutique financial organizations. Few of these jobs were posted externally or for more than a few days.

Her opportunities to interview came from earlier direct contacts at the firms with which she had networked, or from colleagues looking out on her behalf for opportunities in their firms. She was well-networked before the jobs became public knowledge. Another alumnus in investment banking began proactive networking two months ago and already has interviewed with multiple firms. Openings came from direct relationships with recruiters—not external job postings.

Many professionals watch the news and assume it’s still not a good time to start a search. The fact is, if you have hunkered down these past two years and need to make a strategic career growth move, now is the best time to start having conversations. Proactive networking with peers and colleagues is critical to making a move on your own terms. Are you prepared to start socializing and conversing around a potential next opportunity? Can you successfully answer these fundamental questions?

1. Set the stage—where have you been? In five to seven minutes, can you communicate a thoughtful and relevant overview of your career history? Can I easily “get” where you have been and how that clearly links to where you want to go?

2. Why the change? Can you communicate the motivation for your change? Is it a need for additional growth, changes in the organization, a new skill you would like to take forward, or something else? Can you present a confident, positive, and authentic message that makes you attractive to a hiring manager?

3. What are you looking for? To quote networking guru Molly Wendell, “specific is terrific.” If people don’t know what you are looking for, it’s hard to refer you to specific opportunities. Are you clear about the areas or types of opportunities you are focused on for your next move?

4. What are your greatest skills and contributions? Whether you are entry level or a seasoned pro, if you don’t know why you are great and how you drive value, get a coach or mentor. To be competitive, you need to know and be able to articulate your gifts. And everyone has relevant skills. More often, they don’t have the skill of articulating their skills.

5. What leadership, management, and interpersonal skills do you bring that will be valuable to an organization? Many organizations and savvy hiring managers look beyond technical knowledge and methodology. If you have exceptional interpersonal skills and managerial acumen, put it forward. Leadership is a critical skill and companies put millions into developing leaders. Be ready to show what you’ve got.

6. What do you hope to learn from your networking conversation? You reached out to a colleague, a networking contact or a specific organization. What do you want to learn that will help you refine your search and explore other potential connections? Make it more than about the job—otherwise, it’s a dead-end conversation.

7. How can you help each other? Ask for input and feedback on your plans. If professionals take time to meet with you, get their advice and guidance. People want to give back, given it’s unlikely they will have a job at that exact moment. Help them feel valuable by allowing them to share their advice, knowledge, and expertise. Be gracious and appreciative.

In coaching, our goal is to help alumni create their best future. Enjoy your summer. But grab your surfboard and be prepared to ride the wave. Otherwise, you may be sitting on the beach and miss the hiring wave that is on the horizon.

If you need to brush up on your confidence or skills to start socializing for your next move, take advantage of your complimentary coaching session.

The EAA’s Executive Career Coach Jodie Charlop 82Ox 85C, founder and chief coaching officer for Potential Matters, specializes in working with individuals and organizations that want to achieve higher levels of personal and professional results in their business, careers, or lives.