How to Correct Top Executive Career Mistakes

January 13, 2017 – Every year micro trends are spotted where commonalities are found during the executive search process. Some of the trends are regional but many are consistent globally. Recently, the executive search division of JMJ Phillip Group assembled a list of the top executive career mistakes. The firm’s global search consultants compiled the list of ‘what not to do’ for executives making a career move in 2017.

“As a firm that specializes in executive searches across the manufacturing, supply chain, and technology industries, we are well tuned into what’s happening in the market,” said Dennis Theodorou, vice president of operations. “With the upturn in the market over the past 12 months, we are seeing more hiring demand, especially for key strategic decision making positions. This has created a shift in the upper levels of manufacturing and industrial companies across the country.”

One of the most interesting, though disturbing, trends among its top five is the tendency for people to back out of jobs at the last minute due to relocation concerns. Mr. Theodorou said this is due to the “abundance of opportunity” throughout the country at the moment. “There isn’t as much of a need to relocate when open positions are available much closer to home,” he noted.

Listed below are the top five mistakes that the JMJ Phillip team compiled for Hunt Scanlon Media. Below each mistake, the firm’s founder and managing director, James Phillip, offers his suggestions on how to avoid making them.

1. Moving Just for Bonus Opportunity

In many ways, 2016 was a good year for the economy. Unemployment numbers were down, and it was typical to see ‘hiring’ signs posted at businesses and companies across the country. That said, strong economies pose their own issues for executive search firms, as senior level candidates can fall into the trap of chasing bonuses or money that is not guaranteed.

On a few occasions last year, JMJ Phillip witnessed executives switch companies, moving from a steady, high-paying position into a new organization, primarily driven by the opportunity of receiving a potential bonus payout. It can be easy, in strong economies, for executives to leverage their skill sets to make ‘jungle-gym’ career moves, not thinking about everyday aspects such as culture fit, job responsibilities, and leadership. Sometimes chasing the money works out. But, when the money isn’t guaranteed, the potential for greener pastures can be a pitfall for executives looking to move.

How to Avoid:

The lure of potential monetary gain is understandable. However, career trajectories have been irreversibly damaged due to greed and the pursuit of potential bonus money. You must be thinking ahead several steps just like you would in a chess game. Yes, you may get more money now but ask yourself, does this job set me up for a big career move for the next job? If the answer is no, you need to rethink your career path.

2. LinkedIn and Resume Timelines Do Not Match

In a fast-paced, technologically-driven world, hiring managers and recruiters are leveraging every available tool to make sure the right candidates are being placed in the right positions. It’s important for executives to ensure that their professional image is consistent across both digital and print platforms, i.e., LinkedIn, resume, social media. Whenever JMJ Phillip search consultants come across a resume that really catches their eye, the first thing they do is hop online, and see if the candidate has a LinkedIn profile.

In addition, sometimes executives switch companies only to find that the new role just isn’t the right fit. Where candidates run into trouble is when there is a discrepancy between their LinkedIn profile and their resume. If a position warrants mentioning on a resume, it is important to mention it on LinkedIn too.


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How to Avoid:

Remaining diligent and up-to-date with digital media is a great way to avoid having a LinkedIn profile and resume that do not match. The best method for unifying your professional brand across all career documents would be to start with the resume. Understanding what is and isn’t on your resume, and then leveraging only what is on the resume for the LinkedIn profile is an easy way to avoid any miscommunication between profiles. If you have to, clean everything off your LinkedIn profile and start from scratch so you leave no ‘hanging chads.’ Remember, whenever you update your resume for distribution, make sure you are also updating your LinkedIn profile as well.

3. Not Being Open to New Industries and Sectors

Executives looking to make the next step in their career can often be pigeonholed based on their experiences and accomplishments. Executives with the skill set and knowledge base to effectively lead divisions or organizations tend to have the ability to translate success into new industries.

One trend JMJ Phillip witnessed last year is some executives’ unwillingness to be exposed to new industries or opportunities. As executive recruiters, the firm is always looking to place the best talent with the best positions, and when executives are unwilling to step outside their comfort zones, despite their analysis that the position is a great fit, they could be limiting their own potential for growth. JMJ Phillip recruiters said that executives who limit their opportunities for growth tend to stagnate their careers, and put a cap on their career earnings potential.

How to Avoid:

The easiest way to avoid this executive mistake is to keep an open mind and research opportunities and industries before declining them. When executive recruiters reach out to candidates, it is always because they think that the individual is a good fit for the position and many companies now are seeking someone with diverse experience. A good example of this is when Ford hired Alan Mulally from Boeing. It is good to remember that recruiters are always looking out for the interests of both parties, as strategic partnerships only work out when the candidate remains in the new position successfully. Transitioning to a new industry or sector may be daunting at first. However, being open to new ideas and thoughts often leads to incredible opportunities to grow professionally.

4. Accepting Counter Offers from Current Employer

Picture this: as an executive, you’ve received an offer from a potential employer that you are excited about but want to bring to the attention of your current employer, in case they want to counter offer. They do, and now you have the question of whether you want to stay or go.

As a rule of thumb, accepting counter offers is generally a bad idea for executives. Not only have you left a bad taste in your present employers’ mouth because you were considering leaving the company, but you may have also burned your bridges with the recruiter working with you and the potential employer. In most cases, once your loyalty as a professional is questioned, it is hard to build the trust of your direct reports and supervisors going forward.

Also, accepting counter offers where you will be compensated a lot more than you previously had been leaves you vulnerable a few months down the road when fellow executives and board members begin thinking about budgets and salaries.

You’re always safer taking the offer from the potential employer, especially if it is competitive, and go ahead with the transition to the new company. You’ll learn about a new organization, see the market from a different perspective, and force yourself to grow.

How to Avoid:

Despite a counter offer’s appearance of financial reward, accepting counter offers from current employers can be a dangerous game. By letting your current employer know you are considering other opportunities breeds disgruntlement, and when an employer needs to come up with more compensation to keep you, thoughts of disloyalty start to arise. The easiest way to avoid this executive career mistake: be completely certain you want to take on the new opportunity before letting your current employer know. That way, if a counter offer is tabled, you’re ready to decline it. Yes, you can take the counteroffer and take the easy route of not having to deal with change and start with a new company but don’t forget, its possible they will already be looking for your replacement. It’s better to be in a position of power and move on your own accord than to be let go and hit the job market unemployed.

5. Backing Out of Relocation, Despite a Perfect Job Opportunity

When you ask anyone working at an executive search firm how they feel about working on retained executive searches versus contingent professional and management recruiting, they will often say, “Executives know the game, they know how to make a career change and it’s often a smooth consulting gig.”

While that is true, JMJ Phillip witnessed something in 2016 that was a bit troubling. Companies often complained about candidates, be it those from a firm or their own internally sourced, backing out in the 25th hour because of relocation. Candidates will often fly out 2-3-4 times only to back out which wastes a lot of peoples’ time. One caveat to keep in mind is that the world is shrinking, and everyone knows everyone.

Executives that don’t want to move need to figure that out early on in their career search, ideally before the first interview and absolutely no later than ‪after the 1st interview. As soon as executive candidates fly out somewhere three or four times only to back out, that reputation of wasting peoples’ time tends to stick.

How to Avoid:

At the executive level, you are relied upon for decisiveness and assertiveness. Unfortunately, when executives back out of commitments at the last hour, word spreads. Not only have you wasted resources and time for a lot of people looking to fill an important position, but you have attached a reputation of unreliability to yourself. The best way to avoid this executive career mistake is to understand all aspects of a new opportunity before accepting an invitation to interview for the position. Talk to your family and make sure everything is in place for a relocation if necessary. Before interviewing for a position that requires relocation, make sure you are 100 percent committed. Even better, sit down and have a one-on-one chat with your family before you commit to the first interview. You may make it to the end of an interview process and find out that the company is not right for you, and no one can blame you for that. But if you’re not sure you want to make a move, you can skip being the epicenter of a lot of wasted time just by saying thanks, but no thanks.

Change is never easy, and it is human nature to fight it. But growth usually comes from doing the hard things, putting yourself in an uncomfortable place where you have to challenge yourself. The next time that perfect opportunity comes along and you’re afraid to move, give it more thought than you once did.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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