Why Executives Need Career Transition Support, Even in a Hot Job Market

Outgoing executives take longer to find a new job than the average professional, says a new report by Kensington International. Top leaders need a helping hand to overcome the emotional, technical and motivational challenges that can hold them back.

March 14, 2019 – Even in a strong economy, executives face many challenges when searching for a new position equal to their talents. A new report by John Myers, founder and managing director of Kensington International, concludes that in a hot job market, business leaders might question whether they need to provide transition support for their outgoing executives and if so, how much.

Unemployment is down, they say. Companies are clamoring for good talent. Surely, they will find something quickly.

But when it comes to executives, that’s not necessarily the case. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average unemployment duration is 21 weeks. “As an employee climbs the career ladder, it takes them even longer to find a position on par with their level and skill,” said Mr. Myers. “For many executives, it is not unusual for their search to last for longer than a year.”

The Kensington and Career Partners International report found that executives required 50 to 60 percent more time to land a new position than the average professional this past year. “Regardless of job market conditions, a transition can be difficult, and even the most accomplished executives need support,” said Mr. Myers. “Many are not prepared for the emotional challenges of dealing with a job loss, the technical difficulties of conducting a job search at their level, and the motivational struggle of sustaining an extended search.”

“The average time for a senior executive to land a comparable position is nine to 12 months,” said Margaret-Ann Cole of Crenshaw Associates. “Typically, when a senior exec is in transition they’ve come through a difficult situation. They need time to absorb the reality of where they are and where they want to go next. They have to have strong messaging about why they are leaving their current role and what they want to do next. Sometimes they are too close to the situation and need to take a breather and analyze what they truly want to do next.”

This takes time. “Executives who are used to taking action and making quick decisions have to get used to slowing down in order to speed up their search,” said Ms. Cole. “Once they are ready to engage they’ve probably spent six to eight weeks and then that’s when the real search begins in earnest.”

Related: 10 Tips for Networking with an Executive Recruiter

“A successful career transition strategy for senior executives needs to be properly planned and executed,” said Anthony Harling, co-founder and chief commercial officer of U.K.-based Not Actively Looking. “That’s where the career coach can provide vital support. He or she can help the executive to map out a plan of action that goes way beyond calling a few headhunters.”

“Few people understand the emotional strain involved in managing a career transition,” he said. “I’ve seen many very capable people really struggle with this critical stage in their lives. It may involve a radical change in direction that few are ready to embrace.”

Expert Advice Relieves the Pressure of an Executive-Level Job Search

As one of Chicago’s most experienced senior executive coaches, Mr. Myers is a recognized expert in the design and delivery of executive assessments, coaching and team development programs. He offers this advice on what executives need in today’s hot but very competitive job market:

  • Help to navigate the emotional challenges during a transition. “Executives often underestimate the emotional challenges associated with being in a transition,” said Mr. Myers. “It is a foreign place for them to be, a place where they are not in control and often lack the tools and expertise to be successful.”

What Every Employer Needs to Know About Employees in Transition

The people that leave your organization are as important as the ones coming in. And how you handle their transition can dramatically impact your reputation as an employer. Departing employees are your brand ambassadors – and they can affect every stage of your company’s talent lifecycle, from retention and productivity to recruiting and everything in between.But not every organization gets employee transition right.

Some neglect it entirely, while most – more than 60% according to the latest figures from contemporary career transition services specialist RiseSmart – fail to offer any transitioning services to professional, manager and entry-level employees. Why not turn that figure upside down and set up departing employees for success. Discover the tools your organization must provide to employees after a layoff. As people leave, there are just as many things to do as the day you welcomed them in. Here are some fresh ways to get started in a brand new report just released by RiseSmart. Get it Now!


  • A customized marketing plan and social media strategy to market their unique value proposition. “This is not your father’s job market and lots has changed in terms of how to find the best opportunities,” Mr. Myers said. “Executives need to have a customized and targeted marketing plan and pay close attention to their branding and social media presence.”

Related: 4 Hiring Strategies When Talent Markets are Tight

  • A strategy for exploring alternative career options, such as a board opportunity, entrepreneurship, consulting and/or retirement. “Executives have a tendency to be too general in their messaging,” said Mr. Myers. “They are better served to be specific with how their skills and experiences fit from a position level, function and industry perspective. Once their message is focused, additional interests such as board opportunities, entrepreneurship, consulting, retirement or more flexible work arrangements can be explored.”
  • Introductions to key connections. “Networking to get introductions to key connections is critical to the success of an executive transition,” Mr. Myers explained. “We estimate that 90 percent of all executive-level opportunities are discovered through networking and getting on the radar of executive search firms.”
  • Strategies to negotiate their next package. “The best strategy I know of in negotiating the best possible executive compensation package is to be willing to walk away from the table.”

A Smooth Transition

Mr. Myers also said that a lack of guidance and support could prove detrimental to an executive’s morale and their employer brand. “Give them the support they need to move on in their careers and executives are more likely to find a new role quicker and speak more positively about their time spent with your company,” he said. “If you are deciding whether to provide executive transition services, consider that it can be just as stressful and challenging to find a new role in a hot market.”

Related: With Hiring in Full Swing, Job Seekers Remain in Control

“Sure, there may be more opportunities in an expanding economy, but the competition is tight, and the process of finding the right opportunity can be complicated,” Mr. Myers said. “Having an experienced executive career coach by their side is just the partner your executive needs and a smart investment in strengthening your employer brand.”

Coaching Veteran Weighs In

Russell Riendeau, senior partner at New Frontier Search Company, said that if need be it is important for transitioned executives to articulate their shortcomings during their interview with a potential employer. Mr. Riendeau, who has been in search industry for 34 years, offered an example of how an executive who was recently let go might address his or her issues: ‘While I believe I was doing a great job at my former company, I have since learned there are some areas in my professional development training that I let lapse. No excuses — my fault. And here is a list of some examples of what those areas of improvement are needed, as well as a list of the current training/ books/ courses/ coaching/ videos/ webinars/ seminars I have been working on over the past 45 days.’

“If a downsized executive is able to demonstrate this level of self-awareness, proactive learning and accountability, it leads to refreshing new conversation and less excuse-making interviews,” Mr. Riendeau said. “Documentation of this training is critical to prove one’s commitment to professional development.”

“A customized marketing plan must include a thorough reset/rewrite of one’s LinkedIn profile,” said Mr. Riendeau. “I’ve seen transitioned executive LinkedIn profiles that have not been touched for years — even after going through executive coaching. This lack of proactive recalibration does more to thwart the candidate’s chances of securing interviews than any other social media tool.”

Related: RiseSmart Launches New Career Transition Service

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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