There are other ways of moving on in your career than by trying to become a winning candidate in an Executive Search Assignment, but the Executive Search industry is a recruiting channel of such potential, that it would be stupid to ignore it. Let´s start by checking out three questions: Can Executive Search potentially benefit my career? Should I include Executive Search in my career plan? Is making a career plan useful? The answer to all three questions is a BIG YES. Moreover, the more you aim for executive level positions, the more likely career planning will benefit you.

Not all people do career planning. There is no right or wrong here. Here the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. In one end of the spectrum, we have those who meticulously plan every step of their career, what kind of industry they want to be in, what kind of job they want to do, when to change to the next job, to which level, to which pay grade etc. In the other end of the spectrum, we have those who “go with the river” so to say and more or less let fate decide where they go. The rest of us are somewhere in between.

Every one of us does change jobs. I would say that most people change jobs 4 to 7 times during their lifetime. There are always exceptions to the rule, but the majority of us probably fits into this range. We all know that a change will come, sooner or later. So, from a rational point of view, it feels logical to pay at least some attention to having a career plan. It is also good to remember that we are not always in control of when the job change comes.

Artificial Intelligence and technological change will for certain change the business world to come, big time. Many jobs and companies will disappear. New ones will appear but requiring new types of skills. Effective career planning keeps the business world on your “radar”. It may help you recognise which these new skills are, and now you have a chance to acquire them.

Today already ten-year-olds often know how to use, e.g. IT-, mobile technology and the digital media much better than many grown-ups do. Do you think you can match their skills when they are 25 years old, without doing anything? In the future, when you are 40 years old, and your competitor in the job market is 25 years old, do not count only on your experience to make you a winner. Perhaps it is the skills that someone has that decides who the winner is.

My Career Plan

Stepping upwards on the executive ladder requires so called executive level skills, e.g. management skills, leadership skills, strategic skills, conceptual skills, IT-skills, number skills, how to make and read action plans, budgets, investment plans, profitability calculations, income statements. You will also need good communication and language skills. Some industry-, product-, or service-specific professional expertise will certainly also be needed.

You need to know in advance what skills and professional expertise will be required. Part of your career plan should be about how to recognise the skills and expertise needed on your career path and how you can acquire them. They do not come by themselves. It takes both time and effort. Without a career plan, chances are you may not even be fully aware of what these skills are. If you walk into the Head Hunters (or any recruiters) interview without knowing what you want out of your future career or understanding what skills or expertise is required in the job you are going to talk about in the interview, chances are that the end result of the interview will not be to your liking. Here, good career planning might help. Experienced businessmen know how to do career plans, but that said, not all of us are “career plan wizards”. However, everything does not have to be clear cut.

Begin with getting your bearings. Make a list of jobs/tasks/functions you are interested in and why. Make a list of industries you are interested in and why. Make a list of companies you are interested in and again why. Then think about when you want to be in a certain job and why. Think about what it takes to get there. Now you have developed a basic career plan. The “quality” of your career plan will improve as you work on it. It is important that you come to terms with the real reasons for why you want a particular career path, be it about getting a new challenge, about more power and influence, a fancy title or just a higher salary. Otherwise, you may, by mistake, land a job where reality and your expectations do not correspond.

Develop a career plan stretching 3-5 years into the future. Try to avoid looking too far into the future. By the time you get there, it will anyway look so different from what you imagine now.  Some plan to become CEO of a billion € company already when they are 30 years old, but I believe in first proving your worth, before planning too far. So, at least for me, 3-5 years is long enough. Then, if you like, you can, once a year update your “plan”.

When making your career plan, make certain this is what you want to do. Not what somebody else wants you to do. Put your very best effort into this, but that said, do not take your career plan too “seriously and literally”. A career plan is only a helping guidebook if you will, on our journey in the business world. You will change your mind many times yet on what you would like to do as times passes. However, with a career plan as your guide, your journey will be easier.

When you have your career plan ready, you can start thinking about how you could best benefit from Executive Search. However, that’s too long a story to be told here.  For those who are interested in learning more, I would here like to repeat what I said at the end of my previously published article = “Executive Search – anything for me?” That is:

If you are interested in learning more about how Executive Search can benefit you as a Candidate (or as a Client), you can, e.g. read my book How to recognise excellence in Executive Search. I am not saying that my book is the only truth or the whole truth. It is not. It is only the opinion of one single person.

However, based on 32 years of experience in Executive Search, (the last 22 years in one of the world’s top-ten Executive Search Firms), and on over 1 000 Executive Search assignments, the book is in its own right, an excellent Best Practice guide for anyone into the subject of Executive Search.

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