When you are someone looking for senior management job, the recruiters who helped you on the way up will probably not be the ones who will help you move further up. It is important to start cultivating relationships with executive search firms who serve your specialty and, perhaps your industry.
As you’ve heard on the way up, networking is increasingly important. The same is true with networking with executive search consultants. You want to be on their radar at the right time by building relationships with them before you need them.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Proactive networking. You may hate taking calls from contingency recruiters, but you damn well better start taking them from executive recruiters. You are generally useless to them . If you have been laid off, are about to be laid off or have resigned from the position. If they know you and respect you, they are more likely to make a case for you.
- Selectivity matters. Every industry has its experts. The same is true in executive search. Cultivate those relationships now. Even in the large firms, there are specialists who represent your sector. Get to know them and, more importantly, have them get to know you.
- Help The Search Consultant Help You. When a position is proposed to you, be clear about your competency as relates to the role. Do not try to dance around and try to persuade them that you are qualified when you are not. Lying will result in them telling you (professionally, of course) “you are dead to me.” You will have wasted time building a right relationship only to sabotage it. Don’t be foolish. Make a case for yourself by explaining how your background fits the role. Do not make them struggle to figure it out. Offer your credentials to them on a silver platter. After all you are looking for a senior management position, a position in the C suite. Amateurs do these kind of foolish things. Don’t act like an amateur.
- Not interested? Offer Help. They should have been true when you are still working with contingency search firms, but in case it isn’t the case, I want to make sure you hear it clearly for me. If the role is not right for you, refer someone. Answer their questions and suggest some ways that they can find the right person. Recommend someone you know who might be able to point them to someone that they know. Be a gift to them and gift them with your knowledge and expertise. It will be remembered.
It is important to remember that when you work with someone at this level, everything and everyone reflects back to you. If someone you refer acts badly, that reflects back to you. If someone is a great referral source or does extraordinarily well on interviews, that reflects back on you.
Figure it out.