4 Steps Executive Job Seekers Can Take to Network Successfully

It goes without saying that executive job seekers achieve success primarily through networking. It also goes without saying that to network successfully one must know where to look for networking contacts.

During the pandemic, in-person networking was put on hold, and to some extent it’s still on hold. The alternative has been to find contacts with whom to network online. However, it’s not always evident where to look for the right contacts. This is where a tool like The Org can help executive job seekers in their quest.

Networking is particularly necessary for executive job seekers—CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, and the like—to conduct their job search. The phrase “Hidden Job Market” is a reality for these job seekers, as the positions they seek aren’t numerous (there is usually one CEO, CFO, COO, etc., per company.) And when companies want to fill a position at this level, they are more likely to source executives from other companies or consider executives who are referred to them.  

To say the road is a tough one to travel for executive job seekers is an understatement. Their job search usually takes longer. Even if they receive a severance package of six months to a year, there’s a chance they’ll burn through it and need to collect unemployment insurance benefits (UI).

While the average duration of unemployment is 27 weeks, it can exceed more than a year for executive job seekers.

Developing a target companies list

If executive job seekers want to take matters into their own hands, as opposed to scouring the job boards for “available” positions, it would be wise for them to create a target company list of at least 20 companies of interest.

Donuts to dollars their job search will last longer if they rely entirely on job boards like Indeed.com, Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, and the like. Everyone and their brother is applying on these job boards for similar jobs.

Sarah Johnston is a former recruiter turned executive career coach. (She also has more than 1,000,000 followers on LinkedIn.) She tells her clients to develop a target company list before anything else.

“Executives’ best strategy in the job search is to network before a job opening is announced,” Sarah states. “This requires them to know whom to approach. A target company list is the first step in the process.” She further explains that once they have an extensive list of companies, they should contact employees working at the companies.

One question executive job seekers have is how to identify their target companies. It’s a process that takes time and forethought. A mistake some of them make is reacting only to job advertisements.

When I ask my executive-level clients which companies are on their target list, they often tell me companies to which they’ve already applied. According to Glassdoor.com, this reactionary approach hurts their chances of landing jobs at their desired companies, as they are competing against as many as 250 applicants.

Learning which companies to follow

A site like The Org makes it very easy for an executive-level job seeker to find companies for their target company list. They simply need to locate their industry, of which there are more than 270 on The Org, and select it.

A job seeker who is interested in working for Pharmaceutical companies will find that there are 2,347 Pharma companies worldwide. If said person wants to search United States companies only, they can choose the US among available countries. This will provide them with 1,275 companies from which to choose.

Narrowing down companies for various states is more of a challenge and will require another source like LinkedIn to help them. Job seekers can also follow companies they’ve select for their company list which can be easily accessed from the drop-down menu in their account. In essence, the target company list is located in one place.

Once executive-level job seekers have established their target company list, she’ll research the companies on it. If she works in the Pharmaceutical industry, she might start with a list of the following companies: Janssen, Bristol Myers, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, Eli Lilly, Amgen, Novo Nordisk, Boston Scientific, TevaPharmaceutical, Biogen, and Bausch Health.

From this list of companies the executive job seeker will use The Org to identify various key players who work at her chosen companies. An astute executive job seeker will use multiple sources to research the goings-on at her companies of interest.

Reaching out to key players at target companies

To succeed in networking, executive job seekers need to know not only whom to contact, they also need to know the people with whom they’re going to speak. If a job seeker wants to have a meeting with someone like Stephen Williamson from Thermo Fisher, she won’t find his bio on LinkedIn. The Org provides his bio, including where he worked prior to Thermo Fischer (it’s Honeywell in case you’re wondering), and the fact that he earned his Bachelor’s at the University of Wales.

When Gerald Schmidt was looking for a job, he would have benefited from The Org to contact executives at companies in his industry. Gerald was a Vice President at a mid-size defense company until his separation from the business in late 2015. His job search lasted a little more a year but could have been shorter if the site had been available at the time (it wasn’t founded until 2017). 

He networked with past colleagues to land a VP position at L3Harris but says, “My job search would have been faster had I known about The Org. I would have had an easier time reaching out to executives who work in my industry.”

Someone like Gerald could identify other VPs at companies of interest and reach out to them with an email or a phone call to arrange informational meetings. Informational meetings are a great way to learn from like-minded people who work in similar companies, and they can also help with building a larger network.

Gerald participated in many informational meetings over the course of his job search. “During these meetings,” he said, “I asked to be introduced to others, and I always offered to do the same. It’s such a great way for both participants to expand their networks and extend their reach.”

If an executive job seeker needs an introduction to executives at multiple companies, at least they know who to ask for. As Gerald says, it’s a great way to extend one’s network.

Preparing for interviews with important information

Gathering important information on networking contacts isn’t the only way a site like The Org can come in handy. It’s essential for executive job seekers to know the players in their industry when they are engaged in the interview process.

Sure, candidates need to know details on the company to which they’re applying but knowing the org chart of other companies in their industry can also come in handy, especially if it’s the competition that comes up in the conversation.

Arriving for the interview with knowledge of 10 pertinent executives who work for the competition will impress the interviewers and perhaps be one of the reasons why a candidate is hired.

Take an executive candidate who is applying for a COO position at a mid-size company: knowing the specifics of executives at other companies through networking and extensive research tells the employer that the candidate has the ability to succeed in business networking.

Another way a candidate can succeed in an interview process is by knowing the org chart of a company to which he’s applying. Having a sense of who will be interviewing him will be essential. Not all companies will provide that information or think to provide it, so it is to the executive’s best interest to plan for the lack of information.

For example, someone who’s applying to Walt Disney would be wise to do a thorough research of the 14 executives reporting to their CEO, Bob Chapek. Smart executive job candidates will use Google or LinkedIn to do a deeper dive into the specifics of Walt Disney’s executives.

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While Gerald Schmidt and other executive job seekers, prior to the founding of The Org, would have benefited from the information the site offers, it’s not too late for current executive job seekers to take advantage of the information that is constantly growing on the site. Career coaches like Sarah Johnston will continue to encourage their clients to conduct a proactive job search. Creating a target companies list, reaching out to key players in the companies, and researching the interviewers before an interview are all parts of a proactive job search.

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