What steps do you need to take to convince employers you’re ready to think smaller?
By Sean Gallagher
Convincing an employer you’ll savor a new role with a lower profile isn’t just a matter of matching qualifications; it also requires some serious self-branding as a competitive asset.
Randy Hain, managing partner at Bell Oaks Executive Search in Atlanta, suggests several ways to find happiness in a reduced role:
1. Be a mentor. Market yourself as someone who can help mentor the next generation of leaders from inside the company. “I've seen a lot of companies almost freaking out that they don't have any mentors left in their companies,” Hain said. “This kind of ‘come in, develop the next generation of leader and then bow out’ (approach) is actually something that works.”
2. Be a maven. Hain said that packaging yourself as a thought leader in a particular area of expertise is also a good way to find your way into work, using social-networking services like LinkedIn to demonstrate your knowledge. “If I can get a candidate to utilize LinkedIn, or even Facebook, and start to talk a lot about their background, and … position themselves as a knowledge leader in a certain area, they make themselves more attractive.” It's critical, though, to project enthusiasm — and not your age. “A lot of candidates in that age bracket — their resumes and LinkedIn profiles are rather stodgy. I coach people on how to build a compelling LinkedIn profile and resume.”
3. Be a contractor. Another gambit is to approach companies as a consultant. “I always tell folks in this age bracket to consider going in and pitching themselves in consulting or maybe contract roles: ‘Hey look, I'm going to come in and take care of this project for you, for six months, nine months, a year, then let's evaluate how I've done.’ For a lot of people, that's actually very attractive. They're not necessarily looking for the grind of being part of the team; they want to come in, fix a project and move on.”
What do you want? What do you need? In preparing for the search, Hain said, you should do an honest self-inventory. “I'd evaluate what I really want out of the next five to 10 years of my career. Is it ego gratification, or do I want to make enough money to get to retirement? That's a tough evaluation for people who've been flying high. Then you need to evaluate what you have to offer. Do I have a Rolodex (of professional contacts)? Do I have a good reputation? Do I have a strong track record?”
The contact list — the Rolodex — is critical for re-careering. “’Who can I call who's going to take my call, make introductions for me, or hire me?’ You need to really understand that. And once you know all of that, then I'd gravitate toward identifying specific companies to approach.”
Finally, the key to success is flexibility, Hain said. “Be flexible early on in the job search, and get into the proper psychology. If (candidates) will open themselves up to contributing, getting a fair income, and really being convincing to the employer that they're genuinely interested in anything that's going to allow them to support their family and make a contribution, it goes a long way toward success.
“That may seem like a no-brainer — but I think that people in this age bracket really struggle with the psychology of it.”
Sean Gallagher is a former naval officer and freelance journalist. He has spent much of the last 19 years covering defense and technology and is the former editor-in-chief of Defense Systems magazine. Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Md.