Job Transition Advice

Here is what actually happens in our business. We are not job counselors here at KULPER & COMPANY –we are executive search consultants—but we always try to be helpful to friends in job transition. We advise an intelligent approach to the challenge of job transition, but because of the challenges inherent in this task and lack of experience with job transition issues, particularly for senior level execs, it often becomes a challenging and emotionally draining experience. We are offering the below actual dialogue with a friend in transition to be helpful to anyone currently in transition or facing the prospects of it sometime, soon. We present this to the readers of our Blog purely for informational purposes; no names are mentioned in this dialogue and we make no claims that it is going to work for you.

Person in Transition:
One of many reasons I enjoyed this morning’s conversation was your candor and willingness to be open and forthright; including issues of sensitivity. That said, I have been asking myself if I had the right to take advantage of that quality. While I don’t necessarily have a yes/no answer, I have decided to ask you a question that you may or may not want to address. If you are comfortable with the question and equally comfortable answering it, great. If not, I won’t be upset. The question…..Was there anything that I said or didn’t say this morning that you would recommend I handle differently should a second opportunity occur for me to sit down and talk with another search consultant?

The main point I like to convey to people in transition is that the more aware they are about the job search process the more sophisticated they will appear in the eye of the hiring decision maker–or search consultant. Understanding that your role( as a candidate) is to be a solution provider —makes that idea much easier to understand and embrace. By continually asking: “ How can I be helpful in this particular situation”? —-you are able to seize the day and pursue opportunities that makethe most sense to you. The more information you have about the problems the hiring exec needs to solve the more likely you will be able to present yourself as his or her solution provider.

Person in Transition
I recognize that it took a long time to build a career that I am proud of but, that, in and of itself, doesn’t get me more than a cup of coffee. One of the take-aways from this morning was that my career, while wide in scope in that I moved from a large and well known organization to improving performances within a very diverse group of companies, may offer little value in today’s market either due my age or the job search process itself. Is there something obvious to you that I should consider doing as I seek my next job?

The key is to visualize yourself in the shoes of the hiring decision maker. You do this by possessing good information about the hiring need—and by staying as objective as you can in matching your experience and problem solving capabilities with the issues the hiring decision maker is facing.

Person in Transition
When I reflect upon my career and the shortage of solid experience that could drive us to levels not yet reached, I paid internationally known search firms a lot of money to continue looking for the right people. Unfortunately, I was never happy with the people they sent me.

To be very honest with you, when we are doing a good job for our clients only 50% of the candidates we present are judged “acceptable”—it is very hard to get inside the head of the client. I work very hard at throughout the search process. We call it ‘calibrating the search’ because we are carefully adjusting our understanding of the client’s hiring hot buttons as we drill deeper into understanding what is going to get us to an offer for the RIGHT candidate. Even when the position spec is very well wrought we continue to learn more about the real hiring need as we go along. Perish the thought, but if the client is rejecting 80-90% of our candidates (thankfully that happens very infrequently) this is a big red flag. I then call a time out and we carefully review what is going on and why…..We work hard to present the right candidates—because that helps everyone– and is the fundamental reason for the engagement.

Person in Transition:
I understand that the process isn’t easy. As a practical matter what should I do as a first step, now?

I would suggest that you should be doing at least 3 informational interviews per week—-face to face—where you are sitting with an exec level decision maker because you are sincerely interested in learning about his or her operation —so, you can decide if you can make a difference by becoming involved in it somehow. Your approach to getting the meeting could be—“ Gerry, I have been doing some homework on your industry /business and I am very interested in the work you and your associates are doing right now because….( insert reason)—-if you would have some time to discuss this with me I would appreciate visiting with you next week; could we set up a time to have coffee together?

This approach works because it is a non threatening neutral request—-you are after information –not a job or anything else ( at this point). If the conversation happens to migrate towards where you are at the present time and there is interest in learning more about you….then you will have your opportunity. This process can take a few meetings as you learn more and he or she warms to the idea that you might be just the sort of solution provider he or she needs. Getting to “yes”—is an emotionally driven process—much more so than an analytic one. The decision maker needs to feel good in your presence and relaxed —as he or she talks about a topic that is of importance to him or her (and what could be more important than their business?—or areas that interest them when they are not working so hard—family, hobbies, sports etc. ). By approaching the decision maker in this manner you are creating rapport that allows him or her to relax and maybe to even begin to visualize you as a solution provider for some issue or problem that has yet to be brought up to you!

I hope my responses are helpful to you—-Good luck and keep in touch.

Likewise, I hope that this information proves helpful to you if you are in transition now and wondering how to best approach your next opportunity.

Warm regards

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About Keith Kulper

Keith D. Kulper is the president and founder of KULPER & COMPANY, LLC an executive search consulting firm working in the area of senior level leadership for academia and corporate innovation. We are strong advocates of nurturing the linkage between academic investigation/research and corporate innovation/full commercialization of new product solutions. We specialize in attracting proven leaders who can effectively drive transformational change. The firm operates an Advisory Board that meets annually to bring together leaders from academia and corporate innovation to help drive continuous improvement of our professional practice. We are also an investor in early stage companies. We take pride in supporting the growth and development of business and engineering schools at leading universities throughout the United States.

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