Career transitions are rarely easy, but they are often especially tough for senior executives. As The Economist puts it, “There’s something about being at the top that can make the process even more uncomfortable and with even higher stakes to boot.”
For one, many senior executives haven’t been on the job market in years and are not used to having to market themselves. Moreover, senior executives have a smaller pool of job options that fit their specialization and experience—combined with a longer list of personal and professional requirements for the jobs they’re willing to take. Some executives might not want another job at all, but instead seek entrepreneurial ventures or retirement readiness planning. All of these factors combined can make career transitions a delicate and arduous process for senior executives.
However, it’s vitally important for companies to help outgoing senior executives successfully make their next career step. Their smooth departures generally make for smoother leadership transitions within the company. Even more importantly, maintaining as positive a relationship as possible with departing senior executives can forestall litigation and protect brand reputation. After all, many senior executives are thought leaders in their fields whose opinions about brands and companies can be influential.
That is why many companies offer executive outplacement services to departing senior executives. These services support senior executives with their career transitions through career coaching, resume development, social media strategy, and other benefits. Here are three steps to take to effectively transition senior executives with executive outplacement services.
Understand the unique outplacement needs of senior executives
Outplacement isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. For senior executives, these services must be highly customized, as their individual needs will be unique to their career experience and personal goals. Thus, one-on-one career coaching must be part of the outplacement package offered. Ideally, the senior executive will be able to work with a dedicated career development coach with substantial experience assisting senior-level executives.
Such coaches can help executives jump-start their career exploration process. Often, this journey begins with a career, values, and needs assessment because for many senior executives, the next step isn’t always clear.
To help these executives explore alternative career options, career development coaches often use assessment tests, which act as a starting point for their discussions. Many outplacement providers offer online platforms that provide useful assessment tools and other interactive resources. Once the executive’s personal career goal has been identified, the coach can assist with the nuts and bolts of the job search, from targeted resume and cover letter development to broader personal branding and social media strategies.
Career development coaches should also be able to assist executives with networking training—including identifying target companies with which to network. Since 80% of jobs are not posted online, and at least 60% of jobs are found through networking, learning to successfully network both online and in real life is extremely important for senior executives. Good coaches can optimize LinkedIn profiles as well as provide motivation and individualized tips for effective face-to-face networking.
In addition, senior executives also need assistance connecting with recruiters, executive search firms, and private equity firms. These groups provide key links to companies, but often seek different criteria in the executives they work with. As the Harvard Business Review notes, recruiters prize “track record and experience,” while private equity firms “give more weight to softer skills.” Experienced career coaches can help senior executives best market themselves to these groups. As the interviewing process begins, transitioning executives will need interview coaching and salary negotiation preparation.
Hire the best executive outplacement company that fits your needs
Once the needs of exiting senior executives have been identified, choose an outplacement agency that can fulfill those needs. Not all outplacement service providers are created equal, so it’s important to evaluate them carefully.
In addition to offering resources for senior executives like dedicated career development coaches, resume review programs, and online career tools, the outplacement company that’s the best fit should be able to meet other important criteria. Some questions to ask an outplacement consultant in the selection process include:
- What is the outplacement company’s success rate in placing senior executives, especially in positions with equal or higher salaries?
- Does this outplacement service provider have experience working with senior executives in this industry?
- How long will the senior executive be given access to the outplacement company’s services, considering the fact that this population generally takes five months or longer to land a new position?
- Can the outplacement service be accessed privately and conveniently, as senior executives may not want to drive to and be seen at the offices of a career transition company?
- What are outplacement services provided virtually by this company? Is there an online platform that offers needs and goals assessment tests, company research resources, and other tools?
- How much does the outplacement service cost? Is it affordable enough to offer all affected senior executives?
Showcase the value of the services for senior executives
It might seem counterintuitive to refuse free help, but unfortunately, a significant number of senior executives fail to use outplacement services, even when these benefits are provided at no cost to them. Many executives think they don’t need outplacement support at the outset of their career transition—only to discover later that a career transition is difficult to navigate on their own. Thus, it’s up to the company providing the benefit to immediately convey to senior executives why outplacement services are essential for someone in their position and how these services will benefit them.
Many senior executives drastically underestimate the amount of effort and length of time it’ll take for them to land a new position. A good number imagine that they’ll quickly start getting calls and emails about new career opportunities through their existing networks—and discover the hard way that a career transition will take more work and patience on their part. Once they do begin actively seeking a new job, senior executives often run into obstacles: a seeming dearth of viable opportunities to pursue, a mismatch between their skills and experience and the requirements of available positions, real or perceived age discrimination, unexpected challenges working with recruiters, etc.
Moreover, senior executives are often unaware of ways new technological changes have drastically changed the career transition process. For example, applicant tracking systems weed out more than half the candidates from an online job search; many executives don’t know how to fine-tune their resumes to get past these systems. Executives may also lack experience with online personal branding or effective social media networking—skills necessary today, when many companies use online resources to recruit and make hiring decisions.
Outplacement services can help senior executives tackle all these issues and more. Career development coaches can provide motivation, guidance, and goal-setting help—especially with effective networking to identify and even create unique career opportunities not advertised on job boards. Resume and cover letter reviews can optimize an executive’s essential documents for applicant tracking systems and customize them for target companies and positions. Interview coaching can prepare executives to best present their strengths in person and negotiate salaries.
CareerArc offers a full suite of outplacement services for senior executives, including unlimited coaching sessions with a dedicated CareerArc certified coach matched to each candidate’s needs. CareerArc certified coaches have an average of 12.9 years of career development experience; 75% are highly experienced in coaching executives and senior-level professionals in transition. They provide personal branding, resume and cover letter customizations, networking support, interview practice, and job search assistance.
CareerArc’s outplacement program also offers access to assessment, research, and learning tools on a convenient online platform. Learn more about CareerArc’s services by scheduling a free demo.