Ramblings from an Old Headhunter...

This blog is for those who want to learn more about what Headhunting is about, recruiting top talent, interviewing tips and sourcing tidbits. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Career: Markets Cycles, Transitions & Un/Realistic Moves

In my profession as a headhunter I speak with candidates everyday, and if you include friends and family this also includes weekends and especially holidays. So what has 7 days a week, nearly everyday of the year over nearly 15 years of job-talk given me? …a lot of good material to put me to sleep at night, that’s what! A N D, I suppose it has also taught me something about people and the career placement business.

I want to talk about cycles in this blog. It seems there are cycles with most everything. There are starts and there are ends, there are good times to make change and there are bad times to make change. For example: buying a house, or a car, or even a stock. Looking back at the last 10 years in housing, what would you say to people who bought a house from 2000 to 2003? Was that a good time to buy? Most would agree that it was. What about those that bought from 2004 to 2007? Most would say, not so much. When is a good time to buy a car? Do you like to buy a car in December? I sure don’t, I hate registration due at Christmas, but what about holiday weekends during the Summer? Or on the 30th of the month when dealers want to boost the month’s numbers? What about stocks? Would you buy Microsoft at $100? What about $25? (that’s about where it's at, at the time of this writing). So, just like with buying a home, a car or equities, knowing when to make a move for change holds true for one’s career. Only here it’s based on the type of job market we’re in. There are good markets for making a career transition and difficult markets to make a transition. Most people think they know what this means, …they don’t.

Let me give you a couple of examples. In which of these two examples is the candidate in a better time market cycle to make a move: 1) unemployed person making a move in 2006 or 2) an unemployed person making a move in 2009. Now think of an employed candidate making a move in 2006 and an employed person making a move in 2009. Which candidate is in a better market to make a move? Not so obvious. Now to add to that, what candidate has a better career opportunity ahead of him when s/he makes a move? Who is in a better market to negotiate salary? And to complicate things even more, what type of move should the candidate make in each of these markets? Is the unemployed candidate taking a role in 2006 better off then the employed candidate making a move in 2009? The answer (I studied law before becoming a headhunter, so you’ll appreciate this answer) …it depends. But what does it depend on you ask? Myriad factors. And this is what makes moving careers so difficult and what most every candidate I work with fails to think about prior to my calling. I’m sure if I were a mathematician I might become famous for figuring out such a formula.

But here is what might not be so obvious. In 2006 we were in an employee driven market. Employees could be employed or unemployed it didn’t matter, everyone was working and everybody needed people. So employees had their pick of moves, positions and were able to negotiate salary more aggressively. In 2009 jobs were at a premium only the best were employed, only the top companies were hiring, or moreover replacing. Most companies were downsizing and jobs were not available. So the employed candidate was 10x as attractive as the unemployed candidate. This was, and still is, a client driven market. The clients decide who they want to replace or hire and they take 5x’s as long to make a decision. Furthermore companies very rarely hire someone into a role senior to which they have. Meaning if you are an internal sales professional with Company X, there is a slim chance you will be hired by Company Z to be an outside sales person. Again, things people don’t take into consideration when thinking about making a move in a Client Driven market.

Let me babble about something different for a moment, type of career moves. There are different types of career moves, there are lateral moves, there are steps backward and there are advancements. Most people want to make a career advancement, correct? But do they know when and in what market to make such a move? Do they know what is realistic and what is not? Do they factor in the market cycle we’re in? And career transition, beyond the firm they are with? Do they know how to chart their career progression and at what point to re-write the map to get there? Most haven’t the slightest idea.

(long yawn…) Do I still have some of you? Great. You are the folks I want to speak with, everyone else can (in an English accent) “piss off.” With respect to this blog, there are a couple groups of people I’d like to identify. Simply put:

  • Those that do not know what they want to do when they grow up.


  • Those that do know what they want to do when they grow up.

For the second group, congratulations, your parents are probably proud of you, all those years of schooling has done paid off! Mom can finally say “I’m so proud of [insert favorite name here], s/he was just hired at JPMorgan as a AVP, CRM for SMA’s in the PWG.

What many people do not take the time to think about early in their career is what they want to do when they grow up, how they are going to get there from where they are at to where they want to be. Let me say that again. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET FROM WHERE YOU ARE, TO WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?

I ask all my candidates to answer this question before I have them interview. “What do you want to do?” Most say what do you mean? So I give them a bit more to work with: career wise what do you want to do, what does your career look like? And most stumble though and poorly worded answer. So I tell them, figure that out before you interview. I’d say 25% of my candidates withdrawal from my process after they give that some real thought and attention.

This is where I become helpful. I will take a candidate who knows what they want and, I will help them get to where s/he wants to be, but s/he must first know what path they wish to travel. They must know what is a realistic career move, when to move firms, when taking a lateral move is good, what market cycle we’re in and does this help or hurt my chances of making a move now or waiting for 6 months to see if something plays out.

In summary, know what your career road map looks like, know what firm’s you’d like to work for, know what roles you need under your belt to get to where you want to be, and know what market cycle we’re in, because the market cycle will determine what your chances for advancement will look like and whether everything else will play out as you would like it to.

If you have any questions on this or about career moves please drop me an email at ktp_blog @ ktpsearch.com

Written By: Tarin R. Yankovich, CPC
Copyright © 2010
Tarin Yankovich is the Founder and President of KTP Executive Search Group, Inc. based in Los Angeles California. KTP is a Talent Acquisition firm specializing in placing financial services executives across the United States.

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