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For the Journey

By Rachelle Peard. Published on 20 November 2014

Deciding to change jobs and embarking on the search for your dream role can be a daunting process. But with some dedication, planning and advice, it needn’t be, says Mark Craddock.

Click here to view the full article featured in the ICAEW magazine.

Deciding to switch jobs can be one of the most important and life-changing choices you will ever make. But while you may sit at your desk dreaming of being in charge of your own team, working for a listed company or downsizing to a smaller organisation, there’s no getting away from the fact that you will have to start your search somewhere. Internet job boards or recommendations and introductions from friends can be useful, but are they going to get you where you want to be? From using your contacts to emulating people you admire in business, here are 10 tips that will help you get off the starting blocks and find the next big move in your career.

Too many people are half-hearted when it comes to looking for a job. They like to keep an eye on the vacancies pages of their favourite magazine, they surreptitiously search the online job-boards from time to time and they might ask their friends if there is anything going. If you’re serious about finding a new job, then take the task seriously. Treat the job search as you would any new commitment. If you joined the gym, you probably want to go at least three times a week; if you’re on a diet, you’ll have a target weight in mind. A job search is no different: it’s a long-term goal that might take three, six or nine months, but you need to make time for it. With the right level of commitment, you will get there.

Ask yourself three questions:

  • Where are you now?
  • Which direction do you want to go in?
  • How will you get there?

A career path should be treated as a series of stepping stones – each role should be treated as another step towards achieving the career you’ve always wanted. If your goal is to be the group finance director of a listed company, then taking a position in an SME may add experience, but it runs the risk of pigeonholing you as a small business expert. If you want to work in the international market, then taking a regional finance director role in a US-owned business could open up a world of opportunities. Have a 10-year plan and think carefully about the routes and roles you need to be taking to stay on the right path.

Professionally, few people know you better than your former colleagues. Talk to them about your strengths and weaknesses, and ask for an objective view of what you do best and where you need to add new skills. A former boss or director should be able to give you sound advice – those grey hairs come with a great deal of experience.

Many of us use LinkedIn and, in most cases, it’s because we want to stay in touch with our professional network, which is very commendable and absolutely the right thing to do if you are looking for a new role. We’re all familiar with browsing each other’s contacts and asking for introductions to be made. However, there’s one additional thing that LinkedIn can offer – and that’s the perfect overview of someone else’s career. If there’s an individual you wish to emulate or a role that you think would be perfect for your skills, then use LinkedIn to see the ‘family tree’. Which route did the individual take after university? What was their first senior management position? How long did they stay with particular companies? It’s a very good way to put your career into perspective and plan that next step.

The right role is about more than just the salary and the package, although of course you want to ensure these reflect your worth. The content of the role is essential to get right, and this must be as much about what you won’t be doing as what you will be doing. Think about the size, the culture and the structure of the organisation and ask yourself how these match up against your career wish list. You don’t have to be totally rigid in sticking to your list, but you should stick to some clear parameters
to avoid side-tracking your career into a backwater.

A multi-pronged approach is best:

  • Find which recruiters are right for you (salary levels, types of roles, industry sectors) and meet face-to-face so they understand what you are looking for. Take advice and maintain contact. A good recruiter will come to you with roles, even when you aren’t looking, and can play a valuable role in helping achieve your long-term career goals.
  • Internet job boards are a good source of information.
  • Use LinkedIn and professional networking groups.
  • Be ‘less British and more American’ – in other words, don’t be shy about putting your CV in front of industry contacts and spreading the word that you are looking for your next role.

Preparation, presentation, personality and positivity. Do your homework about the company and the person conducting the interviews; and go with some well-crafted questions. Buy yourself a new suit and polish your shoes, and go in with a spring in your step – it doesn’t make you better at your job but it creates the impression that you are up for the challenge. Positive energy is infectious.

During most interviews it’s the client who asks 90% of the questions, but it should be a two-way process. Ask probing questions and seek examples that will help you understand the opportunities available, such as training and leadership courses. Most clients will be impressed, but if they are not, then maybe the culture isn’t as open and supportive as they might suggest.

If the package on offer isn’t enough, then you won’t feel valued. If you don’t click with the culture of the business at the interview stage then the chances are you won’t fit in. And if it’s a long commute, then it won’t work for you and your family. In my experience, it’s very rare for a candidate to turn down an offer but if it isn’t right, then you must do so. Finding the right role can take a lot of patience and there will be another offer that is right for you.

Review progress every three months. Ask yourself if you’re still on track to achieve your goals or if you have allowed yourself to lose direction and drift sideways. Remember that the smart people who have managed their career well are those who finish in senior positions.

Mark Craddock

To speak with Mark Craddock in more detail, email mark.craddock@etonbridgepartners.com or call 01753 303600.