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Seeking career development? Here are our 5 key points to keep in mind

By Aled Homer. Published on 15 May 2017


Progressing your career in line with your professional aspirations requires commitment and strategic planning. Here, we explain the five most important steps to undertake in order to successfully develop your career.

1 – Understand your career path

Your career path lies in your own hands, but it needs careful guidance to achieve the right trajectory. In order to take control of your future, ask yourself four key questions: Where am I? Where do I want to get to? How do I get there? By when?

You can best find the answers by enlisting the help of two different advisors – a mentor, whether formal or informal, and a headhunter. It’s critical to receive objective answers to these key questions, so seek advice from multiple sources to ensure you gain the most comprehensive insight.

In order to understand your career path, you must also make sure you are realistic in your aims. Do you really want to be the Chief Financial Officer of a FTSE 100 company, or are you better suited as a very strong Group Financial Controller? Perhaps the deal-making world of Corporate Finance or the commercial and operational thrust of Financial Planning & Analysis interests you more. Are you a corporate person most suited to large, listed businesses, or does the high-pressure, high-reward world of private equity-backed business sound more appealing?

Through understanding what ignites your interest, you’ll be able to seek out the right environment for your future.

2 – Make sure your profile is up to date

It’s important to put your best foot forward when approaching those who can facilitate your preferred advancement.

To this end, your CV should be a live document that’s constantly changing to reflect the new experience and skills you gain. Not only will this put you in prime position to respond to opportunities as they arise, it will also provide you with an accurate document with which to review your career progress. Of course, it also acts as useful source material to ensure you’re always ready to articulate recent achievements.

If you feel your CV needs work, head-hunters should be happy to help you and provide advice on the best format to showcase your skills: CVs are the basic currency of our industry, so we are always able to offer expert help.

However, the work doesn’t stop with your CV. In today’s age of social media, your LinkedIn profile is almost as important as your CV. Headhunters’ researchers use LinkedIn religiously, so ensure your profile is live and as current as your CV.

3 – Act on your aspirations

With clear aspirations and a strong professional profile, you are ready to interact with the market.

Whilst headhunters will be managing the majority of opportunities you see, the most successful people utilise their own networks and good headhunters simultaneously. Indeed, your network may provide direct opportunities or lead to a personal recommendation that sneaks you onto the shortlist for a headhunted role you may otherwise have missed.

When choosing which headhunters to partner with, it’s important to identify firms whose area of expertise complements your own, and then to build a relationship with them.

Importantly, don’t neglect headhunters if you’re not actively looking for a position. Those who have good relationships with search firms are always more likely to be selected for shortlists – and you can never predict when the perfect opportunity will come along. If headhunters feel you are likely to be receptive, they’re more likely to approach you.

It’s also worthwhile attending industry events and networking with peers. Speak to your audit partners and professional advisors, including lawyers, bankers and analysts. Take your old boss, the wily Chief Financial Officer or Chief Executive Officer who seems to know everyone and anyone, out for lunch twice a year. Even if doesn’t lead directly to an opportunity, simply being able to mention a mutual contact can often soften an interviewer and build rapport.

4 – Keep an eye out

Historically many search firms have chosen not to advertise roles – meaning you will only have access to the opportunity if you have an established relationship.

If you do see a role advertised that catches your eye, it’s worth initiating a conversation with the search firm handling the role. Although that role may not be the perfect fit, if you build rapport with the search firm, it’s more likely you’ll be considered when the right opportunity does come along. In fact, it’s unusual for individuals to progress from responding to an advert to making the shortlist, as preference is often given to individuals whom the firm has already met. So the strength of your relationship is key.

5 – Perseverance is key

Even if you follow all our suggestions, remember that there’s only so much control you can exert over your professional search. It’s very difficult to create the ideal role when you want it, so bear in mind that, even when searching actively, it may still take you 6-12 months to find the right next step. There is no silver bullet, so retain a mindset of the aggregation of marginal gains: in isolation, each of the activities above is unlikely to lead to an opportunity, but when undertaken together, they almost certainly will.

This is why it’s important to remain alert to opportunities at all times. After all, it’s far better to be approached about an opportunity and turn it down than to be in need of an opportunity and come up short because you have no relationships in place.

In summary, when looking to develop your career there are a number of steps you can undertake but, with each of them, patience and proactivity is key.

If you are looking to develop your career, please do get in touch with me, or a member of the team who will be happy to advise and play a vital role in your career management.

Aled Homer
Associate Partner – Executive Search – Finance
M: 07513 042 765
T: 01753 303 600
E: Aled.Homer@etonbridgepartners.com

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