Tips for Effective Career Development Strategies Executives

Very often executives get immersed in the day-to-day of working life and often forget to think about themselves or work-life balance. Sometimes executives have just ‘ended-up’ in jobs without any real thought about long term direction and aspirations. Often there has been a tendency for executives to be ‘invited’ or ‘asked’ to perform certain roles. Executive recruitment has changed and expectations have risen, so the focus has changed in getting the right person for the role as opposed to a slight bias towards using contacts networks and being ‘recommended’ for roles without even the need for a CV!

Executive Recruitment Processes

Recruitment processes for companies have become more transparent and accountable meaning open competition for roles to get the very best person to perform in the role. This can include recruiting executives from abroad and paying a premium for talented people. The result is that executives can no longer be complacent or rely on contacts networks to gain progression, so there is a much greater emphasis on planning ahead and having a much stronger career focus. Therefore, we have identified ten useful ways to help executives improve their career focus and become more successful in career progression over time.

Tips Improving Executive Career Focus

  1. Taking time to plan and periodically review performance
  2. Have a long-term career vision by knowing ultimate career aspirations
  3. Setting objectives, researching ideas and evaluating alternatives
  4. Identifying strengths and weaknesses (knowing limitations)
  5. Preparing CV as an effective marketing document
  6. Improve networking credentials using LinkedIn
  7. Build relationship with an executive headhunter
  8. Personal branding and interactions with other people
  9. Receiving coaching from a recognised mentor
  10. Commitment to action and remain focused

Take time out to plan: One of the key things is to dedicate 3-4 hours to focus on career development and reviewing performance (overall progress). Taking an initial step and thinking about the long-term is important as it can help motivate executives towards reaching goals. We recommend taking a Saturday or Sunday morning (without distractions) to start the process and build momentum. Evaluate current situation and begin to think about what you want to achieve in the long run, even if it is a very broad outline or general goal.

Long-Term Career Vision: Executives need to begin thinking more specifically about ultimate career aspirations and trying to document them. By documenting aspirations it gets executives to critically evaluate what they want to do and narrows down options. Narrowing down options helps executives to improve career focus, essential for setting objectives and planning ahead.

Defining Career Objectives: Setting objectives enables executives to plan ahead and takes steps towards achieving overall career aspirations. The idea is to research alternatives and develop a structured plan based on key actions, timelines and deadlines. Objectives must be SMART – Specific; Measureable; Achievable; Relevant and Time-Focused. See our article regarding tips on setting SMART career objectives.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses: Often knowing own limitations can be key to career success. Knowing what people are good at (and bad at) can help personal improvement plans, focus on specific target roles and identify unique selling points (key strengths that help people stand out from others). There are skills evaluation tools available or simply asking trusted people for feedback on relative strengths and weaknesses.

CV as a Marketing Document: Gone are the days where executives could effectively ‘walk-in’ to a job without a CV. Executive resumes are a vitally important marketing tool that must accurately reflect candidates in relation to targeted roles. Attention must be given to getting this right as it can make a massive difference in candidate selection processes. It is also the main tool an executive headhunter uses the most to put candidates forward for roles.

LinkedIn as a networking tool: LinkedIn has become the ultimate online networking tool, so it goes without saying an online presence is an absolute essential. This can bring a different dimension to job searches and becomes all the more important as executives progress to the highest levels within organisations. It has become an expectation to be found on LinkedIn, so ‘get with the times’.

Build Relationship with a headhunter: Executive headhunters often feature prominently in finding potential opportunities. Focus should be on partnering with the right headhunter who is going to push executives towards relevant opportunities and therefore benefit from established recruitment networks. Receiving useful advice and acting upon guidance can also make a big difference by helping to refine job search activities and improve preparation techniques ready for interview.

Personal branding elements: Focus on positive behaviours likely to get noticed in the executive boardroom and amongst peers. Showing good ’emotional intelligence’ when interacting with others is important as it is often personal qualities that make a difference. Also, focus on improving areas of weakness and making adjustments where necessary.

Consider getting a mentor: Mentoring comes in various guises by speaking to subject matter experts and receiving guidance from respected individuals from people who have been there and done it. Coaching and mentoring can help guide candidates by focusing on key actions (‘critical path’) to achieve goals much quicker. Mentors also be people from outside the sector or receive dedicated executive career management solutions from a professional company specialising in such services.

Staying committed on plans: Achieving goals requires firm commitment and motivation. This is often the difference between success or just missing targets. Retain focus, stay committed and review performance against a clearly defined plan to measure overall success. Take time out monthly to check progress against plan or take corrective actions to restore focus. Some basic tips for writing a career development plan.

Improving Career Focus for Executives: Conclusion

These are just some of the main tips on improving career focus for executives. Implementing these aspects can help retain focus, build motivation and ensure overall success. Clearly defining actions, establishing a coherent plan and working towards specific objectives steadily over a period of time helps executives focus by making the entire process easier to manage in a structured manner.

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