Positioning yourself for your next great executive role April 2021

Judith+beck

Judith Beck, author of No Sex at Work and the founder of both the Financial Recruitment Group and Financial Executive Women – knows a lot about recruitment and how you position yourself best for your next great role – she shared some tips with Money magazine managing editor Julia Newbould.

The financial services sector didn’t take as big a hit during pandemic than other areas and, in fact, has experienced some growth. What should people who are looking to make a move in the industry do to properly prepare themselves for their next role?

The concept of preparing for the next role involves you needing to look and say where do I want to be and why, and what are the skills I need to have to get there and what do I need to put in place to learn those skills now to go for that role. Also, and importantly, who do I have to network with to make sure I get the help I need when I’m ready to go for that role.

When you are going for your next role you shouldn’t do it alone – you should do it with a group of advocates in your corner helping you. You also need to have a good support network behind you – with some people who are more senior than you, and hopefully have an understanding of what the role involves, who can provide advice and guidance. Even better, if they know the people who are interviewing you - they might be able to give you tips. The more senior you are the less competition there is, but the competition becomes tougher. You need all the help you can get.

Several major companies have recently emphasised diversity in top-level executive hires. What needs to change in executive recruitment to both encourage more women to go for roles that have been seen as traditionally male or masculine?

When a company is hiring a new executive, they say to a recruiter: here’s the role and I want the best person for the role - The company needs to broaden their pool of candidates to get a wide range. For instance, if the position description says, I want someone with 10 years plus experience in this particular area, that could knock out a whole bunch of women who don’t have 10 years plus in that area because they hadn’t previously been hiring women, or women may have taken time out of the workforce. Companies need to stop talking about years’ of experience and start talking about capabilities. If someone sees an ad for someone with x,y,z experience it will put them off from applying if their impression is that they need that particular years experience and they haven’t got it. Instead, companies need to hire somebody with capabilities and skills. Women sometimes hear about roles but they are put off by the descriptions – they need encouragement from mentors and advocates.

What I’ve seen most recently is companies are trying hard to improve recruitment practices and diversity targets. I think there is still a lot of work that needs to be done from a language point of view on what they are asking for so people aren’t put off from applying.

People are individuals - it’s not about leadership or gender it’s about what you can do as an individual to get from a to b. Companies need to start focusing on the type of person they want and what are the skills and capabilities they need to have for this role. Candidates need to start thinking ‘I’m not going to tick all the boxes but I tick a lot of them and I need to learn the other one, but I have the capabilities”.

What can women do to position themselves as a chief executive or managing director?

At every level they need to build up a track record. No one will get to be in a senior position unless they have a track record of success. They need to build that up. One of the things I always highlight is that often resumes don’t list achievements – even when I know people have done heaps of things.

If you want to run a business or be a CEO you need a mindset of achievement and be able to communicate your achievements to get to the top. You need to be able to show what you achieved at every level of your career progression – when you started on day one what did the business look like and how does it look now – what was your contribution. You need to show there’s been progression, positive progression.

A person’s external profile, like on social media, is an increasingly important part of their public image. As such, it’s seen a lot more scrutiny. What should someone do to prepare their public image for a significant executive move?

People need to remember – similarly to when you get up and make a presentation, you need to know all eyes are looking at you – either on a stage or on LinkedIn. What are you wearing, how do you present yourself, and what are your words – they’re all in the public arena.

You have to be conscious of everything out there. People will Google you and look at everything. They will look at what posts you liked, what comments you’ve made. You have to be conscious that whatever you put out there is put out there for good and you will be judged by whatever you put out there. You have to make sure you’re happy with all your commentary because it could come back to bite you if you’re not. Sometimes, I say, if you’re commenting on something political or controversial – don’t do the panic response - wait until the facts come out (maybe sleep on it!)

If you find your career stagnating or you’re just not happy where you are – what can you do to change your situation?

If you are not happy or your career is stagnating, it doesn’t do you any good staying. Find out why you’re not happy: is it the company? Look at the way your career is progressing and then decide what you’re going to do about it.

Then you need to be realistic and realise it’s not going to change overnight. Speak to your advocates and ask for advice and get a fresh eye or opinion. Ask your advocate what they think you’re good at, and find what they suggested. Don’t try and do it all by yourself.

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