Job Descriptions And Duties, Free Templates, Resumes & Letters
Home /

Career Advice

Find out best career tips and our interview tips & advices in order to ensure successful career.
Career Advice
Career Advice

Top Advice: How to Paint Your Career Out of a Corner

Perhaps not too long ago, your skills were in high demand, your company was growing fast, your stock portfolio was hitting new highs daily and your options promised wealth in the years ahead. Today, things may be different. You may find yourself in a sector that showed enormous promise, but now offers dramatically less opportunity, especially in a recession.

To re-energize your career and apply your skills with greatest impact, you may need to change industries or find a very different position. Many senior executives face this challenge today. Easier said than done. To do so, you must jump two hurdles. You must first identify and assess which of your skills are most transferable to a new industry or function. Then, you must convince others that you can successfully apply these skills to their business challenges.

Transferable Executive Skills

Though most of us typically think of our careers in terms of industry knowledge or functional skills, a wide variety of executive competencies are transferable across industries, companies and roles. Consider the skills described in the next few paragraphs and think back to achievements that demonstrate which of these skills are your strongest.

  • Strategic thinking

  • Management skill

  • Operational expertise

  • Business development

  • Marketing

Context and Culture

Hiring managers and job seekers both often overestimate the commonality of experience that employees of different companies in the same industry will have. In fact, unless the position you seek calls for industry-specific technical knowledge or a network of industry contacts, other considerations can be better predictors of your ability to successfully contribute to a new industry or role.

A good executive recruiter will probe to understand the business environment in which you successfully applied key skills. The leadership required to help a small company build market share in a rapidly growing market, for example, is very different from the leadership required to help a market leader improve bottom-line growth in a mature, consolidating industry. There are many other environmental or cultural factors worth considering. Some include:

  • Was the primary challenge to achieve growth despite very limited resources or to allocate adequate resources most efficiently?

  • Did you have to fight an overreaching bureaucracy to be successful, or did you have to design and implement new processes and policies to sustain your business's growth?

  • Was your business highly complex, with multiple product lines and customer groups, or quite focused?

It's tempting during interviews to focus on explaining what you've accomplished and to assume that interviewers will be able to draw the parallels between the industries and companies you worked for and the industry and company they know well.

But reaching this understanding requires hard work and intense focus. Few interviewers have the patience or skill to do so without help. Unless you build a clear case that the business context in which you were successful is similar in important ways to that facing the company you hope to join, your interviewer is likely to seek candidates who built their skills within a familiar industry context.

Some of the best questions you can ask during an interview probe for context. "Ask the interviewer, 'What are the two or three challenges facing the successful candidate that worry you most?' " says Jim Boehmer, a Toronto-based executive coach. "This gives you an opportunity to talk about how you had previously faced these same issues successfully." A successful senior-level interview "often becomes a storytelling exercise," says Mr. Boehmer, who has worked as a career-transition consultant for more than 20 years. "It's important to develop some examples or war stories that demonstrate how you've applied your skills and strengths to similar situations."

A candidate interviewing for the CEO post at a midsize privately owned computer-component maker asked about the relationship between the company's founder and the board. He learned that the board had determined that the founder wasn't sufficiently strong as CEO to grow the company to the next level, yet the company needed the founder's continued leadership in research and development. The situation, though troubled, was similar to one the candidate had encountered several years earlier. He was able to describe his earlier success and demonstrate that he had the skill to resolve this situation in a way that would allow the company to prosper.

He was subsequently hired and succeeded in building a constructive working relationship with the founder, who proved to be an ally several months later when the new CEO sought to win the board's agreement to enter into an important business alliance.

Corporate Culture

Corporate culture can be as important as business context in determining your ability to succeed in a role. "Career-transition consultants have said for years that 90% of the reasons for job loss have to do with lack of 'fit,' " says Mr. Boehmer. "Competence is usually not the issue."

If your interviewer isn't probing for this depth of understanding, you should raise the issue. "An effective tactic can be to say: When my company was looking to fill my spot, this is what they were looking for and this is why I was hired," says Nancie Whitehouse, director of search strategies at General Atlantic Partners, a global private-equity firm.

Selling Yourself

Your challenge is to build a case that demonstrates you possess the relevant executive skills and have applied them successfully in relevant contexts.

The skills that you emphasize in your resume and interviews should reflect the industry and role you're targeting. "A lot of candidates sell skills that aren't necessarily relevant to what the company is recruiting for. In order to talk about their accomplishments, they sometimes tell [recruiters] things that don't apply," says Ms. Whitehouse.

So, while you may have extensive experience marketing products or services to consumers, if you're pursuing a senior role with a company whose revenues depend on strong long-term relationships with business customers, you may wish to emphasize your successes forging several business alliances instead.

A C-level executive at one of the leading advertising agencies assessed his career options while his firm underwent a merger. In examining his skills, he realized that while he'd spent several years as an account executive earlier in his career, his greatest strength was in building professional organizations that excelled at serving business customers. Highlighting this point, even if it meant de-emphasizing his skills as a consumer marketer, opened a whole new set of opportunities for him in his discussions with recruiters.

Highlighting Accomplishments

You should differentiate between activities in which you played a leading role and those in which you merely participated. Though it's human nature to exaggerate one's contributions somewhat, doing so to a degree that could be perceived as misleading will likely backfire, if not through a recruiter's questioning then through the reference-checking process. A better tactic is to be honest and clear about your contribution and emphasize what you learned from your experience.

One senior executive admitted that her role as her company's representative on a joint venture's board of directors was decidedly not a leadership role. The board was controlled by another strategic investor acting in concert with a savvy private-equity firm. But she was very clear about the high caliber of the other directors on the board, the challenges they discussed and how much she learned from those conversations. She did, however, make a point of highlighting the time the board adopted a recommendation she'd made to make a small acquisition and the resulting impact. While she wasn't selected for the position, her forthright style and description of her contribution made a positive impression on her recruiter.

Focus on your accomplishments, not your responsibilities. Says Ms. Whitehouse, "When I speak to executives who are seeking new roles, I advise them to be very specific in describing what they actually did: I grew, I built, I changed, I cut..."

Finally, if you're looking to switch industries or functions, avoid the jargon of your specialty. Describe your responsibilities and accomplishments in your resume and discussions in a way that can be broadly understood. At the same time, steer clear of grand yet empty phrases such as "strategic visionary with high-impact track record," however impressive and applicable these may seem.

Generic terms such as creativity, vision, business judgment, analytical skills, communication skills or people skills offer no information unless backed by clear examples of what you achieved and under what circumstances. Be as succinct as possible and use formatting in your resume to break up long text blocks that aren't easily skimmed.

A CFO's Story

Would it be hard to get re-employed if you lost your job or were dismissed? Says Mr. Boehmer, "Probably not, if your leaving story flies and you have the skills and abilities they are looking for." It also helps to emphasize what you did in response to the unexpected challenges you faced and to highlight any successes you were able to pull off.

One executive left his company of 20 years to become CFO of an early-stage e-commerce company. Like so many others, his company failed to get adequate funding after the market downturn and couldn't execute the original business plan. Subsequently when seeking a new position and talking to executive recruiters, the CFO explained how he quickly moved to conserve cash, while admitting his error in not doing so immediately upon joining the company. He said he especially regretted not reversing a decision made by his predecessor to implement expensive new customer-management software.

The CFO described the steps he and the management team took to transform the company's focus from e-commerce to software licensing and how that helped improve margins and cash flow. He described what he did to win support for this transformation from the company's board and investors. He also discussed his efforts to negotiate asset sales in order to minimize the investors' losses. And he was very clear about why joining this company was a smart decision at the time, how he'd hoped it would enhance his skills and what he'd learned. He's now a CFO at another early-stage company whose CEO admired his ability to make the best of a difficult situation and learn from mistakes.

Going Forward

The times ahead may force you to make a critical, honest examination of your contributions, strengths and developmental needs to successfully guide your career in new directions. Such an examination will help you clearly show interviewers your skills and how you can help them succeed.

More Job and Interview Tips

Answers To A Few Job Search Questions

Today's job market across the globe can only be described as dismal. Thousands of qualified instrongiduals are searching for work and industry bosses are scared stiff of increasing their overheads by taking on fresh talent. It is imperative therefore that you take a look at what problems and stumbling blocks you may be presented with when searching for a job and more importantly how to overcome them.

Ace behavioral interviews by telling powerful stories

Behavior-based interviews have been around for more than a decade, but if you aren't prepared for them, they can throw you for a loop. You know that you're in a behavior-based interview when most of the questions begin with statements like, "Tell me about a time when..." and "Describe a situation where...."

Advice on surviving tricky interviewers

Jim Simpson wanted a production supervisor's job with Florida Ladder Corp., a Sarasota, Fla., manufacturer, but his interview with one of the company's executives was the most unpleasant he ever had. The senior manager began Mr. Simpson's meeting by leaning back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other and demanding in a bitter tone, "Tell me why I should hire you."

Are hidden fears hurting you in interviews

We've all been in the midst of a sentence and suddenly forgotten what we were saying. Embarrassing and a little funny, right? Not when it happens during a job interview. Many candidates who suffer mental blocks and then flub their responses during interviews tend to beat themselves up afterwards. "What's wrong with me? Why couldn't I just answer the question?"

Avoid these four interviewing mistakes

Who would want to undermine his or her interview performance? Job candidates do it all the time. If you're inclined to sabotage your job interviews, follow these guidelines to make sure you fail. They'll guarantee you won't get the job you deserve. If your wish to sidestep these landmines, heed the advice that follows.

Careers Questions and Answers How Much Should You Pester Interviewers

Question: An interview I had about two weeks ago went well (or so I thought), and I sent a follow-up thank you and called the hiring manager a few times (no response). I don't want to seem like a pest, but is there anything else I can do?

Covert job Hunters Need Dress Code Discretion

LIKE CLARK KENT, who ducked into a phone booth to transform into Superman, Stephane Lopez is a quick-change artist. Last summer, Mr. Lopez was covertly interviewing for another job while still working at a New York investment bank. The investment firm had adopted a casual dress code, which usually meant khakis and a polo shirt. But a suit and a tie were more appropriate for his job interviews.

Find Out What References Are Really Saying About You

Keith O'Rourke of Reno, Nev., was concerned about the references he'd get from his last employer, a small start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he did sales and operations management. "I reported to the [vice president] of finance and had a good relationship with her, but I had a personality conflict with the owner," he says.

Find the Best Answers For interview questions

STOP! Don't answer that question! During practice and actual interviews and networking meetings, many job seekers are tensed and primed, ready to jump all over the questions they get. They eye the pitcher, praying for a high fastball across the center of the plate. Here it comes! Inwardly, the interviewee exults: "I've seen this question! I've rehearsed a smooth, punchy response...even outlined my talking points.

How Cultural Compatibility Can Enhance Your Success

To outside observers, Joyce K. Reynolds seemed at the top of her corporate career. She was senior vice president of marketing for Siegal & Gale, a New York City-based international communications firm and an affiliate of Saatchi & Saatchi, which, back in the 1980s, was one of the world's hottest ad agencies.

How to Blow A job Interview

The candidate's background, experience and education were exactly what the company wanted in a new executive vice president. "On paper, there was no better match," says Don Clark, a recruiter in Fort Worth, Texas. "But after interviewing him in person, we knew we'd have to keep looking."

How to Conduct an Interview

Keep in mind that your goal as a manager is to find the best person for the job and your company. If you set your sights on maintaining the highest good for everyone, instead of focusing on your own nervousness, you'll be in far better shape than you think. Remember that you know your stuff.

How to Get the job By Asking for It

As a job seeker, you may see an interview as an interrogation or exchange of information. It's neither. Interviews are sales calls. And, as any sales pro knows, you only get the sale by asking for it. You aren't begging for a handout when you ask for a job. You're offering prospective employers your experience and ability to contribute to their goals.

How To Hit It Off With job Interviewers

Every candidate has a nervous internal voice whispering this incantation before interviews. Whether seasoned or recently graduated, male or female, confident or terrified, we all hope potential employers will like us, even to the point of wanting a secret formula for developing rapport and achieving the elusive "fit."

How to Survive A Team Interview

If you're preparing to interview for a job, you must expect the unexpected. Long gone are the days when a single interviewer asked questions that simply expanded on your resume. Today, you might find yourself in an assessment center or interview with employees you'd work with if hired.

Interviewing for a Lesser job Could Be a Wise Career Move

Should you interview for a job that's beneath you? For most executives, there's no easy answer. While the decision should be based on your career goals, many candidates let emotional factors -- pride, greed or fear, for instance -- cloud their judgment.

Interviewing Tips for Candidates

Know the time and place of the interview and the interviewer's full name and title. Ensure that you fully understand the job description of the position for which you are interviewing. Plan to be 15 minutes early in anticipation of traffic problems or other unanticipated delays. Also, know where you're going. If possible acquaint yourself with the route. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable. Dress professionally (i.e. proper business attire). If presented with an application, fill it out neatly and completely.

Keep the Flu From Infecting Your Interview

The flu is taking its toll on the hiring process around the country. Recruiters tell of interviews being cancelled, candidates showing up who would have been better off staying in bed and professionals altering their handshaking habits.

Making the Most Of a Bad Interview

You may recognize this scenario: not only have you heard about a perfect job, but the employer is a great company, one that's always being written up for its stellar management and benefits packages. Already you can see yourself in the position and your career going places. And you have not one, but a whole slew of interviews with top brass. You buy a new outfit and matching shoes for the occasion.

Savvy job Hunters Could Learn A Thing or Two From TV Hosts

Have you ever left a job interview feeling frustrated because you didn't sell yourself well? That's how Traci Moshman once felt. "It just isn't my personality to sell myself. That's not how I was raised," she says. While networking with contacts was a good learning experience, Ms. Moshman wasn't able to turn her meetings into job opportunities.

Showing Creativity to Hiring Managers

Imagine you're being interviewed for a position as a product manager at a prestigious software company. Fortunately, you've done your homework. You researched the company, know the industry and are confident you'd be a good fit for the position. But instead of being asked to discuss these routine subjects, the hiring manager throws a curve and asks you to design a full-page newspaper ad about yourself, then show it to him.

Tell Me About Yourself Doesnt Mean Tell It All

When an interviewer asked a systems engineer to "tell me about yourself," he felt well-prepared to answer. After all, he'd been a professional for more than two decades and could recite the ups and downs of his career in great detail. Perhaps too much detail.

Ten Steps to Better Interviews Strategies That Will Help You

Many job hunters are poorly prepared to interview. They believe that since they're smart people who can think on their feet, they can "wing it" in interviews and still make a great impression on hiring managers. In most cases, they're wrong.

These Interview Bloopers Could Cost You the job

Once you've created a brilliant cover-letter and resume package, the next step to securing a new position is impressing interviewers. Meeting with hiring managers is stressful, but you can improve your chances of scoring well by avoiding common, yet costly, interview mistakes.

Turning the Tables On job Interviewers

Mike Weldon, a project manager with 10 years? experience in telecommunications, was interviewing for a job as project director with a large cellular communications company in the Midwest. He felt confident and prepared for his meeting with Dan Crane, senior vice president of the engineering strongision, who immediately asked some tough questions.

Why Contact Often Stops After Each job Interview

In the current employer's job market, rejection letters appear to have dried up like rain in the Sahara, and candidates are wondering why. Perhaps it's because overworked human-resources managers, knowing they have the upper hand, don't feel the need to respond to runners-up. Perhaps they simply don't have time.

The New Way to Work from Home

In order to be able working from home, the right facilities are essential. A well-adjusted desk and working PC are obvious here. But do not underestimate the importance of (digital) access to the required company data, so that you can work remotely with all the materials and data that are needed for this.

Top Career Advice:

Back to top

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Sitemap

Copyright 2011 - 2019 | - All Rights Reserved