Last Updated Dec 18, 2009 3:14 PM EST
Headhunter Dan Kelley
Yes, it's awful out there in the job market; you don't
need an expert to tell you that. But maybe you could use a little expert
guidance in finding the few bright spots, which is where Dan Kelley comes in.
Kelley is managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles and
has matched executives with jobs at places like href="http://finance.bnet.com/bnet?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=bac">Bank of America, Godiva, and
Nascar. Want to know who's hiring now, what they're looking
for, how to stay in demand, and the best way to find out about open positions?
Do you see any bright spots at all?
Frankly, we are forced to look for bright spots. And if you
are forced to look for them, then you do see them. Take our industrial
practice. It looks pretty dismal until you dig down a little bit and see
energy, which has held up a lot better. And although alternative energy is
still very nascent and small, there are robust activity and good earnings from
some of these companies.
Even something like financial services — you might
think that must be a complete wipeout. In fact, it isn’t. If you look
at roles that have to do with risk or debt restructuring, for obvious reasons,
there is activity there.
So how can people make themselves attractive to companies that are hiring
Having a strong functional skill set is no longer enough.
What most companies are looking for is that and something else. My favorite
is what I call a strong commercial acumen. Now I may be a very creative
marketer, but if I don’t have a sense of how my marketing really
impacts the bottom line of my company, I am not nearly as valuable today as I
was five years ago. Every function has to be able to demonstrate, if I invest
$1 or $100 million, here is what I can expect to deliver back to the company in
terms of some real commercial output.
Another thing — and it’s more relevant
in some companies than others — is a global perspective. You don’t
have to have lived or worked abroad to get this perspective; you can read the Financial
Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Because
even the most domestic of companies are affected by events and practices
outside this country.
A third thing that is less tangible but very important for
an employer to see is leadership capability, which means having strong
interpersonal skills and being able to motivate, develop, and mentor others. An
employer wants at least to believe there is the potential to get a lot more out
of you over time than just the role they are hiring you for.
And I assume it helps to know something about the Web.
Digital technology has really transformed the way consumers
interact with each other and with brands. I would say in any consumer-oriented
company or industry, whether you’re in a marketing role or not, it
pays to have an understanding of the opportunities presented by digital
technology. I’m not talking about taking a 30-second television spot
and putting it on YouTube because you think it’s cool. It’s
about having a deeper understanding of how consumers use the new media, and how
they interact with each other and with brands.
So how do you gain those skills?
In the case of this new digital world, I say immerse, dive
in. For the commercial acumen I was talking about, spend a lot more time with
the leaders of other functions. To the extent that you can, take on some
profit-and-loss responsibility. That is worth its weight in gold on a resume.
People want to know what you were accountable for.
How have compensation packages changed these days?
If there is less demand for talent and a huge supply of
talent, companies are going to pay less for it. That’s basic.
In financial services, the kinds of bonuses that have
historically been guaranteed are not being guaranteed anymore. Employers are
saying, “We will put a big objective out there and if you achieve it,
you will be awarded accordingly. But no guarantees.” There is not a
single aspect of compensation that has not been affected by this crisis one way
What advice do you have for people who have jobs now?
Ask yourself: how would you interview for your job today? Or
for that promotion? Where do I add value over and above that of my peers? How
do I differentiate myself? Am I demonstrating it at all?
Also, am I in touch with how our customers are using new
media, and how do I demonstrate that on a regular basis? Am I spending time
with other functional leaders in the business looking at challenges facing the
business? And am I spending the time to really know how our business is being
We’re hearing many companies aren’t hiring
Sure. Employers are looking to improve their bottom line
anyway they can. And if companies think they can recruit better or more cheaply
internally, then they are going to take a shot at it. href="http://finance.bnet.com/moneywatch?Page=QUOTE&Ticker=ko"> The Coca-Cola Company,
for example, has created bigger, more capable internal staffing functions
within the last six months. They haven’t stopped using external
search firms; they’re just using their executive search partners
differently and more selectively.
So you need to adjust your contact strategy accordingly. You
can’t be content making yourself known to a recruiter. You’ve
got to reach out to the functional heads inside the companies you want to work
for, as well as internal staffing specialists.
So work is harder to find for everyone. Even you.
I guess you could say that. Certainly the best work is
harder to find.
Learn more about searching for jobs in a tough economy: