In tough economic times, the need for executives to effectively manage their careers—whether actively seeking employment or not—becomes critical for weathering the storm.

As an executive resume writer, a story I hear again and again from my clients is that they’ve never had to look for a job in their life; opportunities have just come their way…until now.

According to the 2016 BlueSteps Job Outlook report, 90.2% of management professionals across the globe are open to new opportunities in 2016. Clearly, what job seekers and potential job seekers are up against is pure mathematics. The more companies fold and downsize, the more executives there are hunting for new opportunities. And, in this climate, even “safely” employed executives are keeping their options open.

career_management_adviceThis fiercely competitive environment, characteristic of recessionary periods, can derail careers that have done nothing but gain momentum in the past. Going into survival mode, whether you are content in your position or actively seeking employment (and perhaps nervous about how long it is taking), requires taking both short-term steps and long-term stepwise actions to build a resilient brand that is powerful enough to protect you. The following are my top recommendations for doing so:

1. Modernize your executive portfolio with a carefully crafted career story.

Whereas in the past your executive resume, bio, and cover letter may have been required documents for a position that was already in the bag—a formality really—in today’s economy these are key tools in your career management toolbox. If done right, they can differentiate you from the crowd of executives with similar qualifications.

Modern career documents are designed to grab attention with a distinctive appearance and are written with a keen awareness of today’s readers who have a remarkably low threshold for boredom (probably because they have to sift through so many applicants for a given position). That means you must not only relay your executive brand in the blink of an eye, but you must also tell a rich and compelling story about your key challenges, actions and positive results…written as concisely as possible.

Having great career literature in this economy may also entail turning “failures” into success stories. Many executives have recent disappointments blotching an otherwise stellar track record—failed projects, layoffs, closed businesses, etc. These unpleasant scenarios, which we often associate with a failure to keep our head above water, must be reflected across all of our career documents as strengths gained. With a market in need of executives who can drive cost-cutting initiatives and make tough decisions in a tougher economy, it is necessary to learn to package any bumps along the road as added value.

2. Revamp your LinkedIn profile for 2016.

With more executives attempting to effectively manage their careers during this downturn, merely having a LinkedIn profile is no longer a differentiating factor. Nearly every one of your competitors will also have one, so now it’s a matter of standing out on this no-longer-novel platform. 

While you certainly want to communicate the same strong executive brand that your executive portfolio does, really turning heads on LinkedIn is about adding richness to your career story (showing them a side of you they won’t see on your resume) and playing the SEO game (meaning creating content, content, and more content). Just make sure you keep it easy to read, interesting, and filled with the right keywords.

3. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.

While having a well-developed executive portfolio and online profile is a great start, and comprises the first steps that can be made in the short term, you’ll need to have a long-term vision to effectively harness the power of brand in your favor.

Your entire network will need to be constantly reminded of who you are and what expertise and value to associate with you. This means seeking every opportunity to position yourself as an expert, whether via blogging on LinkedIn Pulse, building a solid twitter following, writing articles for industry-related publications, or seeking out speaking opportunities to enhance your visibility. But don’t wait until you are actively seeking a new position to begin building your brand. Plant the seeds early and water frequently throughout your career for best results.

4. Build your network at all times.

Along the same lines, don’t wait until you are desperate for a job to nourish your network. Do it all the time. Make it a habit to go through your list of contacts and flag people you need to reach out to, setting daily and weekly networking goals (such as emailing a former colleague to stay in touch, asking a contact to introduce you to someone you’d like to meet, or scheduling a call with someone you met briefly to get to know them better). This will build a larger audience to whom you can broadcast your brand.

5. When you’re ready to commence your search, develop a clear strategy.

With the time needed to land the next executive opportunity being at times unbearable in this climate— even for the most qualified professionals—it may no longer be enough to reach out to a few recruiters and hope for the best. You will need to develop a multi-pronged action plan to ensure that your job search is productive, involving regular goal setting and consistent online and offline activity. If you feel confused about how to proceed or need help in developing a solid action plan, consider working with a BlueSteps executive career advisor who can provide you with support during this critical phase.

Whether you are currently on the job hunt or not, arming yourself with powerful and distinguishing career literature, building both your network and brand over time, and developing a strong job-search strategy when the time comes to make a move will put the odds in your favor and will better prepare you to ride through this storm as we hope for an economic rebound.


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