In this interview, we talked to Donna Padilla, from Witt/Kieffer about the results of the 2016 BlueSteps Executive Job Outlook report and her advice for candidates. Download the full report here.

Many executives expect the number of executive jobs to increase in 2016. Is now the time to make a move?

I’m a firm believer that you should make decisions depending on your own situation, whether that’s staying put or a better opportunity elsewhere. When executive jobs are available it’s very easy to get interested in new positions. That just means you have to be much more diligent about weighing the pros and cons for your career long-term. Many “new” jobs also require new, expanded skill sets, so one thing to make sure is that you’re ready for change and growth.

donna_padilla_executive_job_outlookWhat global economic trends do you see having the most impact on executive jobs in the coming year?

I think everyone is watching the global economy, from China to Brazil, which I won’t begin to make predictions about. In the AESC’s 2016 BlueSteps Job Outlook survey, clearly executives are a bit more cautious than a year ago.

One trend I notice is the movement of jobs between industries. Even in healthcare, in which I work primarily, there is more interest in recruiting “nontraditional” candidates, and I feel this is true in a lot of industries. There is a premium on talent and employers are being more creative about how to find it.

How can an executive best present him/herself to get noticed by executive search consultants in today's marketplace?

For the most part, executives who are outstanding in what they do get noticed. Word gets around. So my main advice is to excel and things will take care of themselves in the future. Beyond that, networking online and at key events and conferences still works. And finally, it’s okay to pick up the phone and talk to an executive search consultant who specializes in your function or industry. Search consultants want to know who’s potentially available and who can provide them with information about other great executives—acting as a resource and connector of talented people helps an executive to build his or her own brand.

What would you rank as the major challenges for executives at the moment, and what executive skills are in high demand considering those current challenges?

I think the sheer amount of responsibilities that most executives have is a major challenge. How do you balance so many things to do, keep up with email and meetings and have some kind of work/life balance at the same time? Overwork is common and can lead to stress and burnout. Therefore, one thing I keep an eye on is an executive’s ability to handle tremendous challenges and pressures and stay balanced and productive. All employers want executives who know their limits, manage the challenges they take on, can delegate and have a high emotional intelligence.

In terms of pure skills, everything related to technology is in high demand. The AESC’s 2016 BlueSteps Job Outlook survey respondents expect to see growth in the technology industry, but technology-related jobs in all industries will grow as well. Executives with expertise or even some experience in data analytics, cybersecurity, computer system integration, regulation and other IT areas should be on solid career footing.

Why do you think most executives valued executive coaching and digital/social media training over other forms of additional training/education? Do you agree that this is the best way for executives to stay relevant in the job market, other than on the job experience?

I think the digital/social media training ties in to my earlier remarks about technology. We all feel that we can learn more in these areas because they’re changing so rapidly. There are few true “experts” in the new digital landscape.

I’m pleased to see such an interest in coaching. I think this suggests an understanding among executives that, no matter how good you are, you can always use new ideas and an objective voice to help your career. I think mentorship is just as critical (and can have reciprocal benefits for both parties), so I would prioritize that as much as coaching.

One reason the interest in degrees and accreditation may not have ranked as highly is that these can be very job-specific, and many graduate degrees are seen as given in certain fields. Not everyone needs them, but those who can benefit should think very seriously about them—and often, employers will pay for additional study or credentialing.

If you could offer one key piece of advice to today's senior leaders, what would that be?

Think deeply about your own values and principles and seek out work and employers that match them. Most executives have a pretty good sense of what jobs fit their skills and personalities, but often do not think deeply about institutional mission and values when researching employers. What does a company or other potential employer really believe in, and does it live out its mission? Thinking more about values alignment will help you better determine whether to stay with a current employer or to seek out a new one.

For more one-on-one interviews and commentary from leading executive search consultants, download the full report here.


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