Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It’s their association not yours, but, it’s your career not theirs.

Chuck Rumbarger shared this insight with me shortly after my boss and I were “asked to leave” as CEO and EVP of a very large ($40+ million budget back in the early 1990s) international association. We had been there 16 and 15 years respectively.

Over the last couple of months, three of my blogs around the topic of “When Do You Know It’s Time to Go” have had high readership.

The common thread: most CEOs are “living on the edge” once they pass seven years in their role as chief staff officer.

If you know there is a good chance that you and/or your association will decide it is time for you to leave, the big question is how do you best prepare to leave? The other big question for many CEOs is how can I possibly feel “right” about planning for my departure when I’m still happy and my board seems happy? 

Many association CEOs are so fully committed to the success of their organization that they take little time to think about the next steps. And, that brings us back to Chuck’s advice that it’s your career not theirs.

As I network with execs or former execs, I’m always surprised ...
  • at how many spend so little time to keep up their networking. Especially those who have been fired once before. 
  • at how few had an updated resume ready for the moment the departure came. 
  • at how few understand how long it takes to find a new position ... or, that it is easier to find a job when you already have a job. 
  • at how few know the “rule of thumb” that it will take one month for every $10,000 in salary to find a new job; perhaps more if you are not willing to relocate.
  • that many 55 or older don’t realize it will take them three more months to find a job than a younger association professional.
Here are some lessons of someone who has been through that “what’s next” part of life:

1. Take Advantage of Outplacement.
  • Your employment contract (you do have one, right!) should include a provision that the association provides you with an outplacement service for three to six months (depending on how long you’ve been with your association.
  • Outplacement firms provide you an office and place to go each morning. They normally provide tools you have been used to (phone, copier, email, fax, etc.), plus have HR professionals who serve as counselors and provide valuable advice.
2. Never, never stop networking.
  • I can’t count the number of executives who have told me they built up their network, found a job, stopped networking, lost a job and have to restart networking all over. My question: why ever stop networking?
  • I’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I discovered during my unemployment in the 1990s that there is an important extension of the phrase and it is “It is not who you know, it’s who knows you.” The break (a consulting contract) that led me to starting my own association management company started my someone who knew me and knew I was out of work. He asked me if I had time to manage some meetings for his company. I knew him but more importantly, he knew me and knew that I was seeking work. And, that is an important part of keeping your network informed!
  • When you are networking (during which you are asking an executive to share names of others who might help you in your job search) be sure to following these three rules.”
    1. Be on time and come knowing a bit about me.
    2. Come prepared: one or two updated resumes and something to take notes with ... pen and paper or electronic devise. (I'm not impressed if -- when I start sharing contacts -- I have to loan you a writing tool and paper.)
    3. A thank you back to me ... a quick email and/or a written thank you note. After all, I donated valuable time to help you, the least you can do is thank me. (By the way, after we meet, I prepare an email with a list of contacts for you ... I don't send it until I've received a thank you note.)
3. Establish a thought leadership strategy for yourself. 
  • Take time now to speak, write, publish. This establishes you as a thought leader and opens more doors than you know. As a serious thought leader in association management, jobs may find you more than you find jobs!
4. Create an awesome resume (off and online).
  • And tailor each resume to each different association you contact! And, remember, LinkedIn is vital for job seekers. So, be sure your LinkedIn profile works well for you. And, ask someone else to review both your resume and your LinkedIn profile for suggestions.
  • Here’s a news story about how head hunters are using social media (LinkedIn and others) to find you and other executives.  If you are not there, they can’t find you!
  • And, be sure to read this article: Dumb mistakes smart people make on their resumes.  
PS. If you are a CEO (or senior association executive) in your 50s, be sure to read this book: Great Jobs for Everyone 50+  
Ok, now it’s your turn! 

What questions do you have? What additional suggestions can you offer to those looking or who should be preparing for their next job search?

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