Questions and answers from Donna Humphrey-DeLosh (Ann Arbor) and Sue Ann Gonis (Los Angeles), Ross Executive MBA career coaches who have coached thousands of executives and professionals in the job search process over the past 10+ years.
What do you see on the executive job search horizon?
The job market has been strong for mid- to senior-level job seekers. A thriving economy has companies looking for leadership talent, and recruiters are increasingly contacting students with job leads and contacting us for student referrals. Executive-level salaries have come back from earlier lean years.
With what types of employers do your students land positions?
We coach students seeking mid- to senior-level management positions, directorships, and VP-level and above positions. There’s often a perception that business school career resources are geared for people looking to enter large companies, but we coach clients in successfully landing positions with large and small employers, including private, public, and nonprofit organizations.
We have worked with clients in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, finance, marketing, entertainment, technology, manufacturing, and operations, to name a few.
Do you work more with people looking to change employers or those interested in advancing within their organization?
About 40% of our students seek to remain and are navigating their current employers in support of advancing or pivoting functions. 25% are looking to pivot functions externally or switch industries, and the remaining 35% are a mixture of entrepreneurs looking to start a business or to work with startups in the private equity and venture capital space.
What do you recommend to clients looking to make a career change right now?
You have to be more creative and do more to develop credible, relevant experience in a new field. Ross’ ExecMAP is a great opportunity to develop experience you can leverage in your job search. In addition, joining professional organizations, speaking at conferences, and doing pro-bono consulting can be great ways to build a narrative around a new professional brand.
If you’re looking to change functions, again, the wisest strategy is often to do this first within your current organization. The leadership in your organization already knows you and what you’re capable of. In addition, they see the commitment and opportunity inherent in your MBA experience. If you feel there are barriers to moving within the organization, we can discuss individualized strategies for working through those perceived blocks. Often it comes down to developing an effective strategy for helping your organization see your potential. We’ve seen many EMBAs successfully re-brand themselves within their current organizations.
Which resources do students use when they are looking to make a career change?
A recent survey of our graduates revealed that the most common resource used when looking to make a change was Ross Career Services. The Michigan Ross network was also well utilized.
39% Ross Career Services
35% Ross alumni
30% Fellow Ross student/contact
26% Executive recruiter
22% Direct contact from organization
What’s different about what you do versus what a recruiter or headhunter does?
As your career coach, we will help you identify and achieve your unique goals. Executive recruiters work for companies and are looking to find talent to fill a company’s next big opportunity. We’ll help you develop a customized, comprehensive job search strategy and leverage your network to great effect. Working with a headhunter may be an important part of your strategy. And if you do get an offer through a recruiter, we’ll help you assess whether it’s the right opportunity for you.
We always coach students that while many sought-after positions are managed by recruiters, relying on recruiters should not be your only career search strategy. Headhunters are always seeking candidates whose experience is a direct match with the position they’re looking to fill; therefore, if your goal is to change function or industry, it can be hard to make your pitch to a recruiter. The best approach is to seek to build relationships with multiple headhunters who recruit for your industry, function, and geographic area. This increases the odds that when the right opportunity opens up, the recruiter retained to staff that position will think of you.
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Lillian Chen, Research Area Specialist
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University of Michigan
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