View from the board: get noticed

I meet and speak to a large number of people whose first comment is: ‘It’s
just so difficult to get in front of headhunters.’ So, how should you go about
doing that, and what other sources should you look to for career support?

You can normally break down your own network into a number of distinct areas:
friends, colleagues, advisers and headhunters. Each of these groups needs to be
looked at separately but I shall try to deal with the latter two here.

Firstly, I’ll deal with advisers. Just as you develop relationships with
auditors, lawyers, brokers, analysts, bankers, rating agents etc ­ so will other
finance leaders.

And, more importantly, so will CEOs and managing directors as well. As a
result, it is not uncommon for CEOs to mention to their audit
partner/broker/lawyer to say that they have just lost their finance director, or
are looking for a number two in finance as part of their succession planning.

If that individual knows you, and knows you are potentially temptable, he or
she is likely to mention your name. And that’s the best way for CEOs to hear
about you ­ in a positive light from an adviser they trust and who makes money
out of them.

Because as we all know, you never recommend someone who will make you look
foolish ­ especially if you’re in a business relationship.

Secondly, headhunters work differently. We are asked to find the right person
for a role, and we are asked to do that exclusively.

This makes us very different to the all-purpose recruitment consultants of
this world. As a result, there can be a tendency for some headhunters to assume
that we can always find the candidates, and therefore don’t need to meet you
unless it’s for a specific role.

There’s no doubt that a meeting with me is less effective if it’s general
than if it’s assignment-related, but there really is value in any conversation.
So you need to get out and see us, or call us, or email us, and you need to do
it early enough in your career so that we track you.

Also, you need to impress us. Because we have the same issue as an adviser
when it comes to recommending you.

In fact, for us it’s even worse, because our recruitment is what we do for a
living, and if we get that wrong, we really don’t have much else to offer.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &

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