At Westgate, we position our clients for new opportunities through clear, on-brand messaging.
According to a Wall Street Journal article published on October 18, 2022, titled “Goldman Sachs Reports 43% Profit Drop, Confirms Reshuffling,” investment banking revenue fell 57% from a year earlier, and revenue is down 12%. The reshuffle currently underway is the largest in the firm’s history.
“A measure of CEO confidence fell to the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis, the Conference Board said last week.”
There is certainly nothing more fear-inducing than wondering about your livelihood and the worry about the care and safety of your family. However, there are a handful of strategies you can deploy that can help quip the anxiety of planning for your future.
Avoid the herd mentality
Herd behavior in humans is typical during times of danger and panic—avoid it at all costs.
Simply put, herd mentality refers to a person’s tendency to follow and copy what others are doing. It is very common amongst human behavior and can be largely influenced by emotions and instinct, versus research and analysis. Unfortunately, there are entities that will take advantage of this phenomenon for their own advantage. Career coaches, resume writers, business analysts, and doomsday profits are using the current economic conditions to propagate fear.
Understand what is in your control
The economy, the stock market, and the board’s decisions are all out of your control. But there is so much that’s in your control. Remaining optimistic, taking care of your health, spending quality time with your family, and looking after your employees and customers are strategies that will produce positive results.
If you’re looking for a transformational resource to assist you as you navigate uncertain times (and you like to read), read “Psycho-Cybernetics” by my favorite author, the late Dr. Maxwell Maltz (you will tap into the unbridled power of your subconscious mind.)
Don’t be invisible to your board or the market
Work on your brand in good times AND in bad.
There is nothing that anyone can do that will control the recession. But strong brands will give you as much control as possible for this journey.
“It’s not enough to be good. People need to know you are good.”
Some will benefit from the recession, and some will lose. The one who wins will have a strong personal brand.
In a previous Get Hired Up! podcast, we interviewed Roger Duguay, a major advocate for personal branding, Global Practice Leader with Boyden and author of the best-selling book, Stand Out: The Art of Creating an Impact.
Roger says, “when you try to manage your career, you need to think about your personal brand. I think many executives or anyone who has a career, most of the time, they don't know where to start. They don't know what it means. They don't know why they should do it. They don't understand until there is a need to build a professional network or a need to look for a new job. They might not know the importance of having a personal brand and the importance of developing and managing it before it is imposed on them.
We come from an era where our parents had one job or maybe two jobs for 20 or 30 years. And now we are in an era where most of us might have three, four, or five jobs throughout a career. If you are planning to have 10 different jobs, within 10 different markets or companies around the country or the world, you need to think about your personal brand.”
Additionally, Roger says, “Curiosity, adaptability, flexibility, interest in a non-structure, being able to navigate in the unknown is very important now. It doesn't matter as much the age and the background that you have. It's having openness and using the right person with the right attitude to bring it to the next level.”
If you have a secret sauce that you alone have, companies will pay for it. Your branding needs to be on point, and your messaging needs to be precise. Once you have created a clear, strong brand, be sure to amplify it in different ways and avoid making mistakes that will bury your trademark .
Salary projections for 2023 & Executive Compensation
It’s not all gloom and doom…
Your personal brand will help alleviate the anxiety around the glooming pressure of a recession while also protecting your compensation and in fact, potentially increasing it. According to pay data and software firm PayScale’s 2022-2023 Salary Budget Survey, U.S. respondents report, on average, a planned base salary increase of 3.8 percent in 2023. “The survey was conducted May-June of 2022 with responses from 2,021 employers. According to the survey conducted, "The top reason given for higher budget increases in 2023, by 85 percent of respondents, is competition for labor."
So, if projections are suggesting that salaries will actually increase for top talent in the coming years, your brand had better demonstrate your ability and passion for filling those roles. Additionally, work hard at understanding the marketplace. Do your research, conduct due diligence on different forecasts, etc. Again, work hard at what you can control.
In another previous Get Hired Up! podcast, we interviewed my friend and colleague, Lotte Struwing, President of Lasting Solutions HR Consulting.
According to Lotte:
“Understand the marketplace you're in. Are you in a smaller environment that has a harder time attracting candidates? Are you in a metropolitan area? What are the skills you know that you need? There are many different elements to think about when determining what fair compensation is. I would also say that fair compensation is based on where somebody is when they come in. So, for example, if you're a brand-new CEO, you may be at the lower end of compensation—base pay. But you may have an opportunity to get to a higher level within a year when you can demonstrate that you're fully competent in the role that you have.
It's really understanding what you want, understanding the marketplace that you're going into, understanding what's important to you, and what's not important to you. Understanding what's important to you, from a career perspective, does the organization support your values and your priorities? Have a full understanding of what you're negotiating for.
From there, what's expected in the role? Do you know what skills the company is looking for? When you have a total understanding of what they're looking for, and you can match it to your strengths, that really helps you with leverage from a negotiation perspective.”
People with a solid brand are seldom without an opportunity
Again, if you have an ability, a skillset, a competency that an organization or client will benefit from, you will never be without work. If you are laid off, you will be sought after again. We always tell our clients who find themselves in a sticky situation, whether it’s a job they don’t enjoy or a layoff, this is right now, it’s not forever.
Remember, even with limited specific skillsets, a strong work ethic will take you far (and potentially fast). But it needs to be demonstrated in your brand. How?
A client of ours was rapidly searching for a new opportunity. He didn’t want to take any old job that came his way and he practiced intentional patience to avoid doing so. While he was being patient, he demonstrated his work ethic by publishing four different articles on LinkedIn of very high quality. He received a job offer based on those articles. He demonstrated his work ethic before stepping foot into an organization.
A key component of personal branding for board candidates and rising leaders is financial literacy.
There is a misconception that CEOs must have an accounting degree or CPA to be financially literate. Understanding a balance sheet (as an example) will help you position yourself for board opportunities.
We often hear, “I’ll never get to the C-suite with my level of financial literacy, or I don’t have enough P&L experience, etc.”
Again, you don’t need to have copious amounts of experience in finance to demonstrate the financial acumen required for a c-suite role.
Positioning yourself for the board or the C-suite
Consider yourself a business leader first. Everything else comes second.
If you speak the language of leadership first—versus your function first, people will listen to you.
Rising stars who are interested in serving at the C-level often present themselves as their technical function first (finance, legal, technology, etc.). Position yourself as a business leader (think like a CEO) first and leverage your functional expertise secondly.
People will tap out halfway through if you focus on function and technical terms first. Someone may not understand your language, and it may be perceived as condescending. If you speak to leadership first, people will not only listen; they will remain tuned in.
This approach builds trust, generates loyalty, and opens doors.
Trust & Accountability
Build trust with your team by demonstrating concern and supporting each person. Building trust goes (literally) hand in hand with building your brand. You want this to be part of your reputation, you want to be mentioned in conversations when you aren’t present, and you want to be recognized as trustworthy. It could be the difference between you and another candidate. This seems like an obvious way to diversify your career portfolio, but many people don’t prioritize it in a thoughtful way.
So, how do you build trust thoughtfully?
We also interviewed Robin Dreeke on the Get Hired Up! podcast. Robin is the former Head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations and behavior for over three decades. Here is his advice:
- Seek the thoughts and opinions of others instead of giving your own—speaking in terms of their priorities instead of your own.
- Talk about your strengths in terms of the priorities of the organization that you're going into. Instead of telling them what you think about things, ask them what they think about current challenges that their company is dealing with and then offer your thoughts and opinions in terms of those things.
- Validate the person without judging them. Validation is just seeking to understand that person at that deeper level.
- Empower others with choices because when you give people choices, it's demonstrating that it's all about them.
I also spoke on Robin’s podcast, Forged by Trust, and we discuss building trust at the c-suite level and in the boardroom. You can listen here.
At the board level, there are ample opportunities to serve as a non-executive director, but there is a lack of access to those opportunities because many of these opportunities are filled through personal networks. How do you fix that? Surround yourself with tools and people who will champion you.
Although a long game that won’t produce results immediately, start an outreach campaign (we use 90-day campaign cycles) to rekindle relationships with former colleagues, clients, bosses and mentors, suppliers, and industry regulators to diversify your network base.
Additionally, ask. Ask to have a conversation virtually, grab a coffee, go for lunch, etc. The pandemic has instilled a little weariness with socializing in some of us and it can feel uncomfortable asking to connect and have a conversation, whether it’s with a stranger or someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
As Susan Jeffers would say, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” It might make all the difference.
Just remember this, a conversation you have in 2022 may be the foundation of an opportunity in 2030.
Know market vulnerabilities
Earlier, we mentioned conducting thorough due diligence.
When you’re planning an industry transition, think about sectors that are performing better than the GDP for your region. Are there sector adjacencies you can explore for opportunities with less risk? Suppliers to your current organization who serve other sectors, for example, may be potentially excellent employers, especially if you consider the value of your own network.
Your industry network as a corporate asset
The value of your supplier and customer relationships cannot be underestimated. Yet, time and again, CEOs with significant relationships with premier brands don’t leverage those relationships in networking, board, and job interviews.
When the board of Company X (the company you’re targeting) learns of your relationship with Company Y (a Fortune 1000 company with which you have a strong relationship), your value proposition is suddenly amplified. Your ability to open a door for your prospective board or company may produce highly profitable results for them. Your network is a highly valuable asset—make sure you have it positioned squarely on your career balance sheet (resume or bio).
Your Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C
I am particularly proud of a member of my extended family, Thomas (a pseudonym), maintained a professional license (in a field he doesn’t work in currently) for more than 25 years, just in case he needed it during poor economic conditions. He triggered his Plan B not during an economic crisis but at a time when his current role became unbearable. Even though he triggered a salary decrease, he could continue to meet his financial commitments while he evaluated his options, recalibrated his marketing collateral, and planned a targeted search. His Plan C was to relocate to the west coast (he resides on the east coast) for an industry that was in growth mode.
What is your Plan A, B, and C? Diversify your career portfolio with options that will bring clarity, comfort, and financial security.
What to do today
Be emotionally present for your board and your team. Listen. Reflect. Engage. Stay focused with your head in the game as you consider your options. Apply the principles of business continuity to your career. Take an inventory of your capabilities and signature stories as you work on your brand.
Consider your core values and what is important to you in your career. This will help you with building a more concise plan with appropriate targets. Use your values to screen organizations of interest. Adjacent industries may be a good target—however, check your employment contract for a non-compete clause. While I’m always surprised at companies who don’t use them, occasionally, a non-compete clause can interfere with an effective exit.
Tap into your network while consistently growing it. This is crucial. If you have little time, begin with your internal ecosystem and gradually build it out to suppliers, customers, industry regulators, and industry associations.
Consider working with a personal branding consultant or executive coach to help you with this process. It can be very helpful, especially when your time is scarce.
Plan A – Your current role
Deliver the best performance possible for your firm. Support your employees, overserve your clients, and keep abreast of cross-functional events. If you want to gain exposure and experience in a project that isn’t directly correlated with your role, be proactive and ask to support the targeted goals of that project in a way that makes sense.
We had a mystery guest join us on the Get Hired Up! podcast to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur, CPA, CFO for hire, and national retail executive.
According to Andrew:
“Once you get into an organization and once you establish yourself and your credibility, there's a lot of potential for movement. I had good relationships with many people. I know people trusted me. I just didn't appreciate that I could have a couple of different careers inside one when I started.
The most important thing in hindsight was making sure I had a lot of good relationships and they ended up being with a lot of senior people. I'm not the biggest networker out there and I wasn't trying to join all the corporate committees and things like that. Instead I tried to do a good job and I also just ended up becoming close to a number of people who were senior over time. I actively cultivated those relationships because I was hoping it would help my career down the road.
It was more organic, and in hindsight, that is the key. Had I not done that, my career wouldn't have lasted as long as it did there. So, cultivating those relationships and just knowing who the decision-makers are because that can change in a large organization quickly. Being broadly networked in a genuine way, is very helpful.”
Plan B – Management Consulting
At your level and with your experience, private and public boards can use your expertise. Establish a management consulting practice now to prepare for the future. An LLC can serve you well while you’re employed as a part-time consultant as well as for post-retirement board advisory services.
Plan C – Industry Change
In a recent conversation with a client in the New York media world, I learned that her company is planning to be acquired. She told me her industry is undergoing massive consolidation over the next several years. She survived five mergers, but now she’s planning her exit (albeit with a generous severance). Because she carefully observed the signs, signals, and activities going on with the parent company and watched the industry, she started an industry change strategy 14 months in advance of her predicted exit from the media company.
How Westgate can help
One of the most potent ways we help our clients is decision support. Whether it’s deciding to change organizations, change industries, or change functions, the decision can be daunting.
If your CEO requires assistance with raising visibility in the markets or seeking a non-executive board opportunity, let us know.
At Westgate, we position our clients for board, CEO, and operating partner opportunities through clear, on-brand messaging.
Connect with us to schedule a confidential conversation with our Client Success Strategist, Maddison Shears at firstname.lastname@example.org.