Executive Search at Every Career Stage: A How To Guide (Part 2)

Article   –   2 April 2020

In this second part of our guide, we will look at the remaining career levels: Early career, Mid-career and Post-retirement. If you have not read the first part from last month, please do take a look there first for some useful general advice before proceeding here.

Early career level

Early career individuals are generally those with more than three years, but less than ten years’ experience. These individuals have the work experience that the graduates lack, but do not have the long-range clarity their more senior level colleagues have.

Individuals in this stage of their careers are generally quite ambitious and will try to move into more senior or privileged positions earlier than their skills or temperament may allow, which can result in a bit of tunnel vision. This stops individuals in their early career from properly assessing where they are and where they can go next.

If you are in this stage of your career, engaging with a Search firm is always a useful barometer of where your career may be in the present. This is because the Search firm will honestly and impartially assess you and your CV, giving you a little of that long-range clarity of what your next move should be, and where.

If a Search firm engages with you, try to understand why they contacted you about this specific role. Does the level seem a little low or a little high? If it seems a level below, is it because the organisation is much larger than your current employer and so is actually a step up in scale, even though the title may be different? If it seems a level higher, is it because you would be stepping into a smaller organisation, with much more responsibility?

Spending the time to improve the clarity you have around your current career path will enable you to make the right moves at the right time for you.


Mid-career level

Mid-career individuals are those who are at the top of their game. At this stage, they fully understand what their strengths and weaknesses are and what type of organisation and culture will allow them to be their most productive and successful selves. They will also have spent time engaging with Search firms and so have become adept at getting what they need from them.

However, even at this level Search can be a powerful partner to re-invigorate a career. Often, individuals at this level draw on their years of experience and their skillset to reappraise their career path. It may be that, although they have achieved a lot, they have tired of the work they are doing or the industry they are working in and are contemplating a change.

If a Search firm engages with you at this stage of your career, take advantage of this to start a conversation and to get some fresh ideas regarding where your skills and experience can take you. It may be that the Search firm has already done this and is coming to you with an opportunity that you may never have even considered! We often feel that true diversity is achieved when people move into a different sector using their developed skill set but in a new setting. Or something like this

Post-retirement level

At this stage of their career, some individuals may wish to have nothing interrupt their retirement and take that well-earned rest! Others like to use the security of retirement to give something back, either to their own industry, Government or charity. Some simply want to try something completely different.

Now unencumbered by having to follow a particular career path, Search firms are ideally placed to help such individuals use their skills to follow their passions. A wide variety of organisations, from orchestras to universities, require individuals with a breadth of skills. Individuals at this level should in particular make time to listen to what Search firm have for them, as it may lead to wholly unexpected opportunities.

Individuals at this level also still have the opportunity to grow and gain experience. Non-executive work is significantly different to executive work, and, not unlike those in the early career level, becoming a good non-executive requires assessing where exactly you are in your journey and where you are most likely to improve your skills. Search firms can offer the same honest and impartial assessments here, leading to a better non-executive experience for those at this level.

Finally, some individuals at this level tend to require more help with engaging in a process. For example, those who have been Partners at law firms or professional services organisations may not have had to write a CV or have an interview in 30 years! For those that have spent their career in the private sector, public sector interview processes and timescales may seem like an alien world. Search firms are particularly useful in helping ease these individuals into these processes, so if you are at this level make sure that you take advantage of the up-to-date marketplace knowledge of the Search firm you are engaged with.



If you take away nothing else from this two-part, 2000-word screed, it should be this: Search firms can be a powerful ally and critical friend throughout every stage of your career. Take advantage of their skills and expertise and make sure to grow from your interactions with them!

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