As the economy starts to regain strength in the coming months, and the positive impact of the COVID-19 vaccination program is felt, numerous new employment opportunities will begin to surface.
Over the past few months during various coaching sessions and networking meetings, I have heard many unemployed middle and upper-level executives complain that they can’t find the right job. In many cases they are looking for the same or similar position they held prior to being laid off or having their job eliminated. I have also heard these same people state that the hiring manager or recruiter provided constructive feedback that included the fact that they were overqualified for the applied position.
After these sessions, I find myself posing two questions to these individuals: What is the right job? And why do you believe that you were seen as overqualified?
To properly answer these two questions, they would need to do a personal inventory of their skill sets and understand how they could apply them to any potential job opportunity. Once this inventory is completed, they may realize that there is a high probability they are ready to move to the next level of responsibility and that they were overqualified for the position being offered.
The next step is to sit down and identify their transferable skills – those skill sets from their previous position that they can apply to the next posted position. They need to be ready to demonstrate how they will apply each of these skill sets to the roles and responsibilities outlined in the job description.
Once these two prior steps are completed, they may ask themselves the following question: “Why not go after that next-level position and not limit yourself by fishing in the same old pond?”
A possible answer is that there may be one or more skill-set gaps identified that need to be filled. If that is the result of the analysis, then their personal action plan should include finding online courses that will provide the needed skills that would fill those gaps.
One last reality check would be to meet with your “personal board of directors” (business contacts, friends and network members who provide you with advice and support) and get their insights into your strategy. This feedback will either validate your action plan or permit you to adjust it to reflect their valuable feedback.
Once these identified gaps are filled, it’s time to cast a bigger net and seek new opportunities with greater responsibility and authority, where your vast experience and skills can be best applied.
By challenging your self-image and replacing the “I am” with “I can,” you will provide the motivation needed to apply for that next-level opportunity. There is a good possibility that in your previous position, you felt you could have done your boss’ job. In some cases, you possibly filled in when he or she was ill or on vacation, demonstrating you could take on those next-level responsibilities.
Remember, you should be ready to demonstrate how your knowledge and experience can be an asset to the hiring manager or to a recruiter during your initial interactions. You will not be able to sell yourself unless you believe in yourself and your abilities.
Here are some examples for you to consider. If you previously were a general manager at a large industrial or manufacturing firm, supervising many operational areas, you could probably be a chief operating officer in a mid-sized firm in the same or allied industries. The same supervisory, delegating, motivational, financial planning and administrative skills used by a general manager can be applied to the position of the chief operating officer. In addition, if you were a procurement director at a large international manufacturing firm, you could provide supply chain and procurement expertise for a management consulting firm.
The greatest challenge is not only to sell the potential employer on your abilities, but to convince yourself that you can successfully fill that next position. In some instances, you may need to pivot out of your comfort zone. You can’t convince the employer of your value unless you believe in yourself and can successfully provide examples on how you will make a positive impact starting on day one by applying your knowledge, experience and acquired skills.
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