Answer: In this post, we learn about the background of the job-seeker at the Senior Director level and a special background that was not always considered a positive as he interviewed in Silicon Valley.
I’ll call this candidate Matthew (obviously not his name) and he and I connected on LinkedIn about 7-years ago. At the time I was recruiting to fill a position for a client. I often arrange exploratory interviews with senior comms executives to focus on their key priorities in finding a new job, why timing can be critical and how to evaluate the consequences of making a risky move. He was at a critical juncture based on his career track and needed to understand why a high-risk situation could be disastrous.
His career in Public Relations begin more than 20+ years ago in the Valley. He moved from Manager level jobs in media relations to Corporate Communications Director in a start-up during the boom/bust days of 2000-2002. He moved to a mid-sized (less risk, more stability) software company to become a PR Director for 5.5 years. He then connected with one of the major B2B multi-billion-dollar companies in the Valley. In this organization, titles were hard won, and most new hires agreed to more salary but lower titles and jobs with smaller scope. However, there were rotational assignments and opportunities to develop his story-telling talents through executive and internal comms assignments.
After almost 6-years with the Company, he took a leave of absence to pursue personal family projects and returned over 18-months later. (That decision was sometimes treated as suspect when he interviewed for a new role.) His career history with the company was strong so he was hired back. Once he returned, he realized the company was no longer in a growth mode and layoffs were occurring, particularly of more mature employees. Junior candidates were being hired in.
There was also a change in leadership of the Corporate Communications function and his reporting lines were modified, for the worse, with promises it was temporary. That was never corrected. While his Comms leader was making headway to reorganize the corporate communication function and being effective at managing up, his ability to manage and support a large team was a weakness. Matthew was not getting support for his career goals and realized it was time to quietly look for a new job.
He thought it made sense to interview, at least for the first round, all opportunities that were offered to him. He mentioned to me that he had interviewed with over 8 companies. I wondered how he was evaluating these situations without becoming confused by everything he was hearing. We went back to the basics–what was important to him and came up with a set of criteria. It emerged that his goals were incompatible with the career path at his current employer.
He wanted the scope of his role to not pigeon-hole him in a specialty, e.g. executive communications was too narrow. He wanted to make a difference—that there was a problem to solve – and where he could be recognized for his contributions. The company should be public and have a revenue stream of several billion $$ annually. He also wanted to supervise a team. He felt with those credentials he would be well qualified and on the right track to be considered for a broad communications role in a larger company. I agreed.
I also felt, considering his years of experience and maturity, that he was at a critical point to make the right choice. If he decided to take a risk, for example, with a start-up, that could undermine his career track. He would simply be too many years away from having the right experience to be considered for a corporate communications leadership position. He was on the edge of running out of time to make the leap to the next level. While there were many exciting new businesses needing his expertise, he was the breadwinner in the family and the risk involved was too great to consider a start-up.