With soaring energy prices slowing economic growth, and scrutiny of CEO performance at an all-time high, top-tier executives scoping the job market should expect plenty of opportunities. ExecuNet, an executive career Web site, reports that recruiters are upbeat about the employment market following an early 2005 spike in executive job growth. The industry is expecting a 17 percent increase in executive recruitment assignments during the second half of 2005, with the greatest demand for recruits coming from the booming pharmaceutical, healthcare, and financial services industries.
"Financial services is going gang busters right now," says Virginia Clarke, global diversity leader for Spencer Stuart, an international executive search firm. "With Sarbanes-Oxley [legal requirements], a lot of companies are looking for real specialists among their financial staff. Our financial officers practice is going very well."
And while the industries generating the greatest growth in executive-level jobs are the traditional heavy hitters, the executives they are going after are not the stereotypical "company man." According to "The Path to the Top," a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Center, which compared Fortune 100 executives in 1980 with their counterparts in 2001, today's executives are younger, more likely to be female, and less likely to have Ivy League educations. They also reach the executive level faster, hold fewer jobs along the way, and are more likely to be hired from outside the company.
Experts say changes in the characteristics of executives and the path to the executive suite, along with a renewed corporate focus on burgeoning markets, spell increased opportunities for diverse candidates – especially those with international experience, a quantifiable record of responsibility and accomplishment, and a solid reputation.
"We are looking for top talent, [but] just because someone has top credentials doesn't mean we are going to go after them," says Ms. Clarke. "Quite simply, it is a different way of looking at things. That is the richness a lot of companies are seeing right now.
"Companies say they are tired of looking at the same people from the same neighborhoods. [They] are saying 'we need to mix this up, to get a real global view of how business needs to be thought through.'"
Other tips for job seekers aiming for the top? Make nice with recruiters.
According to Ms. Clarke, candidates at the executive level should know the names and companies of the top recruiters in the country, as well as their competitors. Most importantly, return all phone calls.
"Make sure you return the call. Give me some names or some leads," says Ms. Clarke. "Being a friend to the firm bodes well for you and we will call you when we have something that might fit you."
Fernando Hernandez, senior vice-president of multicultural strategy and diversity at Washington Mutual, recommends that job seekers with executive ambitions invest in education, take advantage of resources in the community, and plan for the future.
"First is the education perspective; you want to have as much good education as possible," opines Mr. Hernandez. "Second is you can't do it alone. You need to have good solid mentors who can shepherd you along. Then you have to have a career plan, which a lot of Hispanics don't have. You need to be able to map where you want to be in 10 years. Then you'll have a good overall plan of attack to be able to strategically achieve your goals."
Mr. Hernandez says that a hands-on approach can also play an important role in catching senior management's eye. One strategy he recommends to would-be executives: Create a business case, present it to senior management, and express why they should lead this initiative.
Ample education and experience aside, minority executives are advised to not lose sight of their most distinguishing feature: community.
"I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic and African-American neighborhood. I have a sincere passion for seeing these people move forward and succeed and I don't take it lightly," says Mr. Hernandez. "Don't forget about your community and it will come full circle. That is your source of knowledge and strength in these markets."
Fernando Hernandez, Senior Vice-President of Multicultural
Strategy and Diversity, Washington Mutual
Growing up in Jersey City, in a predominantly Hispanic and African-American neighborhood he refers to as "El Barrio," it is little wonder Fernando Hernandez considers himself a native of the multicultural markets. In his position at Washington Mutual, Mr. Hernandez is in charge of driving strategies, tactics, and investments in the multicultural markets for the banking giant. While he admits his passion for the job leaves him little free time, he also reveals the position is far from strictly business.
"I'm a visionary," says Mr. Hernandez. "I set a direction of where I see these markets going and where the company wants to go. I am really leveraging the diversity aspects. I see the huge potential; it is really an adrenaline rush that I get from being able to play in these arenas. It makes me exceedingly humble to be able to come back and work in these communities."
Washington Mutual ranked number four on the 2005 Hispanic Business Top 40 Companies for Hispanics (see September 2005 issue). The company's diversity initiatives include alliances with local, regional, and national organizations, intern- and management-training programs, and a $375 billion Community Commitment set up to help more minority borrowers become homeowners.
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