My name is Mark Wayman, and I’m an Executive Recruiter focused on gaming and high tech. Over the last thirteen years I have placed 800+ executives. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $250,000, and last year I placed several executives north of $1,000,000.
Some people are going to love this article; some people are not. If you are reading this, you are ambitious and driven. Most people these days are not. I’m not Chicken Little here to tell you the sky is falling, however based on my experience as a Headhunter performing very senior level searches, I have seen a cultural shift to entitlement, mediocrity and complacency. THAT…is awesome for you! Why? Because hard work and doing the right things WILL be rewarded. What half the people are not trying, those that do, rise to the top.
If your salary is less than $100,000 a year, responding to online ads, although not preferable, is an acceptable career strategy. It’s a herd mentality. Companies get 500 resumes, use key words to find a dozen qualified candidates (maybe!), and then laboriously work through the interview process. Check out www.indeed.com for job postings. The preferred route will always be to check with your friends and leverage your peer network. The majority of GOOD jobs are never posted and go to referrals from existing employees.
Family Today; Traitor Tomorrow –I don’t care what your title is or how much money you make, it can all change in the blink of an eye. Remember 2008? Our economy was riding high and everyone was counting their money. Along came Depression 2.0 and tens of thousands of executives were terminated overnight. Even at great companies, the attitude can be “family today; traitor tomorrow.” The day you leave they forget your name. Once had a candidate with a non-compete. Asked if he could get it waived. His response was, “Get it waived? They don’t even return my calls!” Don’t get too comfortable, tomorrow could be your last day.
An Attitude of Gratitude – No matter how brilliant and talented you are…you need PEOPLE. Once placed a VP. He applied online to the company, so I was not getting paid, however he was my friend so I called the President of the hiring company and vouched for him. He gets the job and does not bother to thank me or call me for the next five years until he is terminated. Then he sends me a resume. Just lovely. My parents taught me to thank everyone and anyone that helps me. I send client retro candy after an executive placement. I buy lunches and dinners for those that send referrals. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in this world.
Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen had them; but you can’t always relive them. Regularly get candidates trying to relive their glory days. One guy was $650,000 20 years ago, then $325,000, then $225,000 in his latest gig. He still thinks he is can get $650,000. He has been unemployed for two years. There was the CFO that was $400,000, but out of work two years. I told him I could do $250,000, however he said that was not acceptable. After four years of unemployment he did find a job for (you guessed it!) $250,000…but lasted nine days. Once you start backsliding on salary, an expectation that you can double your salary and get back to the glory days is not reasonable. Make sure you career aspirations are reasonable and realistic.
Bitter and Resentful is NOT Attractive – The worst candidate I ever dealt with was a CEO. Referred to me by a great source, this candidate’s resume was impeccable. He had been downsized after 20 years with a company, and I could tell by the initial phone call he was bitter and resentful about being laid off. Met him for breakfast to get his head on straight, however he had an ego the size of Mount Everest and refused to listen. Long story short, he did not get the $1,000,000 CEO job, unemployed for a year, got a $400,000 job, terminated again after a year, and is still unemployed to this day. Companies hire happy smiley executives – humble and genuine is attractive.
Life is Like a Checking Account – You can’t write checks until you make deposits. You want to build strong relationships that will help you find new career opportunities? Be a giver…not a taker. No one likes a taker. You know the one, only calls you when he needs a favor. And most people are that way. If you offer unsolicited assistance to people they will remember you. My favorite question is, “How can I help you.” Be a giver, not a taker.
Build the Bridge BEFORE You Need to Cross the River – Most people live in a glass house and unless their Stepford world gets rocked, never stick their head up. As my Dad used to say, “They would not raise a lick at a snake if it was biting them in the butt.” And that is awesome…until it’s not. You need to build a strong professional network. Relationships are what matter. Not houses and cars and material things. People! Keep in touch with your friends. Keep your professional contacts fresh. A good example is Steve Cootey. He was SVP, Finance at the Las Vegas Sands. Because he is a great people persona and stays in touch with his professional contacts, he was offered the CFO job at Wynn Resorts. Most recently he took the EVP/CAO role with Station Casinos. Build the bridge before you need to cross the river.
Dig the Well BEFORE You Need a Drink – Sorry to mention this twice, however this is a HUGE issue for senior level executives. Arrogance, hubris and ego. Until the day you are terminated. Then you are start rapid dialing people and no one returns your call. I told a close friend after he was laid off, “Well, at least you get to find out who your friends are.” He scoffed at me. Two months later he was not scoffing. Maybe 10% of the people he called for help returned his calls. Why? Because executives are busy, and unless you are calling to do them a big favor, mostly they don’t care and can’t be bothered. I’m not judging, just explaining how the world works. I accepted that as a fact of life 13 years ago when I started my Executive Recruiting business. Over the course of those 13 years I built thousands of relationships. Now when I need a drink…I have a waterfall. Dig the well before you need a drink.
Relationships Trump Talent – So how do all the knuckleheads of life keep getting good jobs when talented executives can’t? They understand that relationships trump talent. They keep their connections fresh and have a deep network of friends. On the other hand, I have seen excellent executives that could not get work because they burned all their bridges. A great example is a GM that ran a large hotel/casino in Las Vegas. He was a great analytical guy, but was by no means a people person. He wrangles a GM job because the casino is owned by bozo private equity guys. Only took him a year to ruin the property and get terminated. Meanwhile he was setting fire to bridges all over the industry. Once he gets fired I receive the, “Hey let’s be buddies” email. Another big tip: Don’t get sideways with Executive Recruiters. There is no upside to alienating one of the few people that can help you. Relationships trump talent seven days a week.
Don’t Burn Your Bridges – As a follow-up to the previous paragraph, always remember what Walt Disney said, “It’s a small, small world.” Recently had a VP level candidate. He interviewed, but did not make the finalist list. Rather than thanking me for my time, he sent me a nasty email about how awesome he is and “the hiring company is incompetent and made a big mistake.” I won’t represent him in the future. On the other side of the table, had a hiring SVP that once told me, “I know everyone and don’t need you.” And, of course, now she hates her job because you got passed over. If she had been nice to me, would have been happy to help. And how about the COO that told me, “It’s an honor and privilege to work here; we don’t need Recruiters.” Six months later she was terminated along with all the VPs she had hired. You are SUCH a rock star…until you are not. There is no upside to burning your bridges.
Remember the Golden Rule – This is the bottom line: Treat others as you would be treated. There is no down side to treating people well, and it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let your title or money or power go to your head. As Coldplay said, “Now I sleep alone on the streets I used to own.” There are two verses in the Bible I have always loved. Whatever you did for the least of My Brother, you did for me. To whom much is given, much is expected. Be a giver…not a taker. As your Mom always told you, “Play nice.”