The curse of being too successful

At Career Angel, we have the privilege to work with experienced managers across Europe. 2/3 are members of local or international management boards or report to one. Most of them have an MBA or a PhD or equivalent executive trainings with the top business schools. Some of them are regularly in the media because of their business successes and are THE top managers in the respective countries.

That gives us the unique opportunity:

  • to see trends before they happen
  • to get a glimpse into the heads of leaders
  • to talk confidentially about their careers

And some might be wondering now – why would managers who are that successful need career advisors or help with writing their CVs? That’s what we refer to as the “curse of being too successful”.

To make it more tangible: in the past 12 months we have been working with top managers who make around half a million to 1 million euro per year. Who have worked extremely hard to get where they are. Who grew businesses internationally. Who restructured and turned around businesses. They are respected by their peers. They used to be regularly quoted on the media. And then – usually due to an unexpected change at HQ or in ownership they find themselves – for the first time in their lives – without a job at the age of usually around 45. And for some reason they are struggling to find a suitable position that satisfies them in both challenge and remuneration. Why is that?

Based on our analysis, these are the reasons in no particular order:

  • Managers who are used to moving from job to job by recommendations or by being headhunted never experience what it means to search for a job actively. They usually have the attitude, “Oh, I’ve recruited hundreds of people, I know.” Be advised: recruiting people and being recruited requires two different sets of skills.
  • Managers who are busy working and making their companies money, very often neglect to build relationships with headhunters – or even worse – they ignore them. So once they are indeed available the headhunters don’t want to speak to them.
  • And while busy working, managers also underestimate the power of building their professional brand and image. So once available on the market they are no-names or have a bad reputation despite their achievements. That is particularly important if an executives ones to work internationally or across a certain region.
  • Loyal manager who have spent 10, 15 or even 20 years within the same company can be simply perceived as weaker candidates.
  • One of the most common mistakes that we see is also neglecting to build and maintain their network systematically and strategically. The relationships that you build, especially if you are the decision maker, are not as strong as you might think once you are out of a job. Suddenly your key contacts stop answering your phone.
  • And the most difficult challenge is when managers have gotten so used to doing things a certain way for years… and suddenly wake up to the fact that what they are doing is outdated.

And that is what we call the new reality. The new job market that is vastly influenced by three factors:

  • Ephemeralization
  • Technology
  • Diversity

You can read more about what’s going on on the job market of the future here.

This new market means that there are new ways of looking for a job. There are new competencies that are required that we will hear about later on.

If you plan on being among the most respected and best paid managers, you also have to be prepared for being the victim of your own success which means two things: on the one hand you have to keep in touch with the job market and its changes which is easier said than done. And on the other hand you have to continue developing: and two key words come to mind: strategy & leadership.