Protecting Your Salary

New Zealand’s senior executive job market is in flux. Some areas of the market are contracting, while other areas offer expanding opportunities. Identifying just where the best career opportunities lie generally calls for some expert advice.
The job market for executives has contracted in the past 18 months, according to Paul Stevenson, team leader at TMP Worldwide’s Auckland-based career management division. The contraction is reflection of the trend by large companies to restructure. Multinationals are, he says, increasingly treating New Zealand as the regional office.
The global approach to regionalising head offices in Australia means fewer local roles for CEOs, chief financial officers and even chief operating officers. “Now we find that when general manager role comes up we are inundated with candidates,” says Stevenson. His company had 160 applicants for the last general management position it was filling. And that was with medium-sized company and package of about $100,000. “The competition is fierce,” he adds.
Sheffield managing director Ian Taylor describes the senior management market as “much less affluent than in the past”, but concedes that there is always demand for talent, and the ongoing “brain drain” provides plenty of opportunities.
According to Taylor the tight market for senior management roles has forced some executives into taking “a reality check”. Others are simply thinking outside the square. Some will move sideways to company in which they can take financial stake. Others are looking to start their own business. “Or,” says Taylor, “they may look at other industries and, because the talent pool is tight, employers are also willing to look outside their own fields.”
The prevailing market is encouraging some employers to become more demanding and selective about their requirements. “They’re looking for all the broad-based general management skills plus other skills,” according to Stevenson. “They look at past experience and ask ‘what were your achievements across those fields?’ You must be able to demonstrate your responsibilities and the achievements you made. The skill range demands have increased. You don’t have to be an IT guru but, you must be able to use Word.”
It may be cliche to say that the marketplace has changed but, when it comes to executives managing their careers they must now be acutely aware of the opportunities out there, and act to take advantage of them. But, according to Stevenson, 80 percent of jobs are still found through networking. “New Zealand is still village, particularly at senior [management] levels.”
Farrow Jamieson’s managing director Iain MacGibbon believes the best opportunities lie in specific (skill) areas. Managers with strong technology or e-commerce background are in demand and there’s resurgence in recruitment interest from and activity by smaller local companies, particularly by those looking to grow their business or move to the next stage of exporting.
TMP’s latest Salary Survey backs up this observation. The survey shows strengthening business climate and greater employer confidence with 71 percent of employer respondents predicting growth over the next 12 months. According to MacGibbon employers are looking for managers with “real skills – the ability, for instance, to use technology to shorten the supply chain”.
Successful executives will have e-commerce understanding and preferably experience. “E-commerce initiatives must be driven from the chief executive down,” says MacGibbon, “and the CEO must be able to articulate and understand all of the e-commerce implications, and not leave it to the IT and marketing division to look after. Employers are looking for project champions, managers who can drive project to its completion.”
Employers are also looking for tangible evidence of manager’s previous job effectiveness. “Can you, for instance, point to initiatives you’ve taken to ensure the business’ survivability for the next 10 years?”

What can you do?
Executives keen to make themselves more attractive prospects in today’s more competitive market should analyse their personal career performance as rigorously as any other management project, say the experts.
That means identifying strengths and weaknesses and then addressing the weaknesses with additional training or by taking on work that actively helps develop specific skills. The key is not to assume the job you have today will always be there.
“Some of the largest and most successful companies of 10 years ago don’t exist today,” warns Stevenson. “Even successful companies are looking to improve profitability and that often means restructuring.” Unfortunately most executives don’t start analysing their careers until they’re made redundant and it’s forced on them. Savvy executives are always reassessing what they want out of their career and they manage their progress.
Stevenson quotes the case of marketing executive who wanted to step up to general management. He knew finance was his weak point. He enrolled for papers at AUT and volunteered to join community organisation with financial responsibility. The process provided him with both theory and practice. According to Stevenson his client landed general manager role in New Zealand, which was then restructured. He didn’t anticipate that, but he had prepared himself with the broader skill base. He was subsequently transferred to senior role in Australia.
The best advice Larry Small, managing director of another Auckland-based headhunter, Executive Appointments, can give is “identify the growth areas in your field”. warehouse and distribution manager, for instance, should hone his or her skills in modern logistics, “because that’s where that field is heading”, he adds. “And if you’re sales manager you should be improving your skills academically, perhaps in market planning and marketing.”
Paul Jury, general manager for executive recruitment in TMP’s Wellington office, believes that the chartered accountant qualification still carries “real weight” in the financial marketplace. And banks are keen to recruit managers with commerce degree and major in finance or economics.
Managers are now being asked to think more strategically, to do more with less. “Given the tougher environment employers are looking for talent, creativity and intellectual agility,” says Sheffield’s Taylor. “There’s no one degree or qualification [that’s prized above all others], but there is need to commit to ongoing learning and development. Self-awareness is vital – identify your strengths and weaknesses. Networking is also important, it creates opportunities and it helps executives vet the opportunities.”
Taylor also advises managers to work on their soft skills, like interpersonal relationships. It’s common area of executive weakness. It includes things like empathy, listening and negotiating. “We do lots of work coaching executives in this area, and it’s often the thing employers remember most about individuals – how you handle other people.”
The trend now is for executives to continually question what they want out of their career and out of life. It’s invariably on this basis that individual managers are making informed choices about the directions they take.

The executive temp
It used to be that the only temp in the office was the junior or the receptionist, in for day to fill in for someone sick. That’s changed. The executive temp, more properly known as the executive contractor, is now commonplace. In some offices they outnumber the permanent staff.
TMP currently has 130 executives on short-term leasing contracts. Stevenson suggests it’s sometimes good way to test the market. The average time senior executive can expect to be out of work after redundancy is 5.9 months. So executive contracting or leasing can provide an effective stop gap and simultaneously allow entrée into new field.
Executive leasing is the fastest growing area of employment company, Drake Ov

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