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Execution is everything - what to ask a career transitions adviser

It is increasingly common for executives in transition to hire an adviser to help them through the process. This greater reliance on external advice is not surprising. There is so much pressure to keep focused on a current role that it is often easy to get diverted from the wider objective of a career transition. As a result, people lose control of their own transition; they are forced to react to decisions made by others about their own career; or they simply drift into the next role without sufficient preparation or reflection.

So having made the decision to seek external advice on a career transition, what questions should you ask an external adviser? The first and most important one is: what commercial experience and expertise do they have to assist you in choosing possible conversations and navigating roles with organisations? The wider and more senior the experience, the better. What is their track record in the implementation phase of a career transition, not just the self-reflective work or the design of a career strategy?

The second most important question is: how much hands-on support will they offer you in the marketplace when searching for your new role?

Will they provide you with a list of their contacts and then leave the rest to you? If you are left on your own during the execution phase, how diverse are the contacts on their list and how relevant are they to your already completed career strategy? It is important that the list of people they select for you to meet draws upon a variety of their different networks, with broad reach in terms of sector, geography and function.

If your external adviser will support you in the marketplace rather than give you a list of contacts for follow-up, what does this support look like? Over what period of time will you be supported? How will you be introduced into the marketplace? How frequently will you meet during the launch (or execution) phase? What processes will be in place to track your progress and ensure that your transition project is properly managed? What support will you receive to convert opportunities into possible roles, especially if these are unsolicited by the process? How flexible is your adviser in case more time is taken than the allotted contract? What ancillary services exist to help you find your role e.g. research capability and networking events?

Whilst no external advisers can guarantee that you will find the role that you seek at the end of your career transition, by answering the above questions convincingly they can give you a high level of comfort that they are the right people to guide you through a process which requires tenacity, hard work and (at times) emotional resilience. As one of our clients put it to us recently: “I want someone who sits with me in the right-hand seat of the cockpit, not someone who gives instructions from the control tower.”

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