Planning Your Executive Career Transition

Planning Your Executive Career Transition

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, Leadership Capability, Strategies for Growth

Over the past 12 months, we have seen a significant increase in the number of senior-level career transitions during a time of a market downturn. Recent research found that across companies listed on the world’s leading stock indices, CEO turnover reached a five year high last year. In 2022, 175 CEOs left their posts, which is a 30% increase on 2021 and a 13% increase on the next highest year of 2018.

In most cases, these individuals are not simply looking for their next job, but actually making strategic decisions about their career’s trajectory. Reasons for the desire to change vary, but tend to include:

  • Lack of advancement and innovation: These individuals are curious and agile and feel frustrated when their current organisation lacks a response to market needs. They will typically have explored every possible solution to resolving their dissatisfaction with their job and company but feel they are headed nowhere, lack challenge, or are moving too slow.
  • Misalignment of purpose: These senior executives may also feel disillusioned by the lack of focus and/or purpose in their organisation or feel their organisation’s purpose does not align with their own moral compass or values, compromising delivery to key stakeholders including employees and customers. There is usually no way to bridge this gap unless the organisation is willing to make a major shift in their focus, or the individual is willing to compromise on what matters to them most.
  • Need for personal development and higher compensation: Often, the individuals we meet at The Rialto Consultancy find themselves reaching career ceilings with little or no scope for progression or increased compensation. Studies have found that in this period of ongoing disruption, moving organisation is the most likely way to significantly increase compensation. There are currently many more senior executives planning to leave their roles to find more fulfilment and increase their earning potential.
  • Toxic culture – Of course, the day-to-day environment can take its toll on overall job satisfaction and increase one’s desire to move on if it hinders rather than supports motivation, impact generation, and productivity. Senior individuals who fall into this camp have likely grown tired of highly political, negative, closed, siloed, or untrusting cultures that lack positive employee experiences, transparency, and collaboration. In fact, MIT’s Sloane School of Management previously found that a toxic corporate culture is 10 times more likely to contribute to attrition than compensation.

Whatever the motivation may be, many might feel that they still have more to offer and accomplish but just aren’t sure what their options are. Others may be focussed on optimising the best earning years left in their career.  In both cases, something must change, but it is unclear what. Do you stick it out and continue along the course you are on, or do you pick a new direction?

Taking your career into its next chapter is an opportunity to shape the next key period of your life and career the way you want them to look. Reaching this stage is not some sort of identity crisis or panic, but rather a chance to reap the rewards of the work you have already put in and to shift your focus towards the things that will bring you the most fulfilment as you continue your career journey. You’re far from done, but where do you begin? What are your options, and what shape might your career take in this new chapter?

Our Rialto Executive Career Coaches offer the following advice:


Planning your Executive Career Transition

As you contemplate your next act and begin plotting the reinvention of your career, you have the ability to shape it however you so choose. Whether or not purpose is the key motivator for your move, your ‘why’ and your purpose has likely evolved through the years and so have the things you may be looking for from your career. It is critical that you take time to determine what fulfilment will look like for you in this new chapter. Why are you continuing on your career path, making a change, and evolving rather than staying complacent or simply plateauing? What is it that is going to make this next chapter feel rewarding?

Planning for your career’s next chapter begins with being able to answer those questions. Determining what fulfilment looks like for you will help you to determine the best course of action and point you down the right avenues for achieving your goals.

To be successful in your career transition, you need to be able to articulate your goals into actions. If your values include a specific set of factors, then what actions could you take to live out your purpose and gain that fulfilment? Is it through an entirely new job, a lateral move to a different company, or can purpose be found separate from your core career through outside opportunities? If increased renumeration is your aim, what is the number you are looking for? You may find that your goals could take you down various pathways of action, depending on your motivation.


Navigating your Career Transition

How you navigate your career transition will vary depending on your goals, but it is possible to find fulfilment in various ways. The pathway options for executive transitions are limitless, but here are some of the most common ones we see in our work with our senior level clients:

  • Remuneration:  There is nothing wrong with making a financially motivated career move, and for many people this ends up being the little push they need to step out of that comfort zone. Even if you seek out your same job just somewhere else, this simple change of scenery may be enough to give your career that refresh you are looking for. It will be a new environment, new team, and new challenges even if the nature of the job is not different. And you may find that your higher earnings help to improve your overall quality of life outside of work and bring you fulfilment there. Maybe this will come from less stress about certain financial strains, the opportunity to invest more in your hobbies, the opportunity to travel, and so on. So do not write off a money-motivated career move as not being an opportunity to reimagine the next step in your career!
  • Reinvention: That said, when people think about career ‘second or third acts,’ they tend to envision some form of pivot. For some executives who reach the highest levels of the organisation, they feel they want to start over elsewhere, but this is not the most common course of action. However, know that it is an option for you if you are truly unhappy with your lot and want a drastic career change. We choose our careers young and start that climb to the top with different priorities than when we get there. Perhaps you pursued your current path out of financial need rather than passion, or you felt it was the career you should do rather than the one you wanted to do. It’s okay to explore a new or old ‘dream’ or to want more purpose behind what you do. A career change can be intimidating and choosing a new path can be daunting, but it is an option for all. More commonly, you will see executives choose to ‘reinvent’ themselves within the parameters of their existing career, and may choose one of the following paths instead.
  • Choosing a Niche: It is common to think of one’s legacy after reaching a pinnacle or career turning point. What do you want to be known for? What impact do you want to leave behind? Many executives will choose to dedicate the later portions of their career to thought leadership or giving something back. If the first act was about the climb, the second and third will be about sharing the lessons learned along the way and the views from the top and/or making a bigger difference. You put in the work to get to where you are, and with very few places left to climb, it might be time to focus in on your passions instead. Perhaps there are certain elements of your job or your industry that you particularly enjoy or are deeply knowledgeable about. You may find fulfilment in owning those topics in a professional capacity and serving as a guru whose insights will help the next generation of the workforce or the organisation to evolve. Discussing these topics online could attract larger scale opportunities on the speaking circuit or within academia. So, while your job itself may not have changed, you may find your fulfilment from focusing more on the topics you are truly passionate about and from sharing that knowledge with others.
  • Innovation: There are increasingly more opportunities to pivot towards a future-focused niche, even if the organisation as a whole is not pivoting with the trends in the market. By now, we are all aware of the fact that technology is reshaping and disrupting business life as we know it. Interest and investments in technologies such as generative AI are at an all-time high, and businesses and executives alike are racing to keep up with the rate of change. There is an obvious gap in skills, capabilities, and understanding when it comes to digital transformation, thus creating a major opportunity for senior executives wondering “What’s next?” This was the case for Rialto Executive Career Coach Katie King. After 30 years in marketing, PR, and communications including over a decade of running agencies, Katie reached that turning point of wondering what the rest of her career could look like. At the time, AI was still in its very early stages, but she saw the opportunity it presented and the impact it would have on industries and made a pivot towards becoming an expert in the adoption of AI in business functions. She now regularly consults businesses and delivers keynotes globally on the subject, has delivered several Rialto webinars on AI, and has published two successful books on the topic. Just as Katie pivoted by her own volition rather than in response to changes in her organisation, senior executives feeling frustrated by a lack of innovation in their organisation have an opportunity to adapt themselves and become drivers of the innovation they want to see. There is still a major opening for forward-thinking executives to become champions of change and technology within their organisation or industry. What better way is there to reinvent the future of your career than to prepare for the future of business itself?
  • Continuous Learning: While every executive should at least have a basic understanding about the changes and disruptions technology will bring about, the path of innovation may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For you, your path might be focused on a concept that some experts have described as becoming ‘forever employable.’ These executives keep their finger on the pulse of change and continuously adapt, developing new skillsets or taking on new roles as needed. You might spend your next act as a chameleon of sorts, adapting to the environment around you as necessary to keep fitting into it. It’s about understanding how the world of work is changing and being open to changing along with it. For example, automation will be able to take over several of the most common day-to-day activities of senior leaders. Choose to spend your next act homing in on soft skills like creativity, strategy, leadership, and so on to fill the gaps that technology cannot satisfy. By adapting and developing your skillsets to match the needs of the marketplace, you will be able to maintain your place within it for as long as you’d like.
  • Take a Risk: You may reach this turning point in your career and decide that you have had enough of the corporate world or following organisational structures and hierarchies, which is very often the case for those feeling burnt out or scorned by toxic corporate cultures. Those wanting to have an equity stake in a business, build share capital, or take an entrepreneurial business idea forward may decide to take the leap and start something of their own. Having spent your first act building capital, reputation, knowledge, or prestige may help you get your venture off the ground in this next act.
  • Outside Ventures: Or, you may find that you can reinvigorate your career via opportunities outside of your role, organisation, or industry. Non-Executive Director (NED) roles are a great way to take on added responsibilities or make an impact for an organisation other than your own. You may choose to get involved in the board or leadership for a charity, your child’s school, an event, or an initiative. You may also find that the work you put in to establish yourself in the earlier portion of your career has provided you with the freedom, flexibility, or financial abundance to be able to dedicate time or resources to causes you care deeply about. You may also find that you are able to command more time for yourself to pursue outside interests and hobbies.

At the end of the day, the next chapter of your career can be very different from what you imagined or planned for at the start of your career journey. You are in control of what you do next, so why not shape your career to work for you, rather than leaving it to an organisation to show you what next? Feedback from Rialto clients is that they’re happier and more fulfilled for it.

Our strategic executive career transition programmes help you to map out market relevant organisational challenges, peer competition, market trends, and changing consumer mindsets in a way that will enable you to position yourself optimally as in-demand talent of the future. Over the last decade, Rialto Executive Career Coaches have successfully assisted over 6,500 senior executives to navigate to the next act in their career. Get in touch with us for insights on your career change.

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