With so many Americans out of work right now, it’s easy to forget that even the higher ups are struggling to find jobs. Luckily, The Wall Street Journal is here to remind us.
“No one knows how many out-of-work CEOs are looking for corner office suites, but recruiters say their numbers are growing. Fewer big businesses are switching bosses these days and mergers and bankruptcies have further reduced their job prospects,” the Journal reports.
How dire are the job prospects for former CEOs? During the last year, the Journal notes that only 48 of the S&P’s top 500 companies replaced their CEO with someone new, and of those the majority were hired from within the company, rather than from a pool of outside applicants. So, not only are there more CEOs than usual looking for jobs, but there are only scant new CEO positions available for all of them to apply for.
That said, most former CEOs probably have enough cash on hand from their extravagant salaries to keep them from having to rely too heavily on unemployment checks, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’d like to be working again.
“CEOs are no different than any other professional out there,” said John Challenger, of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago-based consulting group that helps the unemployed find work. “When you have a recession, demand really drops and you end up with a glut of good people out of work. But CEOs are not that different from CFOs and CIOs and directors and accounting managers, other than that there are fewer jobs because they are at the top of the pyramid.”
According to Challenger, the biggest mistake that these CEOs may be making is one that many job seekers in general are often guilty of too. “I think they should open up their job search,” he said.
Challenger recommends that former CEOs look to companies hiring around the world rather than just where they live and leave themselves open to positions in other industries and at small companies as well as big ones. “Be open to a COO job, even if it means reporting to someone. Be open to jobs on the board of directors, even if it’s a little bit less engaged in the day to day affairs. Be open and you can always say no if you get an offer.”
And of course, be sure to network. “CEO positions are occasionally advertised, but more importantly there is a tight core community of board members and CEOs that you need to tap into,” he said.
The bottom line, as Challenger puts it, is that CEOs need to be willing to settle sometimes, just like all other workers. “In good times when you are the top of your field you might only take jobs that are extraordinary. But now you can’t let your ego get in the way.”
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