Social media and pay cuts: what jobless CEOs need to do

News_Social mediaThis article was originally posted on, written by Lucille Keen.

As the pool of jobless executives grows, experts counsel that those on the ­market must be willing to continue learning, get on social media and possibly take a pay cut to land new roles.

“It’s now getting harder and harder, with a soft economy, for senior people to find another role,” says Hugh Davies founder of Macfarlan Lane, a firm that specialises in executive transitions.

“The issue is that at senior levels, particularly at CEO level, the number of opportunities… are limited. A delayed outcome may have little to do with your ability, and much more to do with the limited supply of openings.”

Mr Davies said he recently worked with a former chief executive for 18 months before he was successful in securing another role.

“His career transition was from heading up the Australian subsidiary of an international firm to becoming CEO of a listed entity in Australia,” Mr Davies said.

“But the journey, for him, involved long periods of frustration – as search firms sometimes did not return calls; as people he hoped to speak with took longer to come back to him than he hoped; and as courtships began and then evaporated for a range of reasons which had little to do with his abilities.”

Mark Busine, general manager of talent management firm DDI, says those executives who have built and developed a strong network, whilst in a job, are at an advantage. “The biggest thing, in terms of ultimately creating opportunities, is to have a pretty well-established network that you can tap into and ideally leverage,” he says.

But networking is one of the biggest skill gaps for senior executives. Luckily, there are now great networking tools available on social media.


When building a network, it’s important to establish the key people who might be important in that network to help connect you to others, and then “reach out” to them. “This is where it can be difficult. You have to bring some value to that networking opportunity.”

The job market is more fluid, and past achievements and practices may not be as critical for the future.

“Take on board the growing significance of social media and get help in rebuilding a LinkedIn profile,” said Mr Davies.

“This may need to be a time for building a different reputation or brand in the marketplace.”

Job seekers shouldn’t necessarily feel constrained by the existing structure and defined roles in organisations. Increasingly, opportunities are defined by the capability or competence of individuals, said DDI’s Mr Busine.

“If you can bring value and capability, you’ll find organisations are far more willing to create roles around people’s skills. That’s why you have to be clear about what value you bring.”


Recruiter Nick Waterworth from Watermark Search said, given the lead times, out-of-work executives should get busy with related projects in order to attract employment offers.

“The old saying is: if you want something doing, give it to someone who is busy,” Mr Waterworth said.

“No doubt that the people doing well on this market are people who are busy. Looking for a job is NOT a full-time exercise. So, get some project work or do something for a not-for-profit. Just make sure you’re busy.”

Mr Waterworth said unemployed executives may need to reduce their expectations about their future pay.

“You are not necessarily worth what you were paid in the last job,” he said. “This is a very pragmatic market. And indeed your worth can vary from situation to situation. A charity might pay you 30 per cent less, a job in government might pay you 20 per cent less, and a small company or start-up might pay you 10 per cent less. It doesn’t mean that they’re not worth considering.”


Mr Waterworth said it was important for older executives not to do anything that encourages ageism. He suggested candidates set up Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and join in discussions on the profession networking sites. However, for older workers who find themselves out of work, the current difficult economic climate could come as an advantage to them.

Bruce Anderson, managing director of talent management company Lee Hecht Harrison, said that, during difficult times, many companies look for experienced candidates who can coach and mentor staff.

“Be very clear about what attributes you have to offer. In your late 50s, highlight your experience and the results you’ve brought. People recognise ability and enthusiasm over age.”

Those asking $200,000 a year could expect to find work in four to eight months; those earning over $600,000 would likely take longer, he said.

“But some senior executives may need to lower their sights about what someone will offer them,” he said.

Mr Anderson said there had been a spike of executive redundancies in the past six months and it was difficult for many to gain new roles.

He said it was through conversations and networking that people find employment.

“People need to be clear, jobs wont just come to them,” he said.

“About 70 per cent of jobs don’t get listed. But when you talk to people, be very narrow about what you’re looking for and what you can bring to the business, this way you are more memorable.”