The Six Figure Job Search
by Robert Waite

Before we start discussing how to search for a six figure salary job, let's set a goal. The goal I suggest is to double your income every five years. That may sound like a stretch. Well it is… but it is a doable stretch goal.

I set this goal for myself twenty years ago when I graduated from a small public college. I grew up an average kid from Philadelphia. I had average grades in high school and college. And I never went to graduate school. At the time I graduated from college I had never been west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Twenty years later I can tell you that I have lived and worked on three different continents and I'm vice president of a large publicly traded company.

What made the difference for me were two things.

First and foremost was my college sweetheart. She always felt that I could do and be whatever I wanted. Her faith was a driving force that ignited my ambition.

Second was the director of the placement office at my college. He spoke to the senior class about the job market in 1983… which was bad. He spent three-quarters of his presentation telling us what we couldn't do and what we shouldn't expect. While I recognize that he was trying to manage our expectations so that we wouldn't become frustrated or disappointed in our job search his negativity frankly pissed me off.

One of the things that he told us was that we should just forget about applying to Armstrong World Industries. Armstrong was headquartered in the same town as my college. The director told us that since the job market was tight Armstrong was going "up market" to the bigger name schools, so we should just forget about wasting our time chasing Armstrong.

Right then and there I made up my mind that no one was going to tell me what I can't do when it came to achieving success. Since Armstrong was not interviewing on campus, I had to figure out how to land an interview with their college recruiter.

I targeted a job with them in their sales organization. I thought it would impress them if I made a cold call on the college recruiter. So I planned my approach. I would go over at lunch time when the main receptionist wouldn't be on duty. I figured the person that covers during lunch wouldn't take their gate keeping duty as seriously. I thought if I could just get into the Human Resources Department, I could probably wait for the college recruiter to get back from lunch.

My planning worked better than expected because the college recruiter was having lunch at his desk and he was happy to sit with a college student who had cold called on him.

I had my two minute pitch ready and my questions to gather more information as to their needs all polished up and ready to go. I was very relaxed since I figured I had nothing to lose, which is true in any job interview. If the interview you are on doesn't work out, learn from it and then just move on.

After spending an hour with the college recruiter I was offered to join Armstrong' training program. The first thing I did when I got back on campus was to see the director of the placement office. I told him how I got into my beat up 1977 Datsun B-210 wearing my brand new navy blue polyester suit that I bought at Sears the night before and drove over to Armstrong's and landed a job offer to join their college training program. You could have knocked him over with a feather. Then I told him that I would double my salary every five years…

I learned three things from this experience:

  • First, don't let anyone tell you what you can't do.
  • Second, anyone who learns how to successfully conduct a management level job search can significantly advance their career.
  • Third, anyone who is willing to learn, stretch themselves and isn't a quitter can achieve their goals.

I applied these three lessons twenty years ago and I haven't looked back… including doubling my income every five years. The best decision I made was to marry my college sweetheart who first lit that spark of ambition in me. We have been happily married, with three great daughters, ever since.

Since I always felt like I was the original "Average Joe" who found out how to break through the ceiling of mediocrity, I wanted to share what I learned. What led me to wanting to share the lessons for finding a six figure salary position were two things.

First, I landed as a senior executive at three different large publicly traded companies before I was forty. And second, I saw on the news that the number one New Years Resolution is to get a new job or to advance your career.

So I began work on The Six Figure Job Search CD which was launched in July 2003 on www.sixfigurejobsearch.com. This CD leads the executive job searcher through the entire process from planning their campaign to negotiating the offer. And I share the overview of the techniques here.

For a six figure salary search you have to understand that it is a numbers game. You are now approaching the narrower points in the pyramid and the demand for six figure jobs always outstrips the supply. Your resume has to hit at exactly the moment that a company or a recruiter needs a person with your particular skill and experience. So you can see that you will get very few hits… and that is why we need to get you up to bat as often as possible.

A mistake I've seen executives make is that they believe the process will be easier than it really is. They believe that once they get their name out there and they send their resume to 50 or 100 companies, then the world will beat a path to their door. Understand right up front that this process is going to be tough and time consuming. That is why knowledge of how to manage the process and how to diligently prepare are going to be the major keys to success.

The further up the ladder you climb, the more items other than just your functional skills will come into play as part of the hiring process. The hiring company will screen your functional skills, but that is just the minimum ante.

The first thing the hiring executive will want to assess is what kind of person you are. Are you the kind of person they want to work with? If the hiring executive doesn't have a good feel for you personally, then it will be difficult to win them over. This may seem unfair, but it is human nature.

Next, the hiring executive will be looking at your functional skills. Suffice it to say that you will have to be able to point to specific successes and experience that will demonstrate that you do have the functional skills for the position.

At this point, the hiring executive will likely be seeing if you will fit with the company's culture and environment. You too need to learn as much as you can about the company's culture. No sense in going to work somewhere you won't feel is a good fit.

Another thing that they will be evaluating is whether or not you will be a risky hire. A bad hiring decision costs significant time and money for both the candidate and the company. If this job will be a big step for you, that is an added element of risk. Also, if this job is in a new industry to you, that too is a risk. These types of objections, the prepared searcher can deal with.

The bottom line question in the mind of the hiring executive is this, "Will you bring value to the company that far exceeds the compensation they will pay you?" That is the magic formula that you will need to focus the whole process on.

Many executives have contacted me seeking employment and have started by telling me what they thought they deserved and were worth… You know what? I couldn't care less. If they wouldn't sell me on the value they can deliver first, then why should I be interested in what they want?

Let me tell you from experience on both sides of the desk, if the hiring executive is convinced of the value that you can deliver, you will likely get an offer that is higher than what you felt you "deserved". But you have to unequivocally demonstrate tangible value that you can deliver.

Most people do have great value that they can offer, however they are poor at communicating what that value is. Therefore, often it is not the person with the most innate talent that gets hired; it is the person who can best articulate, in a winning way, what their talent is that gets them the job offer.

Some common mistakes many searchers make are lack of preparation and a lack of understanding of the ins and outs of the search process. There are also two traps that you should be aware of.

The first trap is the misconception that the outplacement consultant is responsible for getting you a job. The second trap is the misconception that the job broker or resume distribution firm you hired will find you a job.

These things could happen, but DON'T COUNT ON IT!!!

It is much more likely that you will have wasted time and money by not taking full responsibility for your search.

If you have been put out of your job and your company provided outplacement service, push them hard because they're getting paid whether you find a job or not. Even better, try negotiating an arrangement with your former employer in which they would give you an amount in cash equal to what they would pay the outplacement service. You are much more likely to focus the money in ways that address your needs.

I am not a big fan of outplacement services. I compare executives going through outplacement to the walking dead. Outplacement is reminiscent of poorly conceived government entitlement programs that drain any motivation from people who are forced to rely on them.

This really isn't surprising, given that most of the executives you will mix with in outplacement have been pushed out of their jobs. They tend to be bitter, and also feel that they are owed a new job by the outplacement firm. The smartest thing you can do is to get over it as quickly as you can. Instead of becoming bitter, look forward and focus on what is important to you and your family. Bad things happen to good people and good companies, but how you react to the situation is 100% within your control. Being a savvy and knowledgeable job seeker can help you preserve your health and sanity while opening up better opportunities for you.

Regarding Job Brokers; happiness isn't the only thing that money can't buy; it can't buy you a job, either. I also recommend avoiding resume-distribution firms with wild claims of success. You can learn to do the same things yourself with a little time and effort, while saving yourself a great deal of money.

Here's the number one six figure level job search tip, don't go it alone. Advancing your career and fulfilling your aspirations are too important to take chances with… or for that matter to leave to chance. Underselling yourself or not properly selling yourself will cost you in not reaching your potential. It will also cost you tens of thousands of dollars in annual compensation and over the course of 10, 15 or 20 years that adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Seek out a reputable career coach or mentor that has demonstrated experience in the area of six figure salary executives and job searches.


Rob Waite is a senior executive with leadership experience in domestic and international businesses. His successes include start-ups, turnarounds, and multinational strategic partnerships. Rob's resume includes service with Fortune 500 companies and worldwide leaders. Rob also has recently completed his new book, "The Lost Art of General Management" and is a contributing author to the "Walking With The Wise" book series by Mentors Magazine. His hit program "The Six Figure Job Search" can be found at www.sixfigurejobsearch.com .

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Copyright 2004 by Robert Waite. All rights reserved.

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