Whether you call them CAR (challenge, action, result), STAR (situation, task, action, result), PAR (problem, action, result) or OAR (opportunity, action, result) stories, these stories are a critical component in your resume, leadership addendum, positioning statement and other marketing collateral, as well as in your interview.
When creating success stories, select ones that will demonstrate and showcase your executive brand. This is what will help you attract the right type of position. Actions always speak louder than words and are often times more effective because you’re helping the recruiter understand the value you bring to his/her organization.
- Explain the situation, challenges, roadblocks and extenuating circumstances. For example, what made this initiative difficult? What impact would it have on the organization if it were fixed? The impact may be different than the actual results, so consider both outcomes and include both if appropriate.
- Explain the actions you took to resolve the problem and who was involved in solving the problem. The amount of detail you include will vary depending on the venue. For example, in your resume, you will need to keep your actions to a minimum to meet traditional page length requirements. However, in your addendum and your interview, you can expand on your actions in greater detail.
- Explain the results or outcomes. How did the results impact revenues, profits, marketshare, stakeholder or shareholder value? What did the results enable the company to do? What was the strategic importance–the long-term impact on the company?
- Optionally, you may want to include the knowledge and expertise you had that enabled you to solve the problem. Or, you might want to include what knowledge or skills you had to quickly learn/develop to solve the problem.
Be sure your success stories include the who, what, when, where and how.
Most executives don’t want to think about it when they accept a new position, but with tenure averaging three to five years, it’s a near certainty that one day they will leave their new employer.
While companies are not required to offer any kind of severance package, most companies use severance packages or separation agreements as a release of claims against the company, its officers and directors in exchange for a certain sum of money. Some use it as a way to pacify departing management and keep them contented. In most instances involving senior-level management, a severance package is always offered and, always open to negotiation, providing there is no clause to the contrary in the employment contract.
Before you begin negotiating, you need to know the critical components of a severance package versus those that are optional.
- Severance pay: This is usually determined by the length of time you have been employed by the company and your level in management. Generally companies offer one week’s pay for every year of service.
- Bonuses and Commissions: The agreement should state how bonuses or commissions will be pro-rated and paid.
- Health Insurance: The agreement should state how long you will be covered and who will pay the premiums on any and all insurances. Employer-provided coverage may end on the day of separation. However, COBRA allows you to continue your current coverage at group rates.
- Life and Disability Insurance: Employer-provided coverage typically ends on the day of separation or soon after. You can negotiate a continuance option.
- Retirement Benefits and Stock Options: The agreement should state exactly what your future benefits will be and should take into account the effect your separation will have on your stock portfolio. According to IRS rules, your plan administrator must provide a written explanation of your retirement options 30-90 days before the final date on which you must take action.
- Stock Options: The agreement should state how the separation will impact vesting expectations as well as the remaining time to exercise vested shares.
- Outplacement Services: These are services to help you prepare for and secure your next position. The services generally include writing your collateral materials (resume, cover letter, addendum, bios, etc.) and coaching you in all aspects of your job search. Many companies offer services with a particular outplacement firm and others ask you if you have a career coach you prefer to work with. Even if the company offers the services of an outplacement firm, you can negotiate for the selection of the your career coach. Recently, several clients have been able to negotiate such an arrangement and companies have been paying me directly for services. It’s a win-win situation.
- Vacation time: Request payment for your unused vacation time.
- Sick days/personal days: Request payment for unused sick/personal days.
- Bonus/commission: Make sure all of your commissions/bonuses are accounted for (you should be prepared to accept a prorated bonus).
- Agreements: Renegotiate terms of any preexisting non-compete or non-solicitation agreements.
- Positive recommendation: Ask for a written understanding of what the company will say about your termination. Also, if not terminated for cause or poor performance, request a positive letter of recommendation from your former managers.
- Company equipment: Clarify possession of cell phones, pagers, company cars, laptops, or other home office business equipment.
- Perquisites: Clarify how perks such as cars, association and club memberships will be addressed.
The most optimal time to negotiate your severance agreement is BEFORE you accept the position because once you have accepted the position, your “powers of negotiation” are severely diminished. Whether you negotiate before or after the fact, make sure you prepare by:
- Making a list of the perks you would like. Jot down the reasons why your employer should provide these perks to you. This is the time to showcase your value proposition and achievements to date.
- Thoroughly reviewing the company’s policy on severance agreements as well as the terms of your employment contract.
- Familiarizing yourself with applicable state and local laws.
- Consulting with an attorney. While showing up at the negotiating table with a lawyer will set a hostile tone, have an attorney guide you through the legalese of the agreement and provide you with advice.
- Planning your strategy to renegotiate or eliminate any preexisting non-compete or non-solicitation agreements.
- If you are being downsized, investigating if you are the only executive or if there are others and if so, how many. Find out what they were offered by the company.
After you have completed your research, schedule an appointment to discuss your severance package. Take your research with you to the meeting because a researched response is more compelling than an anonymous statement. You must convince the company that their severance package is unreasonable in order to create an opening for negotiations. Remember: this severance package has to sustain you and your family until you secure your next position – so it is imperative that you negotiate a great deal!
Integrate your brand in to your career marketing materials.
Weave your clear and compelling brand into your value proposition, accomplishment statements, resume, online bios and profiles, letters, website, blog, web portfolio, career biographies, positioning statements, leadership philosophy, and any other self-marketing materials you have created.
Create a strategy for developing brand equity.
As in traditional marketing, your executive brand should remain consistent throughout all of your marketing channels to build brand equity. The positive feelings your target audience accumulates about you is what makes your brand a valuable asset. Building a brand requires you to gain name recognition for your promise of value and convince your target audience that your brand will deliver value.
Equally important is measuring your brand. You should measure your brand’s awareness and associations through the many stages of recognition and top of mind recall. Similarly, the functional and emotional associations of your brand are important drivers of brand equity. Your brand should score high on both awareness and association attributes.
Create a plan to take your brand to market.
You can have an incredible brand, but if no one knows about it, you’re not going to experience much success in your career.
Once you’ve identified your brand, create a promotional strategy to make your brand come alive. Decide who your target audience will be, what channels you’ll use to promote your brand, and how frequently you’ll promote your brand.
It’s important to communicate and manage your brand on an ongoing basis … not just when you’re looking for your next position. Building a brand reputation takes time.
Communicate your brand so your network can provide you with appropriate connections.
If your contacts are crystal clear about your brand, it enables them to provide you with appropriate connections. Alternatively, if you tell your network you are able to solve six different types of problems for companies, the vagueness creates uncertainty in their minds. Seldom will your contact hear a senior management executive seeking advice on six different types of problems at one time.
However, if you communicate to your contacts that you solve a specific type of problem for companies, that’s a more memorable statement and will most likely connect in the contact’s mind when s/he hears a senior management executive looking for a solution to his or her problem.
Communicate your brand to intensify your leadership persona.
You leadership brand communicates your identity and distinctiveness as a leader in your field. It communicates the value you offer. Your leadership persona is the single most powerful point of attraction. Companies expect to pay a premium for brands as is evident in the list of highest paid executives referenced in Tip 3.
Branding means positioning yourself, through your actions and value, so that people feel an irresistible urge to listen to your advice … to hire you … and seek out your leadership.
Brand yourself to gain a competitive advantage.
Branding is being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area of expertise – it’s reputational power. If you’re high profile and well known … you’ll be the “hunted” rather than the “hunter” and you’ll have senior executives, board members and recruiters calling you.
Executives are hired for niche expertise (turnarounds, start-ups, infrastructure architecture, business development, SAP, ERP implementations, global outsourcing, CRM, next-generation technology strategies, etc.) and the ROI they deliver.
For example: If you’re a turnaround artist in a particular industry and you’ve marketed yourself as a turnaround artist … business leaders and recruiters will most likely follow your whereabouts and call you when they need a turnaround artist.
It’s imperative in this market to differentiate yourself and create individuality and a unique value proposition. The more you promote and market your brand, the more you distinguish yourself from your peers and the less you have to do to convince people you are the solution to their problem. However, you can’t leave this to chance, you must make a plan to position yourself to be noticed … to gain recognition and respect.
Communicate your brand enterprise-wide.
A strong brand marketed enterprise-wide could help you retain your current position. The greater the number of people who could potentially fill your role in the company, the more disposable you appear. Begin now to position yourself as indispensable by communicating your brand to every executive above you in the organization.
Brand yourself to command the compensation you deserve.
Brand yourself as “THE” solution to a particular type of problem and back it up with demonstratable proof. The higher the perceived value you can create, the greater the compensation you can command.
The distinctive value inherent in a brand can lead companies to offer extraordinary compensation packages. CNN Money.com lists the 20 highest paid CEOs with Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle topping the list at $84.5 million. A few other top earners include: Ray Elliott, Boston Scientific; Ray Irani, Occidental Petroleum; Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard; James Hackett, Anadarko Petroleum.