Executives can expect lengthy job searches

It was taking longer to place senior executives compared with the same period last year – largely due to the worldwide economic meltdown.

Brian Khumalo, managing partner of Leaders Unlimited Korn/Ferry International, says the executive job market presents job seekers with unrivalled challenges, uncertainty and the expectation of prolonged periods of unemployment. This was confirmed by the latest Executive Quiz results released by Leaders Unlimited Alliance partner, Korn/Ferry International. Most of the respondents to Korn/Ferry’s latest study have never experienced a lengthy job search, but expectations are changing. In fact, the vast majority of executives predict it will take job seekers more than four months to find a new career opportunity in today’s turbulent market. Fewer than one-third (29%) of survey respondents had ever required more than three months to find a new career opportunity in the past. However, the tough economic realities and significant job losses have altered expectations moving forward. Eighty-three percent of respondents predict that today’s out-of-work executives will be hunting for more than four months for their next opportunity. And 43% believe the process will take seven months or longer. Responses from nearly 1 000 unemployed executives indicate that many are just beginning their job search. Twenty-eight percent have been unemployed less than a month, and 36% have been unemployed less than three months. Just 18% indicate they have been searching for career opportunities for seven months or longer. “In the executive ranks, lengthy job searches are not confined to poor economies. It takes time to find the right cultural and functional fit for each position and each candidate,” says Khumalo. “We counsel both our clients and candidates to be patient in the search process, and the current economic environment only reinforces that need.”

One common alternative to jumping back into the labour force is pursuing educational goals. Forty-three percent of unemployed executives say they have either considered or are already going back to school to “wait out” the downturn. Most jobless executives looking at educational opportunities are considering MBAs (23%) or other advanced degrees (16%). When executives were asked what they miss most about working, compensation not withstanding, the overwhelming majority (74%) missed intellectual challenges in the workplace. Other answers included colleagues (21%), travel (4%) and perks such as an expense account, company car, lunches or tickets (1%). While most executives (55%) spend the majority of their time between jobs searching for new opportunities, 23% focus their time on professional development. Other executives opt to spend their time off more leisurely with friends and family (12%), vacationing/hobbies (7%) or just relaxing (3%).