By Kevin Hardy

Over the years I have been privileged to share conversations with countless senior executives, CEOs and up and coming leaders about the challenges of deciding how, when and what of their next career move.

There is a checklist that I find helpful in preparing to make that decision. If you like, it’s like gathering your own personal talent intelligence: You can make great career decisions if you know what you need, what you’ve got and what’s available. Your personal talent intelligence adds value, helps you make the decisions that are right for you – everything else is just talk and information.

On a daily basis our executive search team presents individuals with the challenge of an invitation to consider what is possibly their dream job. We don’t take this lightly. Frequently I get a call to talk about – “is it the right move for me?” 

My 10 point checklist when faced with making a career move decision:

1. Is this a role I would really like to “win?”

If not, do not invest the emotional energy that is required to represent yourself. Think through what will be involved if you win the role. Honestly assess whether you can see yourself being shortlisted for interview if you were the selection committee.

2. Is the timing right either for me and/or the organisation I work for at this time?

If the timing is not right because you think or feel that you have not completed enough of what you set out to do, or the timing is wrong for the organisation that you are currently in and your departure may cause significant damage to a large change process, then you have to decide what you will think of yourself if you leave. If you have a successor lined up and your departure will not create major disruption then it may be that the timing, on balance, is right.

3. Am I ready for it? Have I done the necessary “hard yards” to earn a “shot at the title?”

This requires a rigorous self assessment because you have to be able to convince the selection panel that you are ready, willing and able to take on the role 100% and can step into it without spending twelve months with “training wheels”. The risk is that you may damage more than your reputation.

4. Do I have a realistic chance of winning the role given my experience, the environment, the key stakeholders, and, my “fit” with that environment?

Do I know the real environment and the “vibe” of the organisation? The more senior the role the more it is about being able to lead people, be a credible presence and advocate inside and outside the organisation, to sense the mood shifts and anticipate risk and opportunity. To know when to move forward, hold the line or make a strategic shift in strategy

5. How strong and relevant are my networks to find out the “real” detail about the organisational culture, the level of commitment of the organisation to make changes or rise to the challenges for the future?

It is important to know what is really required and what are the limits of what you can do. The history of the organisation is important to know because it tells you the unspoken norms and mores of the culture and the people. It’s important to know who can tell you this confidentially. You will want them to represent you when the time is right and you want them to say the right things to enhance your claims. Naivety is the death knell of your application.

6. Who do I need to consult with in order to generate support for my application or get advice about applying or not?

Getting the right people to represent you and speak of your talent and successful achievements is a lot better than you blowing your own trumpet. They need to be able to say things about you that adds to your narrative about the relevance of your experience, your energy and passion, your insight and wisdom.

7. How do I maintain the confidentiality of my possible interest in the role?

You need to maintain the smallest circle of confidantes and you need to keep your own mouth closed. Too many people talk to too many others and expect that people will not talk. They do. They cannot help themselves because it is information they can trade with others.

8. What will be the reaction of my Board Chair? My Executive Team members and how would I manage that so as not to burn bridges?

Being honest in a timely way is essential. You have to get the timing right. Your Board need to know at the right time. You have to get your Board Chair on side because he or she will be contacted about your application. You don’t want to be damned with faint praise. This is a delicate dance that you have to show judgement and respect.

9. Am I a true chance of winning or am I taking a “shot in the dark?” and therefore applying for the wrong role at the wrong time or simply overrating my claims?

This goes to the points made about self honesty and an ability to really assess your chances. Would you shortlist yourself for interview? No one is perfect but what is really important to the selection panel? What are they really after and can you provide that?

10. What are the consequences of not winning the role?

Not winning the job is draining and you have to be able to monitor your energy and commitment to go back into your current role with full energy and manage the perceptions that others may have of you if they know you applied. What conversations do you have to have with key people to help you debrief and be ready for the next “tilt at the title”

If I had a general observation to make. It is important to know yourself and to be able to assess your chances accurately. Too many people over estimate their claims for a role and then delude themselves. And, at times, do not want to hear that they are not a strong chance of winning the role. This can be bruising all round and delays your readiness for promotion.

The ability to be emotionally intelligent and rigorously self-knowing is critical!!