In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is not under contract to a specific team and is eligible to sign with any club or franchise. The big players are typically courted very heavily. They get “wined and dined” by countless teams vying for their in-demand dribbling, passing and scoring skills—skills that will help a team compete for a championship.
The same thing happens in the business world. Maybe without the entertainment factors, but it’s close enough. For instance, let’s say you are a talented, high-level executive who is looking for a new job that will bring you personal and professional fulfillment. Some organizations and headhunters may know you are searching and start their courtship. You will receive calls, emails and meeting requests. From there, it is dinners, interviews and office tours. Talk about a competitive arena.
At times, even for a calm, collective and seasoned veteran, this process can get overwhelming. So how do you handle the situation? Here are 4 top tips to help you through it.
Have an authentic understanding of yourself.
It is important to have an authentic understanding of yourself. Know what sets you apart from others. What are your talents and skills? What can your leadership and guidance provide to a company? What are you looking for in a business culture?
Jack Calhoun, longtime former global president of Banana Republic, once said,
“Know yourself. Know yourself very well. Be very honest with what you’re good at and your strengths and limitations…”
By having a strong understanding of yourself, you will be able to maintain your integrity, values and behaviors. By not compromising or losing those core beliefs, it will allow you to find a company with which you have chemistry.
Listen and ask important questions.
When meeting with a potential employer, be a good listener, instead of trying to promote your accolades—which often speak for themselves. Let them do the talking and absorb.
As you do speak, ask thoughtful and provoking questions so that you can gain valuable information on the company. Understand the business and know how they work. Learn about the pay, the company culture, the employees and other factors that could play a part into your decision to accept an offer or continue to shop.
Show the right amount of interest.
If you are interested in a company, make it known. Do not be afraid to contact or approach them. By staying in contact, you’re keeping your foot in the door and staying on their mind. Just don’t go overboard. Just like you, the people making this C-suite-level or director-level hiring decision are busy and could potentially feel annoyed.
On the other hand, if you are not interested, let them know. You don’t want to lead someone on and burn any bridges you have made, so if you decide it is not for you, tell them “no thanks” in your most friendly, tactful way. If you decline an offer, do it politely with specific, yet brief, reasoning.
Do not make a rash decision.
In times like these, you might feel pressured to make a quick decision. However, the most important thing to do is take your time. Continue to build and maintain relationships, but play the field cautiously.
At the same time, you don’t want to close the door to potential opportunities, but you should be selective—and find the right fit across the board, something you love, before signing on the dotted line.
Like John Gainor, CEO and president of International Dairy Queen, Inc. once stated, “I think it’s very important that you don’t want work to be work. It has to be something that you can enjoy. And if you do that, you can build a great career and enjoy what you’re doing…”
It is not just about scoring a rich contract; it is about having a meaningful interaction with a company. You know this, but sometimes it is worth reinforcing. Take the time to build trust with each courting company, stay on your “A-game” by asking the right questions, and be 100% comfortable with any decision that you make. It could be the difference between a championship and a slump.
Looking for a new contract? To find out what the top jobs are in the accounting and finance sector, check out our infographic.