Excerpt from: "Hiring a New Chief Executive"

Why is it that the best jobs are always someone else's?

Getting Started: What you need to know to increase your chances of getting the top job


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Excerpt from:

"Hiring a New Chief Executive"

Board Member (Special Edition),

Volume 6, Number 5, May 1997, Page 9.

Even if the board and volunteers staff the entire search process, casting the net wide enough to recruit and hire a chief executive is expensive.

Advertising in a number of major metropolitan newspapers and in professional publications can cost thousands of dollars and may bring in hundreds of resumes out of which only a few are appropriate for the position. More organizations are investing in targeted assistance that can help them make the search process more efficient and effective.

One advantage of working with a search consultant, according to Tom Goodwin, who works primarily with large nonprofits based in Washington, D.C., is the access they offer to a network of qualified candidates. "We seldom end up with someone hired who was actively looking for a job," he notes. "Usually I approach people who are happy with what they're doing. I call them and dangle an opportunity in front of them. I want people who are accomplished, and these people are often happy in what they are doing now."

According to Goodwin, search consultants can gain access to such candidates in a way the organization itself never could. "We offer a buffer, and candidates are more comfortable talking to a third party," he explains. "They can hear about the opportunity, and if they don't want to pursue it, nobody ever has to know. Or they may say, ‘yes, but send the information to my home and don't tell anybody we're talking.' I respect those confidentialities."

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"Why Is it That the Best Jobs Are Always Someone Else's?"

by Tom Goodwin

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
September 3, 1995, p. C-19.


To children, the best adult jobs usually belong to firemen, policemen, cowboys and baseball players. As it turns out, kids are pretty perceptive. Psychologists tell us that people working in these occupations are unusually happy with their careers.

Adults have other considerations. While the psychic rewards of punching cows may be significant, the pay stinks. As an executive search consultant, I know that many adults want a career that combines good pay, great benefits, and plenty of flexibility and free time.

With Labor Day upon us, it's time to look at some of these jobs.

  • Professional golfer. Baseball players earn more, but have shorter careers, and football quarterbacks get slammed too often. In the lucrative world of sports, pro golf is the ticket. You play in warm weather, travel each week to a new and beautiful resort, and somebody else carries your bag. When you retire, there is still plenty of time to -you guessed it- play golf.

  • Investment banker, mergers and acquisitions. These are the sharks, the "players," the "makers" who earn up to $1.75 million for getting one chain of businesses to merge with another. If you can handle high stress and are facile with numbers, this may be the job. One or two deals per year and you are a rich genius.

  • Pilot for a major airline. Rise to the top on this profession and you work 10 to 15 hours per week, pull down $100,000 to $300,000 per year, and get to travel throughout the world. Even your extended family flies free. With so much free time, many pilots live in Florida or Southern California and commute to work at company expense. In the meantime, many pilots run a second business. If you have travel lust, look no further.

  • Tenured professor at a major university. It's a long apprenticeship- Ph.D. programs, assistant professor at Backwater U.- but once you make it as a full professor your life is (relatively) Miller Time. You can pull down $100,000 per year, and double that by consulting. You work as little as 12 hours a week, get teaching assistants to grade those annoying papers, and still get summers off.

  • Executive editor, magazine. What in the world is an executive editor? At many publications, these are former managing editors with too much tenure to get fired. They fill their time by playing golf with potential advertisers and keeping the publisher happy. For up to $445,000 per year, that's hardly asking too much.

  • Corporate legal officer. Hear you won't be making partner at your law firm? Here's the job for you. The $445,000 per year should more than make up for the boring meetings. If serious trouble crops up, you can hire top-flight outside legal counsel- often from the firm that bounced you. Since you OK the bills, the guys who "dissed" you now treat you with the utmost respect. Revenge is sweet.

  • Vice president of corporate ethics. My favorite. At major corporations these folks pull down up to $200,000 per year to tell people not to do anything wrong. They get to make up the rules that everyone else follows. With a title like that, who can say you are wrong? Great job for an oldest child.

  • Major media news anchor or personality. Oracles and storytellers are venerated wherever society exists. In America they appear on TV. The rewards are substantial: Barbara Walters pulls down $10 million per year; Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw $3 million and $2 million respectively. Do the same job in Manhattan, Kansas, and you might earn $25,000.

  • Association executive. The well known secret in Washington, D.C. is that the city's best jobs belong to the heads of the well-heeled business and trade associations. People representing newspaper publishers, railroads and life insurance interests all pull down more than $500,000 -plus perks.

As runners-up, I might include wine taster (good liver required), or dermatologist (good pay and no emergency room hours), or ski instructor (lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle). Or maybe executive job search consultant. If a company hires me to help them fill the perfect job, maybe I'll apply.


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Excerpts from:

"Getting Started:
What you need to know to increase your chances of getting the top job"

by Diane E. Kirrane

Association Management
August, 1996, pp. 37- 51.

Despite the term headhunter, the association CEO selection process is hardly a jungle. It's usually quite well-organized, and executive search firm representatives- headhunters- and association chief executive officers tend to be generous with information and advice. But the association CEO job and the selection process have gotten harder. Be forewarned: A CEO candidate needs to prepare for heightened competition, rising competency requirements, and group interview rituals.

Tom Goodwin, president of Goodwin & Company, Washington, D.C., says that you need to ask how the board and CEO will work together- through regular meetings, phone calls, memos, strategic planning sessions? A strategic planning process is how you incorporate a shared vision into organizational life, Goodwin believes. If the board hasn't used such a process, and you become the CEO, try to institute one, he says.

Goodwin says that a basic question is what the organization wants the CEO to accomplish in a year or so. Do they want the membership to grow by a certain amount? Do they want to institute a new trade show? Do they want a new publication or other products and services? Are they interested in public policy? Is there legislation that they want to win or block? These specifics define the job. Recognize whether the areas of concern call on your strengths, advises Goodwin.

Keep in mind that you're competing with the cream of the crop. Goodwin says that it's unusual for anyone to do badly. Walk away saying "I'm a skillful person," he advises. Candidates who don't get the nod may take it as a deep rejection, but it isn't necessarily so. Often the selection committee is favorably impressed with more than one candidate.

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