Executives Remain Eager to Jump Ship

By Greg Wright Jul 1, 2013
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​Tony Tyree jumped from companies in the United States to the Asia Pacific region to get the experience needed to climb the corporate ladder in the global food industry.

Tyree, a former vice president at Kraft Foods and now a general manager at Fonterra, an international dairy firmed based in New Zealand, said he wouldn’t hesitate to take an assignment in another part of the world.

“These international roles are so rewarding,” said Tyree, who now heads the company’s cheese and spreads portfolio in Australia. “The world is much bigger than what is between the West and East coasts of the United States.”

Many senior executives share Tyree’s corporate wanderlust, according to a new survey report from BlueSteps, a New York City-based online career management service for senior executives. Although economies in the U.S. and other countries are still recovering from the recession, experts said there are plenty of job openings for executives—depending on industry and region.

Many executives are itching to land a new job. According to the BlueSteps report, released in June 2013, 76 percent of senior executives worldwide said they were willing to change employers immediately for the right opportunity.

In fact, almost half of the 900 people who responded to the survey said they are actively looking for a new position. And a third of respondents said they expect to be working for an entirely different industry in the next three years.

“While the transitioning from one sector to another will remain challenging overall, shifting demographics and the focus on digital transformation will open up new opportunities for executives to make more moves across industries,” said Peter Felix, president of BlueSteps.com and the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

Still, some experts are doubtful the job market is healthy enough for the number of executives who say they want to change jobs.

Dana Manciagli, a Seattle-based career consultant and author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job (Authority Publishing, 2013), said many executives are choosing to stay put because of the slow economy.

Other executives, while fearful of being laid off, stay because they believe that the longer they are in their current positions, the more valued and indispensable they will become, said Manciagli, who spent 30 years working as a recruiter for Microsoft, Kodak, IBM and other companies.

“They know the job market is tough out there and will be for the next five years,” she said. “There are fewer jobs and many more applicants per position.”

However, other experts said there is a healthy job market for executives, although demand varies by industry and geography.

For instance, there is a robust hiring demand for executives in the technology sector, said Charley Polachi, a partner at Polachi Access Executive Search in Framingham, Mass. However, there are fewer jobs for executives in the insurance, banking and automobile sectors.

There is also a demand for executives in industries that rely heavily on people with mathematical, statistical, analytical and data management skills, said Chad Oakley III, president and chief operating officer at Charles Aris Inc., an executive search company in Greensboro, N.C.

The U.S. manufacturing industry, too, is experiencing job growth as more companies bring factory work back to the United States, Oakley said.

The U.S. unemployment rate reached a five-year high of 10 percent in October 2009, but had fallen to 7.6 percent by May 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oakley contends that despite high unemployment rates, demand for talented executives never waned. In fact, he said, many of the unemployed are those with less education and job experience.

“Those opportunities are definitely out there” for executives looking for new jobs, Oakley said.

Experts said location, too, is an important factor when searching for an executive position. For example, the media and advertising industries continue to create executive job opportunities in places such as New York City, while the engineering and high-tech industries have created jobs in California, Polachi said.

Now that fears of a double-dip recession have passed, overall hiring is up in the United States, Oakley said. However, Europe is still struggling economically and the economies of some Asian nations are slowing, he said.

Still, no matter where executives go to look for jobs, Polachi said, it is important that they follow Tyree’s example and learn to embrace new opportunities. The days of moving up the ladder at one company are likely gone.

“People are healthier and working longer,” Polachi said. “People will have multiple careers and not one career from cradle to grave.”

Greg Wright is a Baltimore, Md.-based freelance writer who has covered Congress, consumer electronics and international trade for major news organizations, including Gannett News Service/USA Today, Dow Jones and Knight-Ridder Financial News. He can be reached at GLW522@gmail.com.

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