What the C-Suite Job Hunt Looks Like Now

Looking for executive roles has become more challenging during the pandemic. Here's how one association leader made it work.

In October 2020, Jamie Beaulieu, CAE, received the bad news that her association job was being eliminated due to pandemic-era budget cutbacks. She allowed herself a “day of mourning,” she says, then dove into her job search, “just picking myself back up the next day, activating my networks and rolling my sleeves up and getting started.”

COVID-19 has changed much of what job-hunting looks like for association executives like Beaulieu—virtual interviewing, new skill sets, different forms of networking. For Beaulieu, adjusting to that new environment paid off: Last July she landed a position at the American Bankers Association as senior vice president, executive education and CEO programs. She shared a few of her lessons learned about what the job hunt looks like now.

Virtual interviewing is an exercise in brevity.

Jamie Beaulieu, CAE

Network, but don’t always be job-hunting. While looking for work in a tight job market, Beaulieu did what candidates are always told to do: connect with groups of people to hear about potential opportunities. But she made a point to pursue connections that were as much about maintaining a sense of community as chasing down job leads. “It was really to keep my mind fresh,” she says. “You can only spend so much time updating your resume and writing cover letters.” She took advantage of Coffee Chat, a standing half-hour morning Zoom meeting for association professionals that launched during the pandemic, to talk shop and casually connect. (It’s still running: Contact its founder, Nicole Araujo, CAE, for more information by emailing her at naraujo@mightycitizen.com.)

Professional development doesn’t stop between jobs. While she was sorting through job listings, Beaulieu also decided to complete a couple of certificate programs, one in leadership development, another in diversity, equity, and inclusion. She had been eager to do both before she was laid off, and now she had the opportunity. And it signaled to interviewers that she was still engaged in the profession. The training was “instrumental in helping me advance in the different searches I was a part of,” she says. “It showed employers that I wasn’t sitting around—that I was interested in learning and growing.”

Virtual interviewing brings its own set of demands. Interviewing with search committees over Zoom has its advantages, Beaulieu says. You can curate your home-office background to present the version of your professional self that you want to display. You can also keep notes handy in a way that might be awkward at an in-person meeting. But virtual interviewing requires a candidate to work harder to keep the energy up and maintain the interviewers’ attention. “It’s an exercise in brevity,” she says. “Somebody on Zoom is not going to be as engaged in your elevator pitch. You really need to cut to the point quickly, because you are now competing with anything else that’s on their screen.”

Make sure your new team is onboarded as well as you are. ABA remains a virtual office, which can make connection a challenge—Beaulieu joked that at an in-person conference last fall she was finally able to see what her colleagues looked like below their shoulders. Ensuring her new team got to know her required that she adjust to the realities of the Zoom screen: She created a PowerPoint about herself that she shared with her new colleagues. “I wanted to show them who I was not just in words, but also visually, because they may not meet me for a few months,” she says.

But the old rules of management still apply to onboarding, she notes—be a good listener, and look for common ground. “A lot of executive onboarding is founded in consensus-building and collaboration,” she says. “Being a new leader coming into their world required me showing them that I wanted to be part of that team and grow with them, not go over them.”

If you’ve been job hunting during the pandemic, what’s harder, easier, or simply different? Share your experiences in the comments.

(alexsl/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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