What would you do if you were in a leadership role and felt a strong urge to change your job? Would you look through job portals, trawl through the job ads on LinkedIn, call a few executive search firms or text your former peers and bosses? Most times, it might be all of the above. It also depends on how much time you have. The approach might change if you aren’t really desperate but have decided that it’s time to move on.

Greener Pastures

These days, I get a lot of requests from CXOs looking for a change. Everybody has their own valid reasons to move. We know there are headwinds in some sectors, which are causing restructuring and downsizing. Hence, appraisals and bonuses haven’t been attractive this year either. However, the external hiring market is surprisingly demonstrating a new trend.

Over the last 12 months, 45,000 senior leaders with a median tenure of 2.8 years changed jobs in India, which is a clear indicator of the opportunities in roles like GM, Director, and VP. The IT sector alone saw 4,600 such leaders moving to another employer in the same period. Moreover, close to 100 new GCCs have come to India in the last two years and have recruited more than 1,200 leaders to their newly formed entities. Last financial year, more than 150 Indian companies went the IPO route, and the estimation is even higher for this financial year. This is creating more opportunities at the leadership or board levels and raising the aspirations of professionals vying for growth. So how easy or difficult is it to find a job in a leadership role? Is there a playbook?


“The last three leadership roles I got hired via my network, someone referred me to these jobs; I have never made a CV for 15 years”, shared an MD of an IT MNC.

“Should I start posting more on LinkedIn for me to be more visible to prospective employers?” asked a CFO of a pharma MNC.

“I can’t update my LinkedIn profile; it might raise suspicions within my organisation as many of my colleagues follow me there,” shared my HR friend when I asked her to do so.

“Forwarding my resume may make it sound desperate and also fall into the wrong hands. Is there a sophisticated way of positioning my candidature without a CV?” asked a VP of a Telecom major who was keen for a change.

Do some of these conversations strike a chord with you?

Online Platforms

It is common knowledge that leadership hiring can stretch from six months to one year. So, if a leader is working in a volatile organisation or has clear signs of a push coming their way, one has no choice but to look into open roles on platforms. At any given time, over 1,000-1,200 leaders with a salary above ₹1 crore per annum are looking for jobs on various online job platforms. This is a go-to talent pool for recruiters and enterprises that don’t have the time to court passive talent. But that doesn’t mean leaders whose CVs aren’t online wouldn’t be keen for a change. The popular consensus among recruiters is that everyone is a passive job seeker until the right opportunity is presented to them.

Executive Search Firms

Many of us have the misconception that executive search firms work to get our next job. In fact, in their business model, it’s the other way around; it’s People for Jobs and not Jobs for People. Most often, Search companies secure job openings with their clients and then look for leaders who are likely fit. The logic is that you will get a call if you are good enough or fit the skill, salary, and location criteria. However, one cannot deny that cementing relationships with various search firms is a great insurance for repeat opportunities in a long career. As a leader with all the demands of the role, can one make the time to keep these multiple relationships at play? But would the executive search consultants find you worthy of meeting without an active mandate?

Alumni network

During my employment days, the headhunting calls I used to get for new opportunities were courtesy of my ex-bosses or peers. I am sure that in your career as a leader, if not all, some of the moves would be due to a recommendation from someone who has worked with you. In the hectic work world that consumes us, we may have ended or left our past working relationships dormant. Some of us pull ranks even after the working tenure ends, almost as though the ex-reportee is supposed to keep in touch forever.

In a world full of opportunities, our ex-peers and ex-team members can grow even faster than us, depending on the road they take and their skills. In a technology and social media-connected world, there is no excuse for not making the time and effort to stay in touch with your alumni. After all, what people talk about you when you aren’t in the room is who you really are. We need to socialise constantly to keep our networks active. You may not want to be labelled as someone who reaches out only when you need a new job desperately.

Different approaches

As leaders, we can be subtle in our approach by being on the radar of people who matter. Whether it’s your customers, alumni, competitors, or search partners, all are quite likely to be connected to you via multiple social media, WhatsApp or public events. You can be on a pedestal and conduct events, write blogs, broadcast podcasts or be more personal by connecting one-to-one with your ecosystem. A New Year wish, a festival greeting, or a birthday wish to a select few is a good start! One lunch or coffee a year with some of these well-networked professionals is even better!

Growing up the ladder, the acquired titles became our identity, and some of us have stopped doing certain things that took us there. Leadership roles are the most vulnerable during times of crisis, and it will cause no harm building some serious relationships in our alumni group. Else, you have to swear by the famous book by Cal Newport, “So good that they can’t ignore you?”

(Kamal Karanth is the co-founder of Xpheno, a specialist staffing company)