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Executive Job Prospects Are Looking Up

Salaries Rise while Search Time Shrinks

Things are moving fast and furiously in today’s job market, thanks in part to the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years. The turnaround in the past decade alone—since the recession hit in 2008—has been remarkable. Manufacturing alone has added 1.1 million jobs in the last eight years, and 17 of the 18 major industries are currently in growth mode, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Job gains are not confined by level, with even those in the executive ranks finding the opportunities plentiful. Not surprisingly, the older the executive and the higher the levels of compensation, education, and experience, the longer it takes to transition to new employment. But even those transition times are significantly faster than five years ago.

In BPI Group’s latest Executive Employment Trends Report, executive job candidates report landing new positions in an average of 4.9 months, compared to 5.6 months in 2013, and the current industry average of 6.9 months for senior executives in transition (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition, the percentage of manufacturing jobs in our study has doubled since 2012. 

Senior Execs: Staying Longer, Earning More

The majority of senior executives in transition today are choosing new employment over entrepreneurial pursuits or traditional, leisure-based retirement. In fact, the concept of retirement as we’ve known it has virtually disappeared, as the Baby Boomer generation redefines it by remaining in the workforce. Labor force participation among the 50-plus set has risen dramatically since 2000. According to a report by Advisor Perspectives, a newsletter for financial advisors, “Today, nearly one in three of the 65-69 cohort and about one in five of the 70-74 cohort are in the labor force.” Various factors contribute to this trend, including reduced pensions, increased cost of living and healthier lifestyles that fuel longer life spans.

Thanks to the tight labor market, most executives who pursue new positions are landing in similar or better jobs, and this number has steadily risen from 33% to 60% of our survey respondents over six years. Of course, better compensation is one of the driving factors, and it’s no secret that senior management compensation has grown at an exponential rate compared to average workers’ wages.

“The greater legal and regulatory scrutiny on executive compensation in recent years has actually had the opposite effect that was intended – it has increased executive pay,” said Doug Rose, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Discover Financial Services. “Companies are finding they have to pay more for executives to take on new levels of risk.” 

One thing that continues to hold true in the executive job search: Networking is the key. In fact, 71% of executives in our study landed new roles through networking as opposed to online searches or other means. 

Steve Spires is managing director, career services, and senior executive coach at global management and HR consulting firm BPI Group, overseeing the delivery of the firm’s career transition services in North America. 

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