September 2020
How to hunt for a high-level job

The higher the level candidates have reached, the more difficult it is to change jobs and to find something locally appealing as the Slovak market lacks headquarter level jobs.With the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty is the only firm point in the market. Despite that, try to imagine a “business as usual” market situation.

The Slovak economy and labour market are dominated by the automotive sector. The automotive sector in its wider definition is therefore still the most sensible choice for executives with a relevant background. Slovakia is proud to be the biggest car producer per capita worldwide, but this also means the country is heavily dependent on the automotive sector.

Luckily the central European automotive cluster has grown and become complex, and thus strong enough to balance any potential market drop. An executive role in the automotive sector thus still seems to be a good choice, at least for the next few years.

Another promising sector is the mechanical engineering sector, especially in companies that have their own local R&D activities and are, ideally, part of some corporation.

These companies may not be as visible as those from the automotive sector but nevertheless are much more promising and “job safer”.

Shared service centres still booming
The shared service industry and technology sectors are growing. Shared services usually hire only managers with some previous SSC experience and the right cultural fit.

Any executive who has worked in a global organisation, for example in some regional role, may fit well as they are used to working with reporting-driven virtual teams in a fast-paced environment, more or less constructively deciding on a matrix organisation with advanced digitalisation.

There are several success stories among local technology houses, many not visible to the Slovak market as they exclusively sell globally. Luckily, they hire locally and that creates a greater chance for having a global career inside a company where the strategic decisions are made locally and swiftly, and can be influenced.

Try a local company – why not?
Very often a top executive with a successful career in a global corporation strives to find a proper job on the small Slovak job market, but is unsuccessful working for local companies. The main reasons are a lack of predictable behaviour by a locally owned organisation, a lack of processes that are usual in international corporations, lower pay and something that can be called a “culture clash”.

Still, medium-sized locally owned companies, usually export-oriented, create the best opportunity for any senior executive on the Slovak market. There are several reasons for this, among which is the strong interest of local owners (sometimes real, sometimes just proclaimed) to implement processes used in global corporations, the opportunity to influence a company’s strategy and, instead of being just a small wheel in a global corporation’s gearwheels, the possibility to be the game-changer, to really lead and navigate a company.

In some cases, local owners look not only for managers with the above-mentioned skills but also business partners who may eventually become shareholders.

Naturally, this scenario is only possible for managers who are ready to get operative and don’t expect an ensemble of assistants and processes around them. These managers are ready to roll up their sleeves. Furthermore, they understand that a local company doesn’t pay a global corporation remuneration even though the job is perhaps even more demanding.

“Ownership”, a hands-on approach, flexibility and humility are key to success. Too large an ego of some senior executives stands in the way of making the above-mentioned career step possible and successful, despite all the technical or business knowledge they possess.

Money is (not) everything
The higher the level candidates have reached, the more difficult it is to change jobs and to find something locally appealing as our market lacks headquarter level jobs. Seniority level and package expectations could prohibit a company from approaching a high senior professional. The candidate’s unrealistic package expectations could be considered in many cases the top show stopper.

One top recruiter described how executives usually say during an interview “I am flexible, money is not everything”, but then when recruiters insist and drill deeper it turns out the flexibility means maximum 10 percent package decrease.

“On the other side we have seen some really flexible senior candidates, even jobless and aged 55+, who were ready to change for 50 percent less than their last salary. They were competitive again and they were hired. In a new job, they can rise within one to two years again to the level of 80 percent of their previous salary, but they have to prove themselves,” he said.

In conclusion, stay open to opportunities, build and cultivate your own professional network and maintain professional relationships (not only when intending to make a change). A career should be driven by a purpose, and market opportunities explored according to career strategy. In small markets like Slovakia, a career is also a matter of reputation, so building a positive personal brand plays an important role.

By Mariana Turanová – INAC Slovakia

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