To be singled out by a head-hunter you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd, say Marcella Cronin and Carol Connolly

Here are two ways to get a pay rise. Steel yourself to meet your boss and argue that you're worth more to the company. Or get head-hunted. There will be manifold benefits to your career generally.

You could jump several rungs up the ladder, to a position that could take years to reach internally. Furthermore, Mansion House Executive's research indicates, the average salary rise you will receive will be one of 30%.

On top of this, companies are increasingly paying new staff substantial lump-sum joining fees, just to make sure the deal goes ahead.

Getting the call
Employers in the insurance industry are using head-hunters to fill about 40% of senior vacancies, which means that many search consultants are spending time getting to know some of you without your even realising it. That is, until you get the phone call.

So, if you haven't had a call, why does it continue to elude you? What is it about your colleagues that makes them more attractive to search companies?

Well, you may be on the same grade as they are and have similar skills and qualifications, but if your head is not visible above the parapet it can't be hunted.

In an industry with more than 350,000 employees, the first step is to get your name on the list of candidates prepared by search firms from contacts, reference books, databases, the internet and so on.

While you may be a well known and popular individual in your own department, it is important that your skills and potential are recognised beyond that. One of the best places to start is in the rest of your company, where two key ideas to consider are:

  • Volunteering your services internally for training programmes, presentations and roadshows. This will help raise your profile with other departments, as well as increasing your contact with other senior managers.

  • If you are given the opportunity, take part in management projects, research or strategic planning groups. Again, your exposure to important figures within the company will significantly increase, in addition to expanding your skills. These projects and groups also attract the attention of search consultants who look closely at this type of work.

    Having increased your internal profile, it is vital to get your name mentioned often in the market, in particular among your competitors and any third-party intermediaries or specialists you deal with. These people are frequently a source of recommendations to head-hunters.

    Networking is all. Making contact and impressing a widespread web of key people is the way to success.

    Attending, and if you are brave enough, speaking at conferences will provide you with the chance to meet and be seen by large numbers of key individuals operating in your market. Search companies read delegate lists avidly and are often seen attending many of these events.

    As an added bonus, many conferences are reported in the trade press; a prominent picture or judicious quote can do wonders in increasing your profile within the industry.

    If a conference appears too daunting, there are other opportunities to appear in public, for example at external lectures. If you have gained experience of lecturing in your own company and your name is known to the industry press, there's a good chance that the organisers will be delighted to hear from you.

    If you are not brave enough to speak at these events, make a point of asking a couple of pertinent questions from the floor, to get yourself noticed.

    Mingle, mingle, mingle
    Another effective way to meet people is to become more involved with your local institute or professional body. You will meet many fellow insurers, brokers and underwriters, thereby raising your profile among your peers, who are used as sources by researchers.

    Alumni groups also offer the chance to network. In addition, many of these groups publish membership directories that are consulted by recruiters.

    Getting to know people who have already been head-hunted is a good way to get your name known. Search consultants will invariably keep in contact with candidates they have placed and ask them for recommendations on other searches.

    Writing articles on your specialist area will also bring you to the attention of the right people. Trade publications are usually keen to publish topical articles, but if you are not confident enough to write an entire piece, at least try to get quoted.

    Just as the internet has infiltrated other areas of our lives, it can also help bring you to the attention of head-hunters. Search consultants continually review company websites in order to keep up with market and company developments and most sites now provide details of most of their employees.

    If you crave the excitement of an international career, leap on any offers of a global secondment or a trip.

    Moving about increases your networking opportunities, and it provides invaluable experience. In a world in which ideas, services and products have become increasingly global, having overseas assignments on your CV will immediately increase your appeal to employers and head-hunters.

    Hopefully, if you follow this advice you should receive a phone call before too long. As far as landing the actual job goes, though, well that's a different story, with an entirely new set of rules. Good luck!

  • Marcella Cronin is managing director and Carol Connolly is executive consultant at Mansion House Executive.

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