Risks as a High-Level Job Seeker

Risks as a High-Level Job Seeker

Tokyo is a small town - not in terms of the population, but in terms of who knows whom. This makes it especially challenging for a high-profile person to go out and look for a job - especially if you're a CEO or CIO. But, if you've been hearing rumors back at head office of a "significant downsizing" or restructuring, you know that you'd better prepare an escape pod. Still, at the same time, you want to keep your tentative job search "quiet" just incase everything works out.

Most senior recruiting in Tokyo goes through executive search agencies - there is almost no public advertising of top positions. The reason is quite simple, showing the public that your company lacks a key person shows a weakness in the company, which competitors will take advantage of.

So clearly the first stop for a senior person is several recruiters (not just one). At this point, providing the recruiters have reasonable reputations, any contacts you make will be entirely confidential. The problem is that many of Tokyo's best recruiters are also extremely well known, so make sure that you don't meet them at the Okura hotel for breakfast... mid-week it's sometimes like a recruiter reunion in there!

For what it's worth, I generally class myself and some of my tier two colleagues as safe, because we're into other business areas than just recruiting...

Anyway, next, the recruiter(s) come back to you with some opportunities. You do some background checking to see what each company's business and team is like, and how bad the politics with head office will be - then decide to take the next step. The recruiter contacts the client, puts your name forward, and if they're interested - they will want to meet.

At this point, your job search is no longer tentative. Suddenly the stakes have been raised and you're back in the real world. This is the point of no return, where you decide whether the grass really is greener on the other side, and where if you get exposed, you have to be willing to make the jump into the newcompany.

Mark my words, as soon as you go see the prospective employer, you will be exposing yourself. If you're any good, their people will talk, despite all the precautions and care taken by the recruiter. This is especially true in the banking industry, where word about a high-level candidate is usually on the grapevine within a day or so of your visiting.

So, what can you do about this? Clearly, nothing. This is Fate playing her hand, and you simply need to go with the flow. What it does mean though, is that before your first visit to see a prospective employer, you need to think long and hard about whether you are really ready to jump out of your current position.

As a footnote, why are senior people so worried about exposure? In the banking industry, where everyone is under a lot of pressure, politics plays a big part of your career growth. Nothing will kill your internal prospects as quickly as rumors that you're looking for a job. In some other industries/situations, however, exposure is less of a problem. I know of a number of high-performance CEOs who do so well with each company that they take control of, that their employers are prepared to put up with the person "taking some liberties". Still, being seen to be looking for another job is seldom a career-enhancing move.

As always, my contact details are simply:


Looking forward to getting some enquiries...