Congratulations on making it to the end of this week’s magazine. Unless of course you cheated and started at the back. If you didn’t, you have probably leafed through another bumper jobs section, carefully curated by our friends at The MJ, possibly tempted by more than one advert.
Setting aside the perennially challenging circumstances under which most councils operate and yet further financial uncertainty, it’s actually a good time to be looking for a new job. Local government’s ageing workforce, the legacy of the pandemic and surprising ways of working by some of our national political leaders have added to the usual drivers for change.
But if you are tempted to move, what sort of questions should you be asking, both of yourself and of others?
First up, be honest with yourself and think carefully about your motivation. Assuming you are currently in a job, how much ‘push’ are you feeling to leave and how much ‘pull’ are you feeling from the adverts on the previous pages?
Ambition can be a very positive force, but it’s not good enough to want to be a chief executive just because it’s the top job in an organisation, or to become a director because it represents the pinnacle of your chosen profession.
Do you have enough of the requisite skills, knowledge and experience for the type of role you have in mind? Friends, colleagues, mentors and coaches can all help you make this judgement, but you need to be honest in your own assessment.
Arguably more important are the values, attitudes and behaviours that help shape your leadership style. What sort of context and organisation will work best for you? If you are someone who has thrived in a crisis or who has led a turnaround programme, are you best placed to join an organisation where the elected members are convinced that they require incremental progress?
Obviously, place and communities are at the heart of why local government exists. So, while many of the issues may be similar, every place has defining and unique features, culture, people and communities. Ask yourself why you want to work in that particular place. If you have never been there, should you apply before you have at least visited?
And then check again. Even the most seemingly obvious jobs in the most obvious of places might not be the right ones to go for. As local authorities are changing shape and size, so are the senior jobs being created within them. Traditional career paths and orthodox routes to advancement are not what they once were.
Despite very best efforts, the competence of some organisations to put together a well-run recruitment campaign might not be as good as you might hope. Sometimes a bad process can hide a very good job and it’s worth looking around the corners if you can.
If recruitment consultants are involved, they should be an early port of call. The first and most obvious question is ‘what are they really looking for’? Remember that the consultants could be trying to squeeze a lot of conversations with potential candidates into a relatively short period of time. They have a vested interest in trying to establish early on whether you are a likely contender, so make it as easy as possible for them: explain briefly what you do, where you have done it and why you think you might be a suitable candidate. Having a conversation in the spirit of ‘let’s not waste each other’s time’ will serve you well.
And now you have made it to the end of this article too. So, time to turn back to the previous pages, reacquaint yourself with the advert that caught your eye and have a think about your next move. I wish you good luck.
Martin Tucker is Managing Director of Faerfield