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Whether they choose to or not, at one time or another, all executives will find themselves leaving their existing job and taking on a new professional challenge. Anyone leaving their old job and looking for a suitable executive role is suddenly faced with the prospect of examining their own personality and their professional capabilities, and asking the question: “where do I actually want to end up?”. However, the transitional phase between two jobs can and should be used for further personal and professional development.

Personal development and expanding your network

Long-time executives who deliberately decide to give up their current job and devote themselves to a new task tend to undergo a lot of self-reflection before handing in their notice. They have usually got to a stage where they realize they are no longer satisfied at their current company or are hampered in their further development. Conversely, if a termination is effected by the company, executives face a sudden need to reorient themselves.

In both cases it makes sense to use the time between jobs productively – not only to engage in personal development, but also to expand your own personal network. Both of these are useful exercises regardless of whether you have already landed your next job or are still looking for the right role.

These are the questions you should be asking when searching for the right role in senior management:

  1. What is my untapped potential and how can I be sure to deploy it in future?
  2. How do I evaluate my own management style and how does this compare to my employees’ assessment of me? How can I get objective feedback about my management style?
  3. Which of my skills should I expand, which leadership gaps do I need to close in order to anticipate change processes and boost my personal performance (and that of my co-workers) across departments?
  4. Am I an executive who is equipped with the relevant skills for the age of digital transformation? How should I raise my profile?
  5. Is my management of my company up-to-date in terms of current development processes?

It is often difficult to answer these questions in detail and satisfactorily without external feedback. At the same time, executives should make the most of any professional transitional phases to confront these – sometimes uncomfortable – questions before they lose sight of them in the cut and thrust of everyday life.

As an executive between two jobs – use the time for personal development

One option that assists both personal (and professional) development as well as expanding one’s own network is further professional development. In particular, providers of “Executive Education” specialize in offering suitable professional development opportunities geared toward experienced executives. “Advanced” or “Executive” Management programs are less about acquiring more basic knowledge. Instead, these training courses provide a favorable framework that inspires self-reflection, where new ideas can be tested in a protected space, and that fosters an in-depth interaction on an equal footing with other participants to expand your own network. Additionally, executives naturally also benefit from updating their professional knowledge.

Most Executive Education courses for experienced executives are split into subject areas that focus on preparing you for top management roles or support you in performing such a role: for example transformation processes in companies, strategic challenges, or authentic management. Network expansion happens almost automatically because these intensive education programs are based on the “sparring” principle: tutors see themselves not only as learning partners on equal footing, but they also facilitate interaction and sparring between the participants.

Dr. Rebecca Winkelmann, Managing Director WHU Executive Education

About the author

Dr. Rebecca Winkelmann is Managing Director of the Executive Education at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. With a total of over 15 years’ experience in management of higher education institutions, Rebecca has been supporting individual executives and entire organizations in the field of “Personal Development” for seven years, and she develops Executive Education programs.

About WHU Executive Education

WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management is a privately financed, state-recognized business school with university status based in Düsseldorf and Vallendar. It was established in 1984 and today enjoys a strong reputation in Germany and abroad. WHU Executive Education offers first rate Executive Education programs for high potentials and executives at middle and senior management levels. Our portfolio contains tailor-made programs for companies, open programs (including Leadership, Advanced Management, General Management, Finance, Venture Capital) for individuals and small groups as well as conferences.

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