We interviewed 50 executives who have been successful in managing their careers in a world of short job tenure and long middle age. Most of them were CEOs or reported directly to CEOs. Success was defined as financial and emotional satisfaction with both consulting and employment phases of their professional lives. What have we learned?
FREE AGENCY IS BOTH TRUE AND MISLEADING.
In the last ten years of the 20th century, Economists like Robert Reich and popular business magazines like BUSINESS 2.0 began to write about Free Agent Nation: Under a free agent model, executives have careers that resemble professional sports stars. Free agents smoothly shifting from one major league team to another major league team through the work of third parties. In the sports and entertainment sectors, these third parties are called Agents. In the world of business, these people are called retained search executives.
Professional sports players represent an elite segment of the general population. And even within this elite group, only the top 10-15% of this elite can count on the Free Agent model to work in their favor.
What happens to the other 85 percent?
When their contracts with one major league team are not renewed, it is the beginning of the end of their professional sports career. It may also mean the start of a new profession. Even for the elite within the sports elite, Free Agency is true for only a limited time.
The concept is similar in business but it is not openly discussed.
Free Agency says that winners smoothly move from full time job to full time job with the help of recruiters. Senior Executives are an elite group within the business world. But within this world, Executive Recruiters prefer to work with what they call â€œA Players.â€?This is the elite within the elite. â€œA Playersâ€?have a performance record, a public reputation, and a chronological age that is desired by company clients. Even â€œA Playersâ€?will find recruiters will stop working for them when they reach a certain age.
What happens to the vast majority of executives, who are elite but are not A Players or are former A Players?