Career Strategy: Secrets of America's Top Executives, Part 1

My name is Mark Wayman, and I'm a Headhunter focused on gaming and high tech. Over the last twelve years I have placed 800+ executives. Compensation starts at $100,000, average placement is $200,000+, and last year I placed eight executives north of a million dollars.

What do highly successful executives (top 2%) do differently than everyone else? How do they end up with the best jobs and the biggest compensation packages? In this multi-part series I'll highlight the "secrets" these top people utilize when managing their careers.

Relationships Trump Talent - Every day I see unqualified executives get great jobs while highly talented executives get passed over. Why? Because relationships trump talent. Here is a great example. It's a CEO that was hired for a financial services company here in Las Vegas. He was not from Las Vegas and knew nothing about the gaming industry (his clients). Even worse, he was a narcissistic megalomaniac. When I met him in person he talked about himself for 30 minutes without taking a breath. I'm sitting there thinking, "This guy won't last six months. He is dreadful." I was wrong. He made it a year, but the stock sank 80% and the company will eventually be bankrupt. How did this happen? Apparently this CEO had a relationship with someone on the Board of Directors. And you don't have to be talented if you are buddies with the Boss. Remember: relationships trump talent.

Ego is the Enemy - I'll mention this in each part of this series, because ego and arrogance are the #1 way to ruin your career and up unemployed for months...or even years. Recently dealt with a $180,000 VP level candidate that was laid off. He was pretty bitter about being run off and had sent his resume to a dozen companies. Not a good combination to start with. When I asked his desired salary he stated $200,000. So he is unemployed...but wants a raise? What? Perfectly reasonable when you are gainfully employed, however when you are in transition you don't have any leverage. Long story short, I checked back six months later and he was still unemployed and willing to take $150,000. Ego is the enemy. Be sure you understand the job market and compensation levels for your skill set.

Life is NOT Fair - My Dad was 18 years old when he jumped out of a plane over Normandy on D-Day with Nazis shooting at him. He landed on the wrong side of the enemy line and had to fight his way back. Talk about "life is not fair"! When my Dad came back from the war, he got an entry level job selling shoes at the May Company. A war hero selling shoes for entry level pay. Life is not fair. While other people watched TV and had fun, my Father worked long days, then went to school at night to get a degree in computer programming. Life is not fair. You know what my Dad didn't do? He didn't protest or complain or march up and down the street with a sign complaining how unfair life is. Through determination, perseverance and hard work he raised himself up from zero to success. And he gave me the best advice ever: don't you ever, EVER give up. Life is NOT fair - accept it, now move on. You want to run with the big dogs or sit on the porch and whine?