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How can I sell myself as a virtual executive?

  • Article by: Matt Krumrie
  • Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • October 31, 2011 - 2:05 PM

Dear Matt: Technology allows more and more executives to work from a remote location while still maintaining executive-level careers and fulfilling their duties. How can I prove to a potential employer that I can make an arrangement like this work? And how can I show them that I am the best talent for their team while working as a virtual executive?

Matt says: The days of companies paying for an executive to relocate are pretty much over.

Companies are far more comfortable with hiring virtual executives than they were even a few years ago.

Charley Polachi, partner at the executive search firm Polachi in Framingham, Mass., said that customer-facing and revenue-generating executives are already used to traveling and working out of virtual offices, so they are able to make a smooth transition into leadership roles.

Polachi's firm just recruited the executive vice president of sales for a $70 million-per-year company in Boston who works out of his home in Florida when he's not on the road. He spent his first month at headquarters to get to know his team, key players and company culture, but now visits just twice a month.

However, Marni Hockenberg, Principal of Hockenberg Search (hockenbergsearch.com), a Twin Cities-based executive search firm, said some clients she knows have struggled with these types of roles and arrangements because the executive was viewed by some employees as temporary or not totally "plugged in".

"The executive may need to work twice as hard to build trust and credibility within the company," said Hockenberg. "When interviewing, be prepared with examples of how you build trust and credibility within a team. Prepare an action plan of how you will integrate into their company from a distance."

Be ready to discuss how you will use technology to replace some of the '"face time" that employees value. Polachi even recommends using Skype for your first interview to prove that you can communicate effectively from a virtual location. And if you have experience of this sort of arrangement, cite real-life examples of how you handled certain situations.

"I always tell clients, if the executive has been a successful team member for another company in a virtual or commuting role, the risk is minimized for them," said Polachi. "It's better to be the second employer doing this than the first employer."

Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice.

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