Change before you have to!
WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CAREER YOU CAN’T LEAVE THINGS TO CHANCE OR FORTUNE. STRATEGY AND NETWORKING ARE VITAL SAYS SUSANA MIRANDA OF THE SM GROUP
An old Portuguese saying has it that we ‘only remember to call on St. Barbara when there’s thunder! (‘Só nos lembramos de Santa Barbara quando troveja’). In other words, in good times we never worry, let alone prepare for the bad.
SM Group is a successful career management and strategy consultancy group with a footprint in both Lisbon and Porto. Started by Susana Miranda in 2018 it has helped scores of senior management figures from the public and private sector prepare for the market or switch jobs and has supported companies in mapping out their senior management requirements.
Susana’s credentials are clear after a 30-year career working for the recruitment company EGOR which honed her skills to be proficient in talking to senior management figures at all levels and in all sectors in a language that both they and she understands, from the director of recruitment to the general manager.
At SM Group, Career Management involves 4 segments: recruitment companies, end-user companies, its own extensive network, and, of course, Linkedin.
Susana emphasises that the group is not a head-hunting agency — although she did do this for 25 years — because SM is not recruiting for companies, but she and her team do help them understand who they need and why, and which candidates from a shortlist make the best match.
The entrepreneur points out that the way in which companies look for mid-cadre candidates has changed since the pandemic. “Now there is far more emphasis and confidence in LinkedIn since people started working from home after marketing and networking events and recruitment fairs were temporarily suspended. However, for mid and senior management positions interview-based recruitment is still the staple.
With the advent of teleworking, many companies have realised that they don’t need such large, fixed office structures, and have downsized their space and teams. This has led to significant redundancies and that’s where SM Group comes in.
“Often a company likes an employee but has to let them go and offers them a Careers Management Programme. We help them find a position in another company, helping the employee through the whole exit and transition process” says Susana.
“We have skills in all the four areas (recruitment companies, end-user companies, own extensive network, and Linkedin) we draw on all of them, including our extensive network of partners in the markets in which we operate, so we can provide support in all of them”.
SM Group finds the best company vacancies for its individual clients and presents the candidates it has in its portfolio to match profiles required to fill company vacancies at a senior management level. It is currently supporting over 80 management candidates.
“We equip and prepare professionals using very practical tools such as mentorship and personal and professional development skills. We look at the market and help them to apply for and secure specific vacancies”, Susana says.
“When a candidate comes to us, they often have already done or are enrolled on a coaching course. We offer a more practical and market-orientated approach which starts by optimising their CV for their chosen market”, adds Susana. She explains that SM Group’s clients tend to come from the middle and upper echelons of management because they have the most difficulties in finding vacancies since the best vacancies are rarely advertised. “There are middle and senior management figures who want to discretely show they are seeking employment without shouting it out to the entire market, often because they are in another unsatisfactory post and don’t want that company to know”.
“Equally, we get e-mails from company contacts we’ve made at business networking or other events from companies who let us know they wish to replace a senior manager without alerting the incumbent and want a discreet introduction to possible candidates we have in our pool”.
For example, SM Group has a wide experience in helping senior management figures working for public companies, and even government figures who have wanted to leave and transition to the private sector. It is here SM can make discreet enquiries with directors and CEOs it knows on their behalf.
The importance of having a LinkedIn and Networking strategy
Susana Miranda says that networking at events attended by company CEOs and marketing and recruitment directors is a vital component in matching the profiles in her talent pool to leading SMEs and corporations.
Another skill SM Group teaches is learning to network well and use LinkedIn effectively. “Many candidates, even in management, often don’t know how to capitalise on LinkedIn to their best advantage because they think it’s a social media platform when, in fact, it can be a highly effective professional networking tool. Through our LinkedIn Strategy we teach them how to get the best from their account so that it works for them”, says Susana.
This means helping them to understand what content they need to publish and when, and how they appear on LinkedIn. Susana emphasises that for 95% of her candidates the focus in LinkedIn, and now Instagram, particularly when they want to launch a brand.
“There are senior management figures, however, who are afraid to use LinkedIn because they think it is viewed like Facebook and could tarnish their chances. In fact, there is nothing wrong in using LinkedIn providing you have a strategy and that’s what we help our candidates develop”.
This means learning how to do face-to-face networking at events, and follow-up correctly in a practical way and, most importantly, how to reach those intermediaries that control the vacancies that are of interest to the candidate.
And because senior management positions are rarely, if ever advertised, companies first tend to look at candidate profiles on LinkedIn. At networking events SM Group comes in where it can set up presentations of prospective candidates.
Susana’s business relationship with the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce (BPCC) and the relationship she has built with its CEO Chris Barton and Director of Events & Services, Helena Fernandes, and Porto and North of Portugal representative Sara Montenegro has been especially successful. “They really are committed to helping small companies like mine drum up business”.
Helping to create brands
Susana Miranda says that the group equally supports management professionals who may be looking for top position but, at the same time, are considering setting up their own company and need support in creating and marketing their brand.
“We have a complete team with lawyers, digital marketing, site specialists and financial consultants, so even if they don’t net that top position, we’ve been preparing them to strike out on their own”.
Strategic corporate consultancy
While emphasising SM Consulting are not head-hunters, it can support a corporation’s general board or the director of its HR department in scouting talent.
This is particularly pertinent in the case of Talent Mapping or analysing the market, especially competitors and the employment status of key people who work in it. Mapping helps create an idea of the level of skill and talent competitors have which can help ensure your business is better prepared for recruitment and attracting the best candidates.
“Very often companies know they need a new director or senior manager but need help in understanding which candidates have the profile to adapt the best to the culture they have. For example, there might already be someone within the company suitable for the post, with no need to go to the market and we can help them do that”.
Susana says companies often want a sifting service whereby it has already viewed several profiles and wants SM Consulting to interview candidates without them knowing which client it is, to see if they are available for the project and if they are suitable to lead it. Of course, SM Consulting also helps companies bring the right people in to occupy a post in a specific company department by bringing in a specialised consultant who can analyse what and who that department needs to run more efficiently.
Change before you have to!
Finally, Susana Miranda gives a piece of golden advice: Change before you have to! “One of the issues we find is that professionals know or suspect that they will be made redundant, or they know the company is undergoing restructuring, and yet they only start job-hunting when they have to leave the company. If they have everything already prepared, the chances are that their strategy to land another position in another company is far more assured.
“You cannot switch off from the market when times are good. We must always be prepared, so that if a problem arises, we have a strategy planned. For example, we have clients that have a diagnostic consultation with us at least twice a year to study the market and analyse the company situation where they are working to help them be ready for change if and when it comes”.
Text: Chris Graeme