By Christine Sullivan, Creative Considerations
You’re unlikely to confuse a Van Gogh masterwork with an Elvis-on-velvet reproduction.
Similarly, after meeting executive outplacement expert Susan Howington, you quickly recognize the value her boutique company, Power Connections, can add to an executive’s career transition over larger, less-personal firms.
From the eye-catching, self-painted oil landscapes that decorate her office walls to the unique C-level spouses’ group that she offers, she has developed a brand differentiation strategy that sets her company apart in a crowded marketplace.
In short, whether you’re working with Susan Howington on executive outplacement, leadership development or career management, you get a custom, creative approach.
“We learn about each executive’s story,” says Howington. “We know what they excel at, what cultures they work best in and what they want to do. Then we create a strategy or business plan tailored to that executive’s goals.”
From here to there
Howington works with highly accomplished professionals whose job titles often include president, chief financial officer, chief operating officer and senior vice president. She’s comfortable with these super-achievers because she’s worked with executives her entire professional life.
“I get them,” says Howington. “I understand what to discuss with them and how to help them present themselves most effectively.”
Her insight comes from long-time observation, strong experience and her own carefully cultivated wisdom, which the executive in transition particularly appreciates.
In fact, Howington is a super-achiever herself and a natural connector and counselor. Prior to founding her boutique, Howington served as managing director for a global outplacement firm, running its Southern California region for 10 years. As a star in that organization and a member of the corporate strategy team, she says she “had a wonderful career and wonderful opportunities.”
Ironically, her work on her former employer’s corporate strategy team generated her entrepreneurial vision. She had recommended a more personal counseling approach to her management team as a new area of business.
“I knew that if the executive used your personal counseling service,” says Howington, “when that individual landed, you’d get other business within the organization.”
When her company declined to give her the go-ahead to pursue the niche, Howington’s confidence in her vision only increased.
And, as the daughter of an entrepreneurial dad, she had a role model for running a business. “I knew my idea was innovative and that I could do something better so I knew it was time to jump,” says Howington.
Now, in business for almost six years, Howington looks back and sees that while she loved her corporate career, signposts were coming up for change.
“I realized I could take control and do something or just let it unfold,” she says. “My philosophy is to live with no regrets, and I knew I could take my love of helping people professionally and turn it into a business.”
Although Howington is warm and empathetic one-on-one, her approach is strategic and focused – something that a C-level executive expects. “Executives need practical advice. They need structure,” says Howington.
As you’d easily guess from the company’s name, one of Power Connections strengths is connecting executives with the resources they need to reach their professional dreams or goals. The company is firmly dedicated to this process — another area where Howington offers something of value that competitors don’t have.
“I’m in the trenches with them,” says Howington. “We discuss what I call ‘connecting with finesse,’ which is making relevant connections and keeping them alive. It’s an important part of ongoing career management.”
Howington also understands that a career transition impacts the executive’s family. “The dynamics at home can be complicated,” she says.
As a service to her clients, she opens her office to executive spouses in the form of a group meeting that is run by a trained therapist. It helps foster understanding of the transition process and keeps the spouse informed, notes Howington, who attends the meetings.
Creating your personal brand
Howington specializes in professional brand development, and here, too, she finds opportunities to counsel her clients on differentiation. One mistake she has observed over the years in those making transitions is a lack of focus.
She advises her clients to make a claim of expertise and follow it. This can shorten a job search considerably. “To say that you’re open and industry-agnostic is the kiss of death,” says Howington. “You need to put your stake in the ground as to who you are.”
An avid reader, Howington also recommends a number of favorite career development books that can help those interested in career growth. Among them:
- The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Business People Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life by Maribeth Kuzmeski
- Managing Thought: How Do Your Thoughts Rule Your World? by Mary Lore
- Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi
In an economy turned upside-down, many professionals are pondering effective career management strategies and seeking direction. “Whether you’re an executive in transition today or not, keep in mind that most of us now transition about every two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years,” says Howington.
To share her counsel more broadly and to differentiate her professional brand further, Howington has written How Smart People Sabotage Their Job Search: 10 Mistakes Executives Make and How to Fix Them.
With the finishing touches on the book now underway, Howington anticipates it will be published right before the holidays – a great gift for yourself or the job seeker you love.
To learn more about Susan Howington and to check the availability of her upcoming book, visit her website at http://www.powerconnectionsinc.com. In addition to executive outplacement, her company offers leadership development and career management services.