Anton van Rossum 

3 September

V.C. asks:

After an international sales career of 20 years, of which 15 years in the semiconductor industry, I settled again in my hometown in the Netherlands. There’s no place like home! We moved there at the beginning of this year, just before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Since then, I’ve been working remotely for my employer. No one goes to the office anyway and traveling to customers is very limited. As I don’t think this will be sustainable much longer, I’ve agreed with my CEO to look for a position outside the company.

Following my MBA 20 years ago, I switched from a sales job in the Netherlands to a position as a sales and marketing executive at an international distributor of electronic components in Italy. After a few years, I came into contact with my current employer, a medium-sized semiconductor company with (at the time) a less thriving position in a few niche markets. I started there as an account manager and have grown into a European sales director and member of the board of directors. To continue my growth in this company, I would have to move to the US, but – as said – I prefer to work in the Netherlands.

Problem is that my business network here has become less strong due to my long stay abroad. I also know very little about the local chip scene. Recently, I saw a vacancy for a marketing manager at a large semiconductor company in the Netherlands. I’m thinking of applying but I’m hesitant: the position is below my level and I cannot leave confidential information about my current employer in the hiring company’s general application system. Yet, I’d like to get in touch.

How do you compare the vacancy to my current position? Could it help me progress my career? Do you happen to have a contact there or can you mediate in a first step?

The headhunter answers:

When you’ve been away from the Netherlands for so long and hardly have any contacts in the semiconductor industry here, it doesn’t hurt to start with scrutinizing the field. You can of course apply for this position, which is indeed far below your level, but that might harm your interests in the long run. Each position is to some extent career furthering, but they want to fill the vacancy now and not start again in 6 months.

My advice to you is to try to build a network first. There are various ‘platforms’, such as fairs, organizations and lectures, you can use to make valuable contacts. You can also choose to directly reach out to the management of potential employers to explore opportunities. You’ll understand that this takes time and perhaps some perseverance.

It isn’t clear to me what confidential information about your employer you’re referring to. When you want to get a managerial commercial position elsewhere, you inevitably need to show something of your market knowledge, know-how and added value. Evidently, you don’t share turnover figures and details from commercial agreements, but you don’t have to be secretive about what can be gathered from public sources, such as products, markets and distribution channels. It’s good to show your loyalty to your present employer and your sensitivity to the subject, but too much restraint will hinder your opportunities.