Of the estimated 318,100 openings for top executives each year, on average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including executive director positions, many are the result of professionals retiring or exiting for other reasons from an industry in which they’ve spent an entire career.
This means a number of sectors will be on the hunt for executive directors and leaders high up on the corporate ladder in the near and foreseeable future, which may present an opportunity for those with the experience and drive to earn a top spot and make a splash.
Ben Bonnell, founder and CEO of executive search firm Morgan Benjamin Search Group, thinks of how population and labor force are connected when determining which sectors are or soon will be in need of executive directors and C-suite level personnel.
“Baby Boomers are retiring at an incredible rate. Gen Z is not nearly the same size so that’s creating a labor shortage for years to come,” says Bonnell, who’s spent 13 years as a recruiter.
Generally speaking, companies led by Baby Boomer and even older Generation X generations will look to replace executive director roles when they retire, Bonnell explains.
When it comes to capturing an executive director position, here are the sectors that need you now and where you can have the most impact.
Aging Baby Boomers, the Affordable Care Act and other factors make for a thriving healthcare industry that doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. This means the need for executive directors and top leadership roles to guide the way. “Baby Boomers are the largest population in the U.S. The need for these services as they age, we see this as a huge opportunity from a jobs standpoint,” Bonnell says.
Interim Leadership Firms
Bonnell talks about firms that specialize in filling interim leadership roles in companies finding themselves in need of an executive director fast but don’t have the time to do the proper vetting necessary for a permanent fit. “They make a ton of money, do contract work and have significant healthcare experience. The demand will only continue to increase,” Bonnell says.
Industries like oil and gas face a leadership shortage as the next generations lean toward renewables, Bonnell explains. This organically will create fewer experienced professionals rising up the ranks, leaving top roles to be filled. Also, Bonnell describes an image issue with traditional energy sources, so marketing and communications director jobs in these sectors would also be in demand.
Business and professional services rank second to healthcare when it comes to executive director demand, according to BLS data, Bonnell says. Think CPA firms, law firms, recruiting firms and marketing agencies. “It’s led by a generation that’s rapidly retiring.”
This is an entire workforce that directly impacts manufacturing with leadership roles that will need to be filled. “There’s not a wave of young people going into skilled trades,” Bonnell says.
According to BLS data, this sector is expected to add nearly a million new jobs over a decade to accommodate projected increased enrollment across the board, from elementary to university levels.
This sector bounced back after the recession and looks to find stability again after the pandemic. Companies will seek to build and reshape their executive teams to be proactive when it comes to managing future growth.
Bottom line? Experienced professionals looking to leap to the next level, should seek executive director opportunities – even if on an interim basis.
Georgann Yara is a journalist based in Phoenix. Find her on Twitter @georgannyara.
Photo by Yan Krukau