Hottest corporate jobs are unheard of Internet-related executive positions expected to boom

February 11, 1996|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

No matter where you are or what you are doing on the executive ladder, the hottest job in the corporate suite is one that you probably haven't even heard of, let alone prepared for.

In fact, it is so new that only a handful of companies have created the position and even fewer business schools have programs capable of turning out qualified candidates. What is it?

"General manager of Internet-related companies and CEO of technology-related start-ups," said Jeffrey Christian, president of the Cleveland-based executive recruiting firm Christian & Timbers.

It's quite a mouthful, but according to Mr. Christian, demand for people to fill that job grew by 320 percent in 1995 and will continue to grow for at least five years.

The reason? The number of business sites on the multimedia World Wide Web increased from about 1,700 in 1994 to 20,000 in 1995, while commercial Internet addresses climbed from about 23,000 to 170,000, according to industry analysts.

At the same time, potential U.S. customers on the Internet and Web grew to about 24 million households in 1995.

But that's not the only hot executive position out there. The second-hottest job for 1996 is what Mr. Christian calls the "new" CEO -- a customer-focused executive who works outside the office, empowers employees, creates almost impossible goals and wills the organization to meet them.

Demand for these "new" CEOs grew by 133 percent in 1995, Mr. Christian said.

Other jobs, in order of demand, were vice president of content, a person responsible for designing a "home page" on the Web (up 109 percent); chief technology officer (up 96 percent); senior private banking executive (up 72 percent); vice president of managed care and managed-care development (up 54 percent); and mergers and acquisitions executive (up 51 percent).

"American companies are looking for high-impact people who can help them reach customers fast," said Mr. Christian, who based his research on thousands of interviews with executives, search requests from clients and surveys of job advertising.

Ironically, in an era of unprecedented downsizing when there are more experienced professionals in the job market, companies are finding the talent pool for many of these hot jobs shallow.

Because the pool of talent is small, the salary a general manager of Internet-related companies can command from a major corporation ranges from $200,000 to $300,000, plus stock options, Mr. Christian said.

The job least in demand is the human resource executive, Mr. Christian said. As many companies have downsized, human resource posts have been eliminated and out-sourced. As a result, demand for people to fill that job dropped 68 percent last year.

Prime candidates for the hottest jobs, Mr. Christian said, are executives with track records in the software and computer industries. Most have three to five years of experience as a product manager or sales manager, and they know how to get products to market fast.

The key to surviving and thriving in corporate America will no longer be the number of academic degrees you have, Mr. Christian said, but how well you understand new technologies and how to integrate them into the business. And age, he adds, is no deterrent.

"One of my clients is hiring a general manager of Internet-related companies who is 60," he said. "Even if you are over 50 or approaching 60, if you are bright and have energy, can still work 12-hour days and understand technology and the customer, age doesn't matter. In fact, it can help. Companies are looking for those who can mentor younger workers."

In many cases, these jobs are being filled by people without MBAs and in some cases even without bachelor's degrees, Mr. Christian said.

"We are almost never asked for someone with an MBA to fill these jobs," Mr. Christian said. "Business schools are behind the curve when it comes to the Internet and its impact on the business world. Companies are looking for entrepreneurial people with intellect, spark, enthusiasm. Education is far down the line."

Mohanbir Sawhney, an assistant professor of marketing at Northwestern University's J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, concurs with Mr. Christian's views, but quickly adds that the school, which is perennially ranked among the top three management programs in America, is doing something about it.

"Traditionally, educational institutions lag the needs of corporate America by two to three years," Mr. Sawhney said. "But when it comes to the Internet and understanding how to use it, two to three years can be several lifetimes."

Companies on the leading edge understand that the fundamental trend in America today is the "consumerization of technology," Mr. Sawhney said.

On the not-so-hot list, in addition to the human resource executive, are the administrative assistant, the corporate raider, the vice president of diversity and the turnaround CEO.

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