The Chief Operating Officer, Grads of Life (Boston, MA) reports directly to the Principal, Grads of Life and will assist in building and leading Grads of Life’s work to help employers build Opportunity Youth talent pipelines.

Grads of Life was incubated by Year Up and is a separate program and team focused on influencing the human capital strategy and processes of large employers.  As a result of the Grads of Life media campaign and public service announcement, which has garnered $90M in donated media support and attracted more than 800,000 visitors to its accompanying website, employers of all sizes and industries are coming to Grads of Life for tools, solutions, and support in tapping into the Opportunity Youth talent pool. This new employer demand represents a critical opportunity to engage business in closing the Opportunity Divide, which separates 6 million young adults from accessing stable, viable careers. Employers want to find their next great talent – and they need the help of Grads of Life to find, grow, and retain Opportunity Youth.

The Chief Operating Officer, Grads of Life (Boston, MA) is part of a three-person executive leadership team of Grads of Life. This position will work to operationalize the strategic vision for Grads of Life.  In order to be successful in this role, you will thrive in a fast-paced environment that requires you to triage myriad new opportunities and lead across multiple large-scale projects at once.  You will have a strong business focus and decision making skills that enable effective allocation of talent and resources to maximize learning through corporate pilots. Given the need to lead across diverse innovation pilots in an emerging market, you’ll also be a veteran leader who can predict and problem solve skill or resource gaps to ensure success.

We understand that people gain skills through a variety of professional, personal, educational, and volunteer experiences. We encourage candidates to review the key responsibilities and qualifications below. If you believe you have the transferable skills necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of this role, we encourage you to apply.


Opportunity Optimization

  • Optimize staff and resource allocation to drive success across Grads of Life deploying a clear decision framework for making tough trade-offs
  • In partnership with Grads of Life executive leaders triage new opportunities against investor commitments, system change potential, and available resources
  • In partnership with Grads of Life executive leaders, cultivate strategic vision for scalable and sustainable business practices for Grads of Life and/or other market players thus driving systems change
  • Refine Grads of Life business model based on market learning and pilot experiences
  • Optimize marketing and communication activity as an effective tool for systems change and business development
  • Assess opportunities for potential skill or resource gaps that could impede success and then problem solve to fill gaps
  • Keep abreast of market innovations and other players to inform system change thinking, marketing strategy, product direction, and potential collaboration and partnership opportunitiesNonprofit Executive Search Firm Los Angeles | Higher Education ...

Performance Management

  • Work closely with Grads of Life team to ensure all ongoing activities are moving forward in alignment with strategic direction
  • Lead team to deliver against Grads of Life investor milestones and internal annual goals, deploy lead and lag indicators of progress to avert surprises
  • In consultation with pilot leaders, create corrective plans for pilots that are off track
  • Manage internal burn rate of capital and steward financial and human resources to maximize number of quality pilot opportunities
  • Oversee building, or modifying of existing, administrative systems and processes to enable efficient workflow and management across Grads of Life
  • Oversee performance reporting to key investors, Year Up corporate, and other key stakeholders
  • Work closely with team to manage and monitor external evaluation process

Talent & Culture

  • Foster a culture that attracts extraordinary talent and create team practices for coaching and developing talent in partnership with Grads of Life executive leaders
  • Create supportive processes and structures that scaffold a performance culture
  • Optimize staff roles and responsibilities and align activity against Grads of Life annual goals for all staff
  • Model an approachable and supportive management style that elicits full potential from staff
  • Solidify and promote a unique Grads of Life culture inside of Year Up that is defined by nimbleness, innovation and entrepreneurism in partnership with Grads of Life executive leaders

Influence Team Member

  • Participate as an Influence team member by engaging in team meetings and helping to onboard new staff


Business Focus & Strategic Thinking

  • Knowledgeable about financial issues and responsibilities and exposure to a range of business models
  • Start-up or innovation experience with a focus on delivering the best outcomes creatively using the resources available
  • Ability to proactively seek more efficient ways of doing business while balancing investments in systems or processes with current and potential future scale of work
  • A clear focus on the activities and projects that bring the best return on advancing system change in this emerging market
  • Predisposition to take a long term view and entertain a wide range of possibilities in developing a vision for the future

Leadership skills & Decision Making

  • Ability to inspire a strong desire to succeed across team members and lead others to successful goal/milestone accomplishment
  • Strong and calm presence and can provide the team with a clear sense of direction, especially in times of high stakes activity
  • Experience and comfort with making quick and sound decisions based on consideration of the (sometimes incomplete) data and alternatives available
  • Ability to predict future skill or resource gaps which could impede success for a pilot or Grads of Life and proactive address gaps
  • Commitment to promoting diversity of thought and experience on the team and in how members interact to achieve the best outcomes for Grads of Life
  • Belief in the power of diversity and excitement for working in a diverse culture and on diverse teams

Coaching & Developing Others:

  • Experience with improving other’s skills and talents by providing directly and creating culture and systems to encourage constructive feedback , coaching and training opportunities
  • Understanding of how to empower others by investing them with the authority and latitude to accomplish tasks effectively
  • Self-awareness of strengths and weakness and how that impacts decision making, comfort with proactively seeking additional experience or skills to guide work

Mission / Cultural Fit:

  • Passion for systems change activities (i.e. campaign organizing, advocacy and coalition building, media, and public relations)
  • A passion for working with urban young adults, an unshakable belief in their potential and a strong commitment to the mission of Year Up
  • Understanding of the Opportunity Divide and its drivers
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion


  • Salary: Competitive and commensurate with education and experience
  • Benefits: Competitive package including 100% healthcare coverage, dental, and 401(k) match
  • Vacation: Three weeks paid vacation in first year of employment; four weeks after initial year
  • Professional development: Funds available to support staff in achieving career objectives


Year Up is an award-winning national 501(c)3 organization striving to close the Opportunity Divide by providing young adults ages 18-24 with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Through a one-year intensive program, Year Up utilizes a high support, high expectations model that combines hands-on technical and professional skills, educational stipends, college-level coursework, and corporate internships at more than 250 top companies.

Year Up currently serves young adults in Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, the National Capital Region, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay Area, South Florida, and Wilmington and will serve more than 3,000 students in 2017 nationwide.

Voted one of the Best nonprofit executive search in the country by The Non-Profit Times for six consecutive years, Year Up is a rewarding place to work. Their staff is passionate, supportive, mission-driven, and live by a set of core values that reflect an unshakable belief in the talent and full potential of young people.


What is a retained executive search firm?

What Is A Retained Executive Search Firm?

Is your HR department looking to hire an executive recruiter skilled at finding and closing top talent? Often, high-end executive search firms get a retainer, an up-front fee, in order to carry out a specialized search for senior level executive positions such as corporate officers. Additionally, top retained search firms are also tasked with placing competitive positions with top talent in fields like programming and data analysis. Most often these searches are for positions that the salary is upwards for $150,000, but can go much higher than that. These positions are found at the highest level of companies and organizations and require the best talent as their decisions are deeply influential across a variety important company factors.

What Is A Retained Executive Search Firm?


How Does Retained Executive Recruiting Work?

A retained executive search means the recruiter or headhunters charges an upfront sum in order to carry out the executive search. Additionally, retained recruiters operate on an exclusive basis, which means the job is exclusive to that specific retained executive search firm. This has its pros and cons, and its best to understand a variety of payment options before committing to the one you may later regret.

Always remember, retained recruiters are working for the organization that’s looking to fill a position, and not for the potential candidates, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes– from large international firms to smaller boutique that specializes in specific industries. You’ll need to do some homework to find the firm that offers the best fit for your executive search needs. The benefit to smaller niche centered firms is that you’ll have a recruiter specializing in the area of your search, which can be a time saver in the long run.


What’s The Value?

Executive searches are often conducted at a level which demands recruiters, headhunters or search firms have a vast network of relationships and connections that have been built and carefully cultivated over the span of many years. An executive recruiter already understands various demands and requirements of senior-level executive positions and can use their network to recruit only the top candidates, regardless if they’re currently employed.

When dealing exclusively with one retained search firm for executive searches, the client generally is able to develop a more meaningful working relationship with the recruiter and receives a much higher level of service. Furthermore, the client/recruiter become familiar with one another, perfect their communication and working relationship, making future searches easier and more manageable.  


Fee Schedule

When working with retained recruiters, it’s important to understand the fee schedule. There are two options: the first is a fixed fee established upon signing an agreement with the retained executive search firm. The most typical pay structure includes ⅓ of the sum upon beginning the search, another ⅓ 30 days after the first, and the final ⅓ is typically paid after the finalized placement of the candidate. It’s best to do your research and to fully understand which fee schedule your company is comfortable with. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to navigate the waters of finding the right retained search firm.


To Sum Up…

When searching for the right executive search firm be sure to do your research and fully understand all the options available to you. You will need to carefully consider recommendations and be sure the executive search firm you approach is the right fit in terms of industry, location, and available fee options. You can use Recruiters LineUp  to be matched with the right recruiters, headhunters, and search firms according to your specifications, all at no cost. To get started, simply fill out some basic information here. Wishing you success and happy hiring!

Everything You Need to Know About How Executive Search Firms Work

Most professionals are familiar with the role of a recruiter, however many do not understand the inner workings of executive search firms. If you are contacted by an executive recruiter, or are thinking about reaching out to one or more search firms to help you hire, it will be beneficial to understand how they operate. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Companies Work With Executive Search Firms

Executive search firms act as consultants to their clients, meaning that they are separate entities from the company that is hiring. Companies with an open position will contract a search firm to provide candidates if they are lacking time or resources to conduct the search, which can be time consuming and labor intensive. Traditional methods of posting a job online can often produce hundreds of responses from unqualified candidates that the hiring manager must sort through. When working with an executive search firm, the hiring manager will only receive pre-screened candidates that meet the requirements of the position.

Often companies have already tried to hire on their own and were unable to find the right person. Executive search firms have unique methods to find and attract a wide range of professionals. In addition, recruiters have access to “passive candidates,” or individuals who are not looking for a new position. These candidates often represent the most qualified talent in their industry.

The Executive Search Process

An executive recruiter’s knowledge of the job market and industry will lend a different perspective to the talent pool and highlight a candidate’s skills accordingly. After providing qualified talent, a search firm may also facilitate the interview process and negotiate salary expectations for both parties. Once the process is complete, and a candidate is hired, the search firm then receives a fee in exchange for the service they have provided. Candidates, whether they are placed or not, do not owe a fee for being involved in the process.

Retained vs. Contingency Searches

An executive search firm can lead a search in two different ways, either on a retained or contingency basis. A retained search requires the client to pay a small portion of the fee up front to begin the search, and once a candidate is placed, the initial deposit is applied to the total fee due. This method results in a more consultative process, where recruiters provide assistance with every step of the process from creating a job description to crafting an offer letter.

A contingency search is typically less formal and narrower in scope, as a recruiter may only be involved in candidate presentation and not in other aspects of the hiring process. Due to the difference in fee structure, retained clients receive priority for their financial commitment.

Executive Level Placements

Executive search means we place candidates at the executive level, such as Director, VP, and C-level positions. Compensation packages at this level not only include significant base salaries, but also quarterly or annual bonus potential, deferred compensation, relocation assistance, and attractive benefits packages.

An executive search is a multifaceted, delicate process, and the outcome will have long-term effects on the hiring company. Executive recruiters have filled many leadership roles throughout their career, and their experience can prove beneficial to conducting a smooth and successful search.

Sourcing Candidates

You may wonder how executive search firms find appropriate candidates. Several methods include communicating on social media sites, sending email and direct mail requests, advanced online search techniques, and posting on various niche job boards. Additionally, search firms have extensive databases of previously screened, qualified candidates, as well as many contacts they have met in person through professional networking and events.

Not an Employment Agency

Executive search firms are different from employment agencies, which place entry- and mid-level candidates in temporary roles. Executive search firms specialize in permanent, direct placements at the executive level.

Lastly, we receive many inquiries from people asking us to help them find a job. Whether we can help these individuals or not depends on the needs of our clients. As we mentioned in our Working with a Recruiter article, search firms work for and are paid by the employer, not the candidate.

Even if you have worked with an executive search firm before, we hope you now have a better understanding of how we operate. Armed with this additional knowledge, you should be able to make a more informed decision as to whether or not an executive search firm will meet your needs as a candidate or hiring authority.

How Do Top Executive Search Firms Find Candidates?

Executives often ask: “How do executive search firms find candidates? executive search firms find candidates? What can an executive do to get on recruiter radars?”. Having spoken to literally thousands of executive search recruiters over the years (my firm provides technology and support services to headhunters), I felt it might be helpful to outline how C-Level and other senior executive jobs are filled.

An executive search firm is not an executive job search firm.  An executive career is not a ladder.

An executive career is often likened to a ladder. While there is a certain logic to this, the reality is that it is a flawed analogy. While slight vertigo means I can’t claim to be an expert on ladders, those I’ve seen are generally as wide at the bottom as the top, and the steps are typically spaced equidistantly.

The executive career ladder, however, is triangular, with steps appearing less frequently as the candidate gets closer to the top. There are other differences too. Not least, the fact that most ladders don’t have competitive climbers trying to get to the next rung before you do!

In reality, a successful executive career is not linear and doesn’t ‘just happen.’ For an executive to maximize his or her career potential requires many things, including an understanding of how the best executive search companies find candidates, what the search process actually is and what to expect when the recruiter calls.

The major distinction between executive search companies and executive job search firms is the recruiter’s client. For the former, the hiring company’s interests and needs is their impetus because that company is their client – not the executives. Firms acting on behalf of the candidate may be known as executive job search firms and do something entirely different. However, if you take the time to understand how the executive search industry actually works, you may question how much support these businesses can provide.


How does executive search work?

  • More senior roles (26% of them, according to our research) are filled by retained executive search consultants than by any other formal hiring process. These firms aim to proactively source the right candidate on behalf of the client company.  They don’t simply forward resumes from applicants.
  • These recruiters work for client companies – the organizations doing the hiring – and not for the executive. They are not motivated to find you a new job. While they are sometimes referred to as “executive job search firms” that’s really a misnomer. Clearly, they will have a key part to play in the executive’s job search, but it’s important that the potential candidate understands the primary motivations of the recruiting firm.
  • Opportunities are generally handled exclusively and with a major focus on confidentiality. This means that your long term relationship with recruiter Jane at Korn Ferry is of no value if recruiter Jill of Heidrick and Struggles is managing the search.  Jill (and her associated recruiting team) needs to be able to find you, or you will not make the longlist.
  • The vast majority of these opportunities will not be listed on job boards – even “executive job boards.”
  • The headhunter will target candidates and approach them directly. They don’t care if you are a job seeker – they don’t care if you are looking for a new opportunity.


Executive Search Firms Dont Use Executive Job Boards

This is a major difference to what an executive might experience earlier in her career.

Executive recruitment is not like staffing!

Junior positions are typically filled by active job applicants. For those roles, candidates searching for opportunities via job boards are the norm. The agency will log into the appropriate site, run a quick keyword search, and pull up a list of ‘qualified candidates’ in moments.

For the senior-level executive, however, life is different. The employer seeking to fill an executive job generally wants to find the very best candidate – and as a result, wishes to work from the largest candidate pool possible. Limiting the pool to candidates who are “actively seeking” jobs is not going to maximize that pool – and, as a result, they bring in a third party to deliver executive search services.

The job of these advisers is to go out and find the very best candidate for a role – be they an ‘active’ or a ‘passive candidate’ and to persuade her to take the job.

Retained Executive Search Process

So how do executive search firms find candidates?

I mentioned above that the best executive search companies rarely run ads.  Instead, they hunt for the best candidates (hence the name “headhunters” – a phrase that excites candidates but many executive recruiters actively dislike).

To do this, they employ specialist researchers who will draw up a long-list of potential candidates for an opportunity. The research process will vary from search to search.

In some cases, a search might involve targeting potential candidates in similar roles within the specific industry of the client – a “target company” driven search. In many cases, however, a recruiter is tasked with identifying candidates based on more than tapping up the competition.

The client is hiring to solve a problem and, while in some cases the need is best met by hiring from a competitor, in many cases it is not.

Indeed, many of the most successful executive searches in history involved hiring leadership from beyond the industry sector of the client, based on perceived “transferable skills.”

How can an executive maximize the chance of a recruiter approach?

For “target company” based searches, an up to date profile on LinkedIn (or Xing, in German-speaking countries) is often enough for an executive recruiter to find you – if you are currently employed in the senior leadership team with a relevant company. A search consultant running a query based on company name and job title will find you.

However, for an executive between jobs, or one looking to make a change of industry, for example, being spotted for these types of opportunities can be more problematic.

Indeed, a simple ‘biographical’ LinkedIn profile may never be enough for a recruiter to find an executive based on a search for these types of roles.

A good example of this would be a CFO search assignment for a startup Internet company. These types of firms may not have direct competitors as such, but sector knowledge may not be required by the successful executive anyway.

Instead, the job specification for this role is likely to call for experience of equity raising. Previous completion of a successful fundraising. Excellent relationships with investors. The name of the company where the candidate is working today is largely irrelevant, and much of the more detailed information may not appear in a LinkedIn profile.

Executives should position their transferable skills as their key selling point. It is one of the major aspects that executive search companies will be leaning towards when recruiting in 2020.

When recruiters know who they’re looking for, it is easy for them to obtain that information. You will be clearly visible in their searches when they type in your company name and job title. But if you want to step into a new industry then you might have to work extra hard to be visible to top executive recruiters. Quality transferable skills give executives an edge in the search process. Highlight the best skills which you can apply in any company regardless of the nature of the industry.

Another major hiring trend for top executive search firms 2020 will include diversity and inclusion. Diversity is a high priority area for the hiring companies as awareness and changing attitudes drive the global environment.

For an executive to be found for these types of positions, she needs to do two things:

  • Identify the transferable skills that she has that might be relevant to the role that she is targeting
  • Ensure that recruiters can find her when retained to fill roles requiring those skills


How executives use LinkedIn to find jobs

It is difficult to ignore the influence of social media today. With its ease of access and extensive reach powers, it continues to be a vital aspect in recruitment. Top executive recruiters incorporate it in their searches to locate passive candidates who could potentially be a skills match. Without social media platforms, recruiters would be limited to searching for talent within their network, thus missing out on excellent candidates.

An executive wishing to be found for the aforementioned CFO role might reasonably begin by adding the term “IPO” to his or her LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, however, that alone will not be enough – a search on LinkedIn Recruiter for “IPO” turns up 285,000 potential candidates. Narrowing the search to CEOs with IPO experience still brings up more than 50,000 profiles.

When you factor in that LinkedIn will only ever list the “top” 1,000 results – with the definition of “top” based on the LinkedIn algorithm – it is a statistical fact that the “average” executive may not be visible on these searches.

This is where LinkedIn profile optimization comes in. A strategically optimized LinkedIn profile can position an executive profile to be found for the types of searches that an executive wishes to be considered for. It can increase the ‘relevant visibility’ associated with an executive significantly.

Strategically seeding a profile with keywords based around how LinkedIn “perceives” key skills for a job can cause an executive to appear far higher on a candidate list than might occur with a more generic profile.

However, even an optimized profile can only provide so much information to a recruiter. A LinkedIn tagline is limited to 120 characters. The summary is capped at 2,000. Attached documents are not searchable (even if an executive felt able to attach supporting documentation in such a public platform).

LinkedIn has a further drawback for many senior executives.  It’s public.  Any changes made to attract the attention of a recruiter may also be spotted by colleagues, employees, shareholders, competitors and – if they have one – the boss.  It’s a public platform and many executives cannot be seen to be looking.


Offline networking still matters!

While a lot of research effort is now focused on web research, executives still try to source the perfect candidate via referrals. As part of the executive search process, researchers will talk to people in the specific industry that they are recruiting for (known as ‘sources’) – and will often look at organizations in similar or associated sectors.

Having a large professional network of associates who, when asked about top talent in the sector, will recommend you is hugely valuable. It’s also worth taking any opportunity to raise your profile – speak at events, write for the industry press (or even social media!)

Giving executive recruiters the full story

Profile optimization will improve your chances of being found significantly – but it may not be enough.  The sheer scale of the platform and the limitations as to what an executive can share means that to maximize her chance of being found and receiving that elusive InMail, an executive must go further.

That’s where platforms like GatedTalent come in.  GatedTalent is a private network of executives, used by search professionals worldwide to find and engage with top talent.  Members include senior executives and board members from more than 100 countries, and our recruiter clients send more than 100,000 connection requests through the platform every month.

A profile on GatedTalent – which is entirely free to create and maintain – allows an executive to share detailed information on achievements and aspirations with top executive search companies – safe in the knowledge that it will not be visible to the wider world. It’s a key part of an executive job search strategy.

Once created, updating such a profile regularly ensures that recruiters are always aware of the capabilities and aspirations of the executive and may dramatically increase the number of recruiter engagements she enjoys.

It’s all about the timing – and it’s always the right time!

As an executive gets more senior, opportunities that might be considered attractive come along less and less frequently.  On average, only 11% of CEO positions open up every year.  That’s a small percentage of a relatively small number of positions.

The chances of an appropriate opportunity opening just as you decide you are ready for a new challenge – and of you being the successful candidate – are not high.  That’s why most recruiters encourage executives to be visible to top executive recruiters constantly – you don’t want to miss out on the next opportunity because of a timing mismatch.

Kickstarting your executive job search – next steps

If you are an executive preparing for your next role, I will offer the following advice.

  • Understand that executive search firms are not executive job search firms. They don’t work for you.  You need to give recruiters a reason to contact you.  You need to be the person they are looking for.
  • To learn more about doing that, join us for anupcoming “Executive Careers” webinar. These webinars are free, and go into much more detail on some of the topics of how the best executive search companies find candidates – they are always “live” and so feature a Q+A session.  We host them every week and across multiple time zones.  You’ll also find a host of advice from top headhunters in our blog on the executive job search.
    Create your executive profile on GatedTalent. Again, it’s entirely free for you to do this and it will help you better share your achievements, aspirations and potential availability with the global executive search firms using the platform.
    You might also want to consider having your LinkedIn profile optimized. upcomingupcoming “Executive Careers” webinar. These webinars are free, and go into much more detail on some of the topics of how the best executive search companies find candidates – they are always “live” and so feature a Q+A session.  We host them every week and across multiple time zones.  You’ll also find a host of advice from top headhunters in our blog on the executive job search.
    Create your executive profile on GatedTalent. Again, it’s entirely free for you to do this and it will help you better share your achievements, aspirations and potential availability with the global executive search firms using the platform.
    You might also want to consider having your LinkedIn profile optimized.
  • Create your executive profile on GatedTalent. Again, it’s entirely free for you to do this and it will help you better share your achievements, aspirations and potential availability with the global executive search firms using the platform.
  • You might also want to consider having your LinkedIn profile optimized. This will help ensure that you maximize your chance of being found by recruiters on LinkedIn – our team includes a certified profile optimization specialist who would be happy to hear from you!

From the perspective of the hiring organization, a CEO search can take around three months – from the initial longlisting, shortlisting, interviews, meeting the senior leadership team and key board members – it can stretch out.  From the executive perspective, the process can be considerably longer – often a year – and so my final piece of advice is this:  When you do receive a connection request, an email or a call from a search professional, always accept and always listen to what they say – it may be an opportunity for a great job that you would not normally have considered.  Good luck in your search!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and create your profile today to get on the radar of the top executive search firms who use our platform!