By John O'Connor
Focusing on networking, I have noticed that many executives are willing to network and reach out more than ever. Executives who are employed now have shown more interest in networking for their long term career. They are now getting outside of their comfort zone to create new relationships and are often more open about those who are reaching out to them. Unfortunately, many executives are networking by trial and error (employed or unemployed). They don't usually have a value proposition-based plan.
So let's examine what can be done about the networking by trial and error executives. "I am just all over LinkedIn and a bunch of sites posting questions and discussing things, but I don't really have a plan," suggested an executive client during his first session with me. "I think I put in about 15 hours a week online and offline but it just seems like it's not resulting in anything that useful so far. It's depleting me of my patience too. I am asking for connections but not really leading with value." The same executive attended several volunteer groups, church groups and other job seeker networking meetings during the week. But all of it had not led to a job or any real offers. To change his trial and error networking, we worked for about sixty days on these core issues:
Blogs, Online Forums or Discussion Groups - We found ways to read and respond to messages, add value and always take a positive spin. He would give opinions and sometimes complain. I reminded him that anything said on email, in person, and online (anywhere) can be a negative. Remember, anything you write online could be read; assume that it will be read. Savvy job seekers build value and ask questions on these forums. They do it intentionally and they do it with a plan. They find ways to contribute professionally and start networking conversations that can lead to positive contacts, research and tangible results. We reinvented his networking to focus on a plan that would build his career and knowledge base.
Presentations and Publications - We focused our executive on selected book reviews and professional contributions vs. just answering random questions on forums like LinkedIn. One of the most overlooked ways to "network" is to keep building your value proposition in writing. One of the ways our executive and any executive can do this is to add to a trade journal, a blog, or industry specific website. By doing this, our executive interviewed people and continued building his professional brand. It also helps those in a confidential career search brand themselves by leading with value and getting noticed. Another executive we worked with is enjoying the benefits of an article she wrote that has had a positive bearing on her current company. It also has attracted the attention of a few industry recruiters eager to network with her. Our executive in the non-confidential search also found ways to present and lead discussions on a subject that he wanted to be known for in his field. He said: "This is great, because I am showing my business expertise, not my need. People are interacting with me on a professional basis first, and then I can bring up my needs later. I am much more comfortable this way. It's not a sales pitch but a value offer."
Whether you are a confidential executive job seeker or an executive who has been "pounding away" at the job search, it pays dividends to plan a clear networking approach that is long-term. After 60 days, our executive has developed professional content and made deeper, more productive relationships. Those relationships have led to contacts, connections, introductions, interview assistance preparation, and more.