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In the decades of boom economic times, many executives never had to look for a job while climbing and advancing in their career - most executives were promoted up the corporate ladder in their company, recruited by search consultants, or solicited by direct contacts in other companies for employment. Opportunities were plentiful and talent was less so.

The game has changed and it most likely will not return to the above scenario in the near future. This new search environment has found many executives unawares of how to approach, manage and make the best use of their 'first call' networking circle. This is the group closest to you that you call first for help, and they will give you just about anything professionally.

networking_bad_economyFar too often we use them too quickly and inefficiently, therefore wearing them out as a resource - much as they support you, it becomes more difficult with each passing month of your search when you call them back looking for more assistance. You wear out your welcome and they start to wonder why you haven’t landed something after all this time.

Here are some tips to avoid those pitfalls and make the most of your first line network:
 

Stop the Reactive Resume/CV Send

Count your blessings to have such a helpful first call circle of networking connections that want to immediately help you the minute you contact them with the news that you are “in play.” But it is a mixed blessing, as more often than not our closest contacts are all too eager to put our resume/CV before hiring authorities or contacts before you are ready. This immediately turns you into a job seeker and all that that entails.

When you are first starting a search, especially without current employment, you may not be adequately prepared to appropriately handle the role of a job seeker. Too often we let out inner network put us out on the market before we have sufficiently prepared ourselves - in effect, they take over and control, but don't manage the initial search. The results are often an exercise of futilely spent resources.

The best way to handle requests for your resume/CV is to tell contacts that you are simply canvassing the market at this time in a decision-making mode. If anyone needs to review your credentials they will most likely seek out that information on LinkedIn, Google and other social networks. When you manage and direct the activities on behalf of your first call network, you can strategically guide them to maximize their potential on your behalf.
 

Determine Your Goals and Tactical Approach for Making Contact

Being clear on the next steps in your career involves more than knowing the next level of position you are seeking. It is important to assess the health and long-range viability of your current industry and your career path within it, and at the same time you may want to review other possible options in new areas to renew the spark and challenge you experienced early on in your career. Some young executives who have been on a fast track have found themselves stopped by the economic crash, and this has brought opportunities to a standstill in their current sector.

All of the above takes time to assess and assimilate, and then plan a direction for your intended search. Approaching your first call network with a clear career target will enable them to provide optimum assistance, and you will be able to make better informed requests of their time, information, resources and connections.
 

Setup a Database - Organize, Categorize, and Track Your Network

After reviewing your career goals and the marketplace to determine your direction, make a thorough analysis and organization of your network. Assess your contacts based on your career goals to determine their best possible use in your search. Setup a categorized relational database of your contacts that is accessible across platforms - a personal CRM application in the cloud would be ideal. Find an application that lets you group, tag, sort, and dissect in multiple directions.

Plan to grow your network by at least double it's current size. I believe there is some magical geometric ratio between the level of your position and the size of your network - a big network facilitates your uncovering the word-of-mouth opportunities, breaking into new sectors and market verticals, and opening the “hard to open” doors in companies. It's vital that when you review your inner networking circle you ask the following questions:
1. Who has information that I don’t have that will be of use to my search, career transition, and industry change?
2. Who has the best access to resources that will prove to be helpful in opening doors, making connections, and building a knowledge base?
3. Who can make the most targeted introductions to key people across business functions, market verticals, or at the highest levels that will prove to be the deal makers for my search?

When you have the answers to the above questions, sort your network into corresponding categories in your database and proceed with a very strategically laid out approach to elicit that help from them.
 

Don’t Shoot Your Silver Bullets First

Finally, our first inclination is pursue our best mentors, most important networking contacts, and highest profile connections first. There is something comforting to soliciting their support and help until they stop getting back to us, but if they initially cannot provide any opportunities for you, they rapidly become forgetful of your search efforts and employment plight.

You can prevent this by using them later in your search not sooner, as they are too important to squander when you are a beginner job seeker. We are all rusty in our job search skills by years or by decades. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get past the learning curve of new technology, build your confidence, develop a strategic approach based on some solid research, and perfect your tactics before going after the big, high-profile members of your first call network.

In the long-run, the larger the first call network, the greater the ease of the search. This makes keeping in touch with your growing connections a priority.

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