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Posted: March 22, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Top 10 tips for executive-level networking

It needs a different approach

John Heckers

Everyone at an executive level knows that almost the only way to find a great executive job is through a network, Job boards don't work, the internet is a joke and headhunters only have a few of the top jobs (though you should always take a headhunter's call). No, if you want a truly great job, you must use the network.

But most executives don't network very effectively. Here are a few tips to build a great executive-level network.

1). Buy a network. If you're like most executives, you've neglected your network over the years. Now that you're faced with a job search, you're calling all of your golfing buddies and attending every networking event you can. These, unfortunately, won't get you very far.

The most rapid way to build your network is to work with either a transition coach or one of the many executive networking firms that populate every major city. Be very careful and know what you're signing up for, however, as there are many scams in this area. Utilizing these services will cost about month to six weeks of your normal salary, but will usually pay for itself rapidly in reduced time of unemployment.

2). Don't waste your time with those who can't help you. Screen the people you are going to speak with pretty aggressively. Insurance salespeople aren't going to help you. Broom them and move on. But don't discount people lower on the corporate ladder than you are. Most of the job leads for higher level execs come from these people.

3). Don't use your elevator speech unless you must. This goes against everything you've been taught. But, realistically, an elevator speech has never wound up with a job offer. Instead, let the other person do the talking first, then say, "I might be able to help you. Would you be open to coffee this next week if I buy?" This acts as both a screening tool and keeps you from being screened.

4). See networking as a process. One meeting may not do it. You might need two or three meetings with a new person before there is enough trust built to help you out. While this is a difficult concept for impatient executives who want leads today, it is a necessary concept.

5). Don't be pushy. Executives can tend to be a bit arrogant. Often times they'll push and push for names or leads. While you shouldn't be wishy-washy or meek, being pushy will just turn people off. Back off a bit, and enjoy the process of trust building.

6). Perfect your follow-up. Consistent and frequent follow-up is the key to networking success. Studies have shown that it takes seven times of seeing an advertisement before it is effective. This is why there is that highly annoying repetition on TV, with the same ad sometimes being back to back. It also takes several times of following up before you'll get results. Don't give up if you don't get what you want the first couple of times you follow-up.

7). Attend small, executives only, networking events. Denver has several smaller venues for executives to network in effectively. Find them and spend your time and energy (and money) with these sorts of events.

8). Form small networking "clubs" outside of the events. If you have some people you're networking with, get them together. It is best if everyone does something different and are at different levels. Keep the group to seven or eight people, and meet every two weeks.

9). Don't give away important information. Keep your big mouth shut about where you're interviewing, or where you'd like to interview. Ignore the rules of some groups that "require" you to reveal every lead. This is suicide!

Don't join groups of, say, all CFOs. These people are your competitors, not your friends. Join mixed groups where the competition isn't as great.

10). Be careful of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool. It can also derail you at a company. Do not "follow" a company that you want to interview with. Others who are connected to you can see that you're following this company, and infer the presence of a job there. It might be best to turn off updates for the duration of your job search. (Thanks to David, a client, for this tip!)

Executive networking is a different breed of cat than lower-level networking. These are just a few of the executive level tips that will help you get re-employed rapidly.

If you are an executive at the Director, VP or CXO level looking for a job, and would like to network exclusively with other executives, join John and 35 of your colleagues for Structured Networking, Monday, September 13th, 5:30 - 9:00 PM at the Denver Athletic Club. It is at no charge and nothing is sold nor promoted. More information and required registration at http://septnetworking-cobiz.eventbrite.com . No vendors, please.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

John is right on these tips. Everything at the senior level in business is about relationships, relationships, relationships. It doesn't matter so much about how many databases you use or how many personal electronic devices you have at your service. They are only useful if they help you to develop and maintain solid relationships where people feel comfortable with you and trust your integrity. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2010 09 01
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