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Investing For Your Future August 24, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Networking.
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It is happening all too frequently these days.  I get a call or an email from a recruiter with the same story: a great person has lost their job and is looking for a new position.  This person is a seasoned IT executive, a great asset, and has a long history of success.  Would I know of any potential openings in the area?  The recruiter is always kind enough to forward to a resume for my review.

Opening the resume, I note that this person has held a number of executive IT positions with local companies over the past several years. Yet I have never heard of them. How can this be?  I work in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.  We are crawling with technology companies and have one of the strongest local executive networks in the country.  Nonetheless, looking at this resume, I am drawing a complete blank.  Even after checking LinkedIn, I have no second- or third-level connections to this person.

In contrast, I also hear from folks who are very well-connected.  They are in a similar tough position, but they have all sorts of resources to fall back on.  They have built relationships that will help them as they seek a new position.  More than anything else, they have great name recognition and a history of having done great work that is known in the community.

Those folks with no networks give me precious little to work with.  As much as I want to, my ability to assist is limited because this person did not invest in the most important aspect of their long-term career: their network. As they moved up the ladder, racking up those successes, they didn’t take the time to become a part of the community.  Now that trouble has arrived, they have no place to turn for help, advice, or a connection to a new job.

Why do people neglect their network?  Time and again I have invited local CIOs to various networking events, only to be told that they “don’t have the time” or “don’t do those kinds of things.”  I simply cannot understand this mentality.

Investing in your network is like investing in an savings account.  You deposit a little at a time, over a long period of time.  You accrue value that, in many cases, you hope you never need to use.  But when you need it, it’s there, and it’s a lifesaver.  Sometimes you draw from your network in little pieces: a question answered or an opinion confirmed.  But occasionally you make a major withdrawal: career changes or economic upheaval.

But the real purpose of a network is not about how it helps you.  The real purpose of a network is that it gives you the ability to help everyone else, all the time, in many ways.  You meet interesting people.  You learn from them.  You get the privilege of helping them.

Let me be blunt: people who fail to build their networks are acting selfishly.  They hurt themselves, certainly, but they also diminish everyone else. By choosing to not give a little to those around them now, they rob our community of their potential contributions.  Networks succeed when everyone pitches in, just a little bit.  All those little bits create a rich community of people sharing, helping, teaching, and learning.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Are you keeping your network active?  Are you an active part of your community?  Make a commitment to contribute to your community by networking.  And may you never need to draw on the goodwill you’ll be creating.

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