How to empower others to help you and WOW them with your networking savvy.
If you are a CXO, you are in a unique leadership position that makes traditional “networking” a tricky proposition. After all, you can’t really pass around your resume stating, “If you hear of anyone that is looking for a good CEO, please give them my resume.” I mean, technically you CAN, but who would WANT to take this approach?
Leaders do best when they are in control. To maintain control you must lead your networking conversations with confidence and make it easy for others to help you and to make good decisions for you. The best way to do that is by empowering them with information. Here are a few tips:
Create Your List
Create a list of networking contacts and keep adding to it. Don’t “play the end result” by assuming who can and cannot help you. None of us can determine everyone our networking contacts know or what opportunities they may be aware of.
Contact Your List and Tell Them Your Parameters
If you are vetting opportunities, here are a few things you can quickly share with your network that will be important for them to know:
- Whether your search is out in the open or confidential
- If you have a geographical preference
- What titles you would consider
- What industry or industries you would consider
- The company size you prefer
- Your sense of urgency
Your statement may be something like this:
“I wanted to confidentially share with you that I am selectively vetting CTO/CIO/CISO roles in 10B+ technology companies. I would prefer to stay on the East Coast.”
You can follow that up by asking for a short endorsement, sharing you would like to be considered by the company he/she works for or just stating that you are sharing this information with a select small network.
Piggybacking a Request for Endorsement
Asking for an endorsement is a great way to give your networking contact something that they can easily do for you – and it becomes a natural reason to share your parameters with them. After you state your career parameters, ask for a one or two sentence endorsement and if you can, coach them on the topic you wish for them to speak to. When it comes to endorsements, the shorter the better – like the back of a book jacket. Why? Because they get read whereas paragraphs get skimmed!
Maybe you say:
“I wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind indulging me with a short endorsement, perhaps something about the XYX merger and my leadership relative to M&A’s in our last two roles together?”
This way, you can collect endorsements that support whatever your goals are moving forward. If you have an ideal role that you know demands certain specific skills, you can help your endorsees by sharing with them what you would like for them to mention. This is a very powerful technique and it allows your network to feel they have done something meaningful for you. You may or may not use all of the endorsements you collect, and that is okay. The bigger goal is to be able to share your career transition goals with your network.
The Art of Not Asking for Help, Job Leads, or Interviews
The hardest part about networking is NOT asking for an interview or pushing in any way. When you ask for information and share with the goal of demonstrating you know who you are and where you are going, it attracts creativity, help, and intrigue. It empowers those in your network to make good decisions for you. With your new approach, they will be thinking of ways they can aid you and they will do this with more energy because it is now their idea, not yours, and because you didn’t push them into a corner and obligate them to help you!
So the next time you ask for an informational interview or to take your mentor out to coffee with the sole purpose of handing them a resume before they get a chance to ask for it, STOP. Ask for advice, mentoring, information, a referral, and share your job search parameters. Do not ask for an interview, a job, or if they know of anyone who is looking and/or hiring. Yes, asking these questions does work sometimes, but not often. It is uncomfortable to be asked point blank and my clients tell me it’s awkward to ask. I think it’s a conflict of position.
As a CXO, when you ASK for help by pushing out your resume, you give away your power. Instead, why not demonstrate your savvy, your enthusiasm for possibilities, your leadership, your confidence and your business sense and empower others with the information they need to make good decisions – for you.