If you are a CEO, COO, CMO, CTO, CIO, CISO, CRO or CFO ???? , and you have been considering a career transition, you may be thinking about ways that you can tap into your network of connections. As a C-level executive, you may have a powerful and/or high-profile network that can potentially connect you to the right people and resources to help start conversations. You may also be wondering what the right way to approach your network is – so that you demonstrate you honor the relationship as well as respecting your own reputation, confidentiality, confidence, and leadership approach.
Think about setting the conversation up for success. You want to help them make good decisions and you probably also want to make it easy for them to help you. Here are some tips to facilitate that:
Approach them like the leader you are. Do you get a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think of approaching your network with the question: Do you know of any opportunities, or do you know of anyone who is hiring? Trust that instinct, because at your level, this question has more negative consequences than positive. I wrote a complimentary article on establishing leadership at the C-level here if this topic interests you.
Understand marketing numbers and your expectations. Bureau of Labor Statistics states approximately 350k positions over the $250k salary mark are filled every month in the U.S. That is a lot of executive positions; however, banking on the idea that one of your colleagues or networking contacts may know of one of these open positions simply isn’t reasonable. The expectation we put on our network when we approach them with this question is really high. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s something that may work every once in a while, but it is something I never recommend any of my clients do. You may also want to compliment leveraging your network with learning how to leverage the hidden job market.
The solution is to approach your network in a way that demonstrates your leadership and control of the situation. Give them the parameters you are looking within and let THEM determine how they might be able to help you – if at all. You may say something like:
John, I wanted to confidentially share with you that I am currently open to vetting COO or VP of Operations positions in Industrial Manufacturing. I am considering companies between $700M and $2B. I am now sharing this with my network.
Ask for an endorsement. Another way of approaching your executive network is to ask for an endorsement:
John, I wanted to confidentially share with you that I am currently open to vetting COO or VP of Operations positions in Industrial Manufacturing. I am considering companies between $700M and $2B. To this end, I am updating my marketing collateral and putting together a page of endorsements. Would you consider writing me a one- or two-sentence statement that speaks to my ability in ____?
*You can coach them depending on which skills they can speak to, such as strategic leadership, mergers & acquisitions, leading transformations, operations, restructurings, turnarounds, or process improvements, to name a few.
You can learn more about the secrets of great endorsements (and how to get them) here.
Minimize your risk. Are you in a secret job search or need to be discerning while tapping into your network? You might add something like this:
John, would you mind keeping this information confidential for the time being? I would hate to upset my team simply by exploring alternatives.
The above approaches are just as much a mindset as they are a strategy, because the processes outlined above puts you in the driver’s seat – which is the best and most natural place for you (a top executive) to be!