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Not Looking? Keep Networking Anyway

Strategy: Career success relies in part on making yourself known.

June 23, 1997|From Reuters

NEW YORK — Even if you're not looking for another job, it's vital to keep networking, executive-search experts say.

Why? Because although headhunters may sift through files and databases in their search for talent, they'll get their best information from people in and around the industry, said John Rau, president of Chicago Title & Trust Co. and a former dean of the Indiana University business school.

"Search firms rely on these people to provide opinion, perspective, judgments on quality and reputation," Rau said.

"Only people can provide the history and background that allows a search firm to assess if someone is the right kind of candidate, or just happens to be occupying a 'qualifying' place but has none of the other desired traits," he said.

So if you want to be considered, "you must become a name with a reputation" in your company, Rau said. "Whatever else, make sure you are not an invisible member of the organization or of any groups in which you are active."

"If you're the best-kept secret in your industry, that better job is not going to be offered to you," said Alfred Judge, president of Cambridge Group, a national executive-recruitment firm based in Westport, Conn.

"Part of an aggressive career strategy is making sure your accomplishments and skills are known within your company and within your industry," Judge said.

When networking outside your firm, Rau writes in his new book, "Secrets From the Search Firm Files" (McGraw-Hill), "be just as professional, enthusiastic, helpful, creative and dynamic as you are on the job. Take leadership roles . . . [and] build your reputation within the groups as a doer or leader. That will be the reputation when people ask about you from the outside."

This way you're much more apt to be one of those called.

When taking that all-important first call, Rau said, the first rule is "Don't answer too quickly."

Instead, "listen quietly and listen carefully," Rau advises, even if the job is something in which you have no interest, because you are being evaluated not only as a current candidate but as a future candidate.

If you turn off someone at this stage, you are going to cut yourself off from future opportunities to build a reputation within the search firm community, Rau said.

"If a consultant phones, say, 'Great, how can I help you?' You don't have to declare yourself interested or not interested. Just take the call, don't be aloof and offer help if you can," he said.

Besides, at this early stage, no negotiating is going on. Only afterward, if the talent scouts are interested in you, will they ask you to describe your achievements.

"Never exaggerate, never obfuscate, never eliminate important times, places or events," Rau said. This means, "Don't weasel around situations where you were either fired, quit or had gaps in your resume.

"No matter how good you are or even how good the reasons might be, if there is an inconsistency between what you say in the first interview and what comes out later, you are certainly out of the running for this job," Rau stressed.

Learn how to describe the results you have achieved "succinctly, clearly and candidly," as you will be judged on how you give your response as well as on your record.

For example: "I was the general manager of the dry-cereal group for two years. My two biggest accomplishments were the introduction of the new brand Captain Smackey's that built $5 million in volume and achieved profitability in less than two years." Short and sweet.

And remember: Even though you may not be looking, it's not so bad to find yourself sought after, is it?

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