Laid Off? Here's Your Safety Net

Executive support networks help CIOs achieve a soft landing.

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This expectation is written into the mission statements of some groups. At the Technology Executives Networking Group (TENG), for instance, members are expected to share at least three job leads per month, including leads they are actively pursuing or for which they could be a candidate. The rationale: Nearly any position would likely have hundreds of applicants who could do the job, so adding a few more won't significantly impact anyone's chances, and the benefits of having a friend land the job far outweigh the downside of competing with a few more candidates.

Other groups are less formal, but the expectation is that members will provide what Vann calls "a warm introduction." So when a member targets a company that seems to be a good fit for his background, it's expected that he should be able to ask fellow members of the network if they can introduce him to key executives at the company.

Either way, one thing is for sure: For executives, networking has become as much a part of this recession as clipping coupons and cutting the cable TV subscriptions. "Everyone figures out quickly that networking with fellow executives is the only way to get through the clutter of submitting rrésuméeacute;sumrésuméeacute;s that get lost in a pile with thousands of others," Harms says. "So they're joining networks, shaking other people's hands and seeing how they can help each other find a job."

If you're thinking of joining a network, here's some advice from other laid-off executives who have either found new jobs or are otherwise reaping the benefits.

It's not all about a job

When Tom Siko was laid off in 2007 from Covansys Corp. after it was acquired by Computer Sciences Corp., he had spent 25 years in IT, the majority in consulting. He's a member of two networks -- ENG and the Technology Leaders Association, in which about 40% of the members are in transition at any given time.

Both networks, he says, are great support groups, above and beyond their job search benefits. "You see people in the same situation you're in, sometimes even people you know, and they all have a positive attitude, which helps a lot in this situation," he says.

Vann agrees. "You have very little control over this process, and that's a difficult thing," he says. For instance, it's easy to sit in your home office and get discouraged, especially when you go through a period of not getting any leads. But if six other people you respect say they also aren't seeing opportunities, it provides perspective.

"If I was at home, with no one to talk to, I'd get real concerned. But by listening to others, I can think maybe it's not so bad after all," Vann says.

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