Laid Off? Here's Your Safety Net

Executive support networks help CIOs achieve a soft landing.

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Go beyond the unemployed

While it's important to network with unemployed peers, it's equally important to network with employed professionals, particularly hiring managers. Vann recommends spending about one-third of your time networking with unemployed people and the rest with people who have jobs.

"If you're working on a particular company that seems to have opportunities, try to find people who work in that organization who can help you better target open positions," Siko says.

Diversify beyond your field

It's not unusual to belong to more than one network, and it's important to expand beyond those that are specifically for IT. When Vann was laid off, he already belonged to an Atlanta-area IT industry association, but he also joined several other group, including the Kettering Executive Network, a private network for senior-level professionals in Atlanta. About 140 of KEN's 750 members are in transition, Vann says.

Meetings are once a week, and there are additional special-interest groups that meet every two weeks. Members help one another develop personal marketing plans, prepare for interviews and target companies with opportunities that best match their experience.

Vann also created his own eight-member multifunctional work team, which meets every two weeks and includes a CEO, a CFO and vice presidents of operations, sales and human resources. Within 110 days of the group being formed, five of the eight members had landed a job, including Vann.

What Siko likes about ENG is that it is made up of a diverse set of people, including lawyers, sales managers, accountants and marketing executives. "If you're just in an IT-specific organization, you don't get the perspective of companies you're out there looking to get employed by," he says.

As a member of two groups, Siko might attend five to seven meetings per week, whether it's a group meeting or a one-on-one phone or in-person meeting with a network member or someone he was introduced to via a network.

Getting outside of IT helps widen your perspective, says Dennis Burnell, who joined ENG in early 2008. Burnell spent many years as a sales exec in the telecommunications industry, including a position as director of sales at Ericsson Inc., before moving into IT. He also had a stint in real estate development in 2007.

"Business is transitioning at a rapid rate, so to be germane just to IT or one discipline really limits your perspective as to where you want to go," he says. There are only so many CIO positions, he points out, "so you'd better look at more transferable skills."

Pay it forward

The expectation at many executive networking groups is that you should be as willing to help out others as you are to accept help for yourself. This isn't only for altruistic reasons. As TENG's Web site explains, "By helping our peers solve key problems, we demonstrate our value in tangible terms and position ourselves above the crowd." The people you help will remember you -- particularly your self-confidence and selflessness, it says.

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