If you buy into my concept of networking, then you are also likely recognizing that you can never stop networking; even when gainfully employed.
This situation, continuous networking, is not at all unlike the dilemma I discovered when I founded my consultancy. While I’m delivering services, I’m not marketing. Inevitably, I’d wake up one day and realize I had “no place to go.” And then I’d start the long process of marketing again and hope that something turned up soon. The same is true if you’re a “W2 employee” and you let your network lapse while you are focused on your job at the company you serve. At some point, you will realize it’s time for you to “move on,” and you’ll have to scramble to build your network.
So how do we address this situation? I have no silver bullet to offer. My sense is that the only thing to do is to make sure you keep a core group of maybe ten to twenty really close relationships “alive and well” no matter what you are doing. That way, it will take less time to reconstruct a meaningful network when the time comes. Find ways to stay in touch and help your key network relationship. Send useful articles, keep up to date on what they are doing, meet for coffee or a quick, early breakfast. Stay focused on them.
There may be some help here in using the now “hot” technology of social networking software. It’s amazing how well LinkedIn works to help me stay in touch with colleagues. I’m now exploring using this blog, Facebook and Twitter as a way of staying in touch and providing value. I’m not sure what will finally shake out as being the most effective, but I’m giving it the good old “college try.” You might want to explore using technology to help you keep in touch with your network as well. Remember though, it’s about providing value, not self-serving.
Data I’ve seen in multiple places indicate that “C-Suite” positions last an average of 24 to 36 months. “C-Suite” executives do not find their next assignment on Monster or other media. They find it through their network. So you’ll need your network every 2 or 3 years and it takes a year, minimum, to build a solid network of colleagues. It’s not what you know. It’s not even who you know. It’s who really knows you. And as we’ve discussed, that means you have to be genuinely interested in knowing and supporting those in your network first.