Over the past 20 years I have spent much time with early careerists, hundreds of freshly minted graduate school would-be senior executives.  They all think they know where they are going, but clearly, the vast majority do not know how to get there.  So they ask for help with their resume, career management strategy, or both.

Contact UsWhenever possible I have tried to look at their resumes, offer some suggestions and recommend that they keep a career journal, to stay active in the American College of Healthcare Executives and to stay in touch with us, updating job changes and contact information.  We saw long-term value for our clients with this approach.  We even created an early careerist database to help track these promising young executives.

Most, smiling in appreciation for the help and words of encouragement, promise to do all the above.  Less than 2 percent follow through on keeping in touch.  Most never call again until they lose their job and want me to help them find their next gig.

Regrettably, we gave up promoting the young careerist database because the contact information on the majority of the hundreds of submissions was not current.  A database record with a resume is of no value if we cannot easily contact the individual.

Recruiters like me, as well as the corporate in-house types, work for the client, not for someone who we do not remember because they did not stay in touch.  So the question is: why would you ignore an invitation from a recruiter to stay connected?  Did you think that you would never leave your first employer?  Really?  

Lest you believe that this is a huffy blog about scorned love, think again.  It is not just my firm that has experienced this lack of follow through.  My search colleagues, those who volunteer their time to help young professionals, have had the same experience – offers of help and an open door to stay in touch, only to delete dozens upon dozens of names from their database every year because the contact information was not up to date. 

Now here is the irony.  One of the most common questions asked in career management seminars is, how do you build a relationship with a recruiter?  Moreover, one of the biggest complaints outplacement consultants hear from those they are trying to help is that recruiters do not return their calls.  

You may not like the answers but here they are:  

  1. If you wait to develop a relationship with recruiters – one is never enough – you cannot start when you lose your job.  It takes time.  Recruiters are very busy – especially in this pre-transformation environment.  Everyone wants a pierce of our time.  If we took every call, our client services would plummet.  If the recruiter calls to network, take the call whether you are interested or not.  Offer to help – and then follow up.  Recruiters remember these things. 
  2. If you have been a candidate for a firm or a corporate recruiter in the past and your contact information changes, send an email contact update or send a snail mail note asking them to update their database.  Posting this on your Facebook or LinkedIn pages won’t get the job done.  This means that you need to keep a record of the firms or corporate recruiters who have asked for your resume.  This will be a money-in-the bank move before your career ends.
  3. Keep a career journal – dates of employment, notes on career counseling sessions with your boss or mentor, performance evaluations and salary increases.  This information will be invaluable in helping you rebuild your resume if you ever lose the last one you had – and most people do, especially when they are long-term employees.  It will also help you fine-tune your value proposition.  This is critically important for successful career management.  Most candidates struggle in telling their story in a way that connects the needs of the client or employer with their strengths, skills and quantifiable accomplishments.  Why?  Because they think they will remember the important stuff in their careers, the details of their accomplishments, but most do not.  

When I was an up and comer, the offers of support were rare but I did not let it bother me because I did not know what I did not know.  I suffered from the youthful phenomenon of being “off the chain” full of myself.  Over time, I learned the essential importance of building a solid career network, including recruiters, and investing the time it takes to nurture that group.

So, if you are like I used to be, here is the final news flash for this post: going forward, there will be far more aspiring healthcare leaders than there will be jobs, a rather new trend in an industry with a history of job security. 

Now is the least embarrassing time to correct the error of your networking ways.