When you have a job that you think is secure, building a network using social media or more traditional methods seems like a waste of time to a surprising number of managers and directors. 

hands holding tabletTheir response to the obvious question of, “Why not?” typically is either dismissive or apologetic.  The dismissive can be a bit smug and, later when they get fired, frustrated and even desperate when they realize how the job search market has changed.  The apologetic get it, they know they should be building the network and an on-line brand presence, they just haven’t had time to do it.

Both camps need to correct the error of their ways.  Sooner rather than later.  

When you get downsized, laid off, or fired for performance, it is too late to start building a network to support your job hunt unless, of course, you decide to retire early.  For most people in their 40s to mid-50s, that is a tad too early.  There is a definite collation between the size of your network, or lack thereof, and the time it will take to find a new position.  Building a network of colleagues who can provide support AND actionable job search intelligence is important.  

Crafting a digital brand that is appropriate to your industry is equally important.  As business leaders recognize this, a new cottage industry comprised of digital brand/social media consultants who are guiding inexperienced executives through the “dos” and “don’ts” of on-line network and brand development.  

There are short and long term implications to the changing face of networking and recruiting.

In the near term, three to five years, the recruiting process will gradually evolve from the search consultant’s traditional rolodex (conventional or digital) of known contacts, to a much more aggressive pro-active digital candidate sourcing.  

In the longer term, powerful digital research tools will constantly comb the various networking and professional sites looking for thought leaders, executives with a record of accomplishment, and for up-and-coming talent — people who are not on anyone’s radar.  Yes, personal relationships will still count, but does anyone not believe that high-powered business intelligence programs will play a dominant role in talent acquisition within the next five years?  If that is the case, you will be dead in the water without a digital brand footprint.

While getting started takes some time to learn the programs, the nuances and leverage potential, once you have mastered these, 15 to 20 minutes of focused time each day can help you build that network and support your digital brand.