Editor’s Note: John is taking the day off to prepare for Chief Executive Officer candidate interviews in Dallas and Kansas City. This post was originally published on Friday, September 6, 2013.

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

Whenever possible I have tried to look at their resumes, to offer some suggestions and 3D Social Networkingrecommend that they keep a career journal, stay active in the American College of Healthcare Executives and to stay in touch with us, updating job changes and contact information. We even created an early careerist database to help track these promising young executives. We saw long-term value for our clients with this approach.

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

Regrettably, we gave up on promoting the young careerist database because these young executives failed to stay in touch with us. Over time, the contact information on the vast majority of the contacts became of out of date. A database record with an old resume of is of no value if we can’t find the individual. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of the database and ensure that the information remains relevant. Some companies actually hire people who work primarily on the database. They are able to manage the database and ensure that it’s working correctly. If they notice that it doesn’t seem to be performing as effectively as it normally does, they could suggest that the database goes for a health check with Bamboo Solutions (find more info here). Hopefully, that will ensure that the database is operating correctly.

Here is a tip: Recruiters like me as well as the corporate types work for the client, not someone who we do not remember ever meeting because they did not stay in touch. Here is a question: Why would you ignore an invitation from a recruiter to stay connected — you never thought you ever leave your first employer? Really?

Lest you think 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 actually volunteer their time to help young professionals of whom they cannot profit in the short term, 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 is that recruiters do not return their calls.

You may not like the answers but here they are:

1. If you want to develop a relationship with recruiters — yes, 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 piece of our time. If we took every call from a newly out-of-work executives, our client service would plummet.

  1. If a recruiter calls you to network for potential candidates, take the call, even if you are not interested. Listen and offer to help. That is the kind of response recruiters remember, especially if you refer several names. Send a note in followup to make an impression.
  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 and let them know. 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 present job comes to an end.

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 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 to tell their story in a way that connects the needs of the client/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 few and far between 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 in nurturing that group.

So if you are like I used to be, here is the final hot flash for this post: 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.