HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania —Why do you want to work harder to find your next job?

Do you enjoy the fact that your search could take longer than you can financially stand and, because money is involved, generate more debilitating stress than is necessary?

strategic networkingAre you willing to undergo the downstream pain of a career that is wobbling because you aren’t willing to sacrifice a couple of hours each week for networking?

If you are looking for a silver bullet answer to a bump-free career, you had better stop reading now. There are no guarantees in the world of career management. There is absolutely no strategy, no pathway, and no decision that will prevent you from stumbling into some potholes, experience some major detours, and even hit the brick wall. Not to be glib, but that is called life.

However, there are some strategies you can embrace that may help you mitigate some of the career hell on earth of looking for your next job. It all begins with building a foundation: your network of professional contacts. To accomplish this, you must be strategic in your focus and execution.

You can push back on this idea if you please. That is fine with me. But be forewarned: there are far too many talented executives sitting on the sidelines, prematurely eating into their retirement fund while looking (read: hoping) for a new job, or officially giving up.

There is an old saying: If you want something badly enough you must be willing to fight for it. I don’t know about you, but I am still willing to fight for my career. In fact, that is what I do every day; it is called rainmaking, aka sales. If I am not willing to fight for my brand and my share of the market, then I might as well as find a farm house with a west-facing porch and a rocking chair. I love what I do and in order to do it, I must fight for it.

Do you love what you are doing? Are you any good at it? It is worth fighting for?

An important tool in this combat is called Strategic Networking. It is an action strategy, not a reactive response.

It is amazing how people who are laid off because of a consolidation or a restructuring cruise into a reactive career management mode. They sit back and wait for their telephone to ring, and when it doesn’t, they lose sight of their goals and begin to think, subconsciously at first, about settling for a job that will just help pay the bills – even if it is something they will hate doing or they have to commute long distances to work. In this new competitive job market, with companies focusing on reducing costs or consolidating left, right and center, executives seeking their next opportunity cannot afford to wait, to sit back and be reactive.

So here is a plan: Strategic Networking. I have written about this before but it is still a revolutionary idea for many senior executives, many of whom seem content to sit back and wait, to pursue a strategy of being like everyone else. Strategic Networking is about taking the initiative; carpe diem — seize the day.

The process of getting to that point is Strategic Career Planning (SCP). To successfully execute your SCP, you must employ Strategic Networking.

Strategic Networking is not rocket science. It is, at its core, the process of building professional relationships with people or organizations with whom you would like to work and connecting with them on LinkedIn and any other professional or social platform.

Strategic Networking as a concept requires strong foundational piers:

  • A Good Brand – This is defined as your education, experience, record of accomplishments and what people say about you. However, if you do not perform well, or if people do not like you, knowing the top 10 recruiters in your field will not make a whole lot of difference.
  • A Value-Based Contributor – This means that you are someone who has a deep understanding of your industry, emerging trends, ideas for the future and a defined career track. You provide your network with news, information and analysis that enriches their own experience.
  • Thought Leadership – This is an important recognition. It is a title bestowed by your network and your industry. It is not quickly or easily earned. Self designation is not an option. You cannot call yourself a Thought Leader and make it so.
  • Commitment to Service – People who excel in building a sustainable, productive professional network of contacts are people who consistently do those things that will enhance their brand. Investing time in social media is not enough. You should also invest time in your community — not for personal gain — but to give back to your friends and neighbors in your town and your digital community. That sort of helping others is an important part of who you are.

On Tuesday: Pam’s Job Search: A Practical Example of Strategic Networking