Today, the Big Idea for career management — bigger is not always better or more productive especially when selecting certain people for your professional network.

I’ll explain that next.

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One key facet of career management is professional networking. Building and sustaining a robust and relevant network of industry professionals is essential in helping you navigate the inevitable job transitions that occur in every executive’s career.

Your professional network should include local industry contacts, peers through your professional association affiliation, social media platforms like LinkedIn, or consultants, sales representatives and executive recruiters.

For example: Early in your career as a Department Manager or Director the recruiters you deal with will probably be with contingency firms. Contingent recruiters are paid for their work only when they make a placement. There are some excellent recruiters in this space but, by and large, they handle lower level positions. Rarely will you find a contingent recruiter working on an executive or C-suite engagement. They can help you build a foundation and business intelligence but when you are looking for a friend for a key executive position, they probably will not be that person. Contingent recruiting is a highly competitive, fast-paced business and although contingency recruiters are wonderful people and value relationships, they must remain focused on their here and now lest they lose out to competitors. Some contingency firms monitor the performance of their recruiters by recording how many outbound calls they make in a day looking for new business or candidates. It is truly an eat-what-you-kill style of business model.

As you enter the executive ranks, you want to target recruiters who work on a retained basis. These can be the most helpful of relationships in a job search. They, too, must work in a timely manner but they are being paid for the work they do, which hopefully will include a positive outcome, not just for submitting a name that is hired.

It is logical then, to maximize your investment of time, to focus on the large national firms that conduct most of the executive searches. More searches theoretically means more opportunity for an executive who is in transition looking for his or her next job. Connecting with the busiest recruiter at the biggest firm seems like an excellent idea. But this where the theme of our podcast comes into play:

Bigger is not always better when it comes to building a network that includes executive recruiters.

In the search industry there is something called a DO NOT CONTACT LIST, also known as the hands off list. This means that search firms have an ethical prohibition against recruiting executives from an organization for three years after they have completed their most recent search. For some national firms, their DO NOT CONTACT list is significantly larger than they would have you, or prospective clients, believe. That list can number in the hundreds for some firms. In some industries, say retail, you will see boards hire a big name firm as well as a small boutique to ensure they are seeing the best candidates for a key position. That type of relationship is extremely rare in healthcare.

Now, if you have already been shown the door, either through an expense reduction layoff, a consolidation restructuring, or termination, you are exempt from this prohibition; recruiters are free to talk with you even though your former employer was on that Hands Off list. But if you are proactively seeking to advance your career knowing who your organization uses to conduct their executive searches is smart information to have. Just be careful in how you make inquiries to avoid raising suspicion.

Here is what we recommend: Be sure you target recruiters at national, regional and boutique firms to ensure that you have an array of recruiters in your network that have the flexibility to recruit you for a new, better position. BuIlding these types of networking relationships with recruiters is not something that will happen overnight. Do not put all of your eggs in one or two national baskets. In other words, in building a robust, relevant network, diversity is a smart move when it comes to networking relationships with recruiters.

Now here are three more career management tips for this week:

  1. Recruiters will not submit you for more than one search at a time, another ethical restraint that reputable firms follow. That is called dual submission. Be aware of this rule and do not put your recruiter in the uncomfortable position of explaining how the game is played. And never attempt to skirt this issue with a national firm because you think the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. That is a sure way to get yourself placed on a Do Not Contact List.
  2. Update your resume with your recruiter network on a periodic basis. The rule of thumb is that when you have a material change in title or scope of responsibility that is the time to submit an update along with a friendly email saying that you wanted them to be aware of some exciting developments in your career. Do NOT include the phrase “But I continue to look for my next career step forward.” This is one time connecting the dots can make you look less than authentic. And remember, be sure your resume is a value-based document — one that emphasizes your latest accomplishments with relevant, quantifiable metrics that supports your value. And Finally….
  3. As you build your network, do not overlook corporate recruiters. Many large companies and health systems use internal recruiters to do most of their executive recruiting. They may still use outside consultants for mission-critical and C-suite positions but they handle most other executive positions. The truth is that search firms handle only about 30 to 35% of all engagements nationally each year. So your professional network should include internal recruiters as well.

That is this week’s Big Idea and career management tips. I hope you will follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter and my company Facebook page, JohnGSelf Partners. Check out our career management blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and our career management videos every Saturday morning on my YouTube channel.

Thanks for listening. See you next week.