Qualify Your Professional Network

There was a recent discussion on LinkedIn regarding tight versus broad networks (LinkedIn Strategies – Tight vs Broad Network). Is it more effective in a  job search to build a network of close connections or instead, build a network with a broad reach, but weak connections?

This is an interesting discussion. Recently I have been trying to qualify my network. I have been building my network for a little over a year now. At first, I thought it should be a numbers game. How many people can I connect with? I immediately saw diminishing returns.

To put things in perspective, I currently have:

  • 277 contacts on LinkedIn.
  • 180 following/156 followers on Twitter.
  • 20 people actively following my blog daily and commenting
  • 150 non-family contacts in my contact database

Of all the above contacts I consider maybe 10 contacts can help me find a new position or are people that remain in touch with me. What does this mean? Have I failed in networking? Should I have a tighter network or a better network? These are questions I ask myself everyday.

Here is what I do know.

  • Maintaining a network takes time and effort on your part.
  • If you are seeing no responses from your network then you should not put the effort in networking with that person. I know this seems harsh. But lets face facts, if you email and call someone and they do not respond then it is clear they are not interested in maintaining a link with you.
  • Move on and find others that will return your emails and telephone calls. Even if they do not have a position, they are just checking in with you to maintain a link.
  • Maintain a network that brings value to you.

I have started to be more discriminating in whom I add to LinkedIn and follow on Twitter. I want to have contacts that I can help and that can help me both in the short and long-term. It is not a numbers game anymore for me. It is about quality relationships with people.

What do you think about maintaining a network? What are your thoughts on how to maintain a network?

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Turning a Corner? A CIO’s Job Search

For those of you that read my blog regularly know that I have been out of work since September. I have been looking but there have been very few opportunities since the October financial meltdown. In fact, it has been dead. I liken it to being in sailboat with no wind-aimlessly drifting in a void.

That is until this week. There have been at least a dozen job postings for senior level IT people in the New York area. What has happened in the last few weeks? Is the economy turning a corner? Are firms beginning to hire? Who knows?

I got two interesting phone calls this week. One was from a recruiter, “Hello. I have a client that is looking to expand IT operations into the northeast. What do they need to accomplish this task?” Now you must be chuckling to yourself. Is this recruiter serious? Before I could even begin to answer this question, I had to ask for more details. Any good executive would. Of course, the recruiter could not provide much in the way of any useful details. In fact, I gave her a list of questions to ask her client. I said before you begin calling executives you should have a clearer understanding of what exactly the client is trying to accomplish. The talent pool in the NYC arena is large but you have to know what to ask. If not you would embarrass yourself and your client.

The second phone call was from a HR person. We all know HR people are more clueless than anyone on the face of the planet. So any HR person that calls me I am always weary. This was no exception. “We have a small IT shop and we had to let some people go, which caused service levels to deteriorate and now business is suffering and we need to bring service levels back up to acceptable standards. Where should we focus our efforts?”

I asked both the recruiter and HR person that if their client/company wants help to answer these questions and help guide them I am more than willing to come in even on a consultant basis to help. Of course I got the “We are just in an exploration phase and not ready to bring people in at this time” answer.

Am I disappointed? No. I am actually happy to see that the job market is starting to have a pulse. Even though it seems to be a very slight pulse it is a pulse none-the-less. Things are not totally dead and maybe things will continue to improve for everyone. So I am still keeping my fingers crossed….

How to Conduct Meetings That Have Value

meetingsComing out of a large corporate organization, I have been subjected to some very bad meetings. Meetings where I did not know why I was there and when it was over I still did not know the purpose. Meetings that consume too much time and provide zero value should never occur. So how do you conduct a meeting that provides value and does not waste everyone’s time?

  1. Have a meeting agenda prepared in advance. Sending out an agenda prior to the meeting allows attendees to know what to expect and what is expected of them.
  2. Provide information related to the meeting topic prior the meeting so attendees have time to read and prepare comments.
  3. Have a clear goal you want to achieve from the meeting. Meetings should be about discussion and decision-making.
  4. Keep comments short and to the point. Too many times people ramble.
  5. In meetings that are addressing issue(s), you should give others the opportunity to speak first. If you speak first, there is a tendency for others to be influenced by you.
  6. If you have routine staff meetings, allow your staff to conduct these meeting. It teaches them that this meeting is not for you but for all of us.

Strategic Value of the CIO

Chief Executive Officer. Chief Operating Officer. Chief Financial Officer. Chief Information Officer? Information? I have always questioned that word (information) in the title. How does one manage information? Information is something you use and generally speaking, cannot be managed. And here lies the problem with the title. What is the strategic value of the position of CIO? If the role of CIO is to have executive ownership of information, doesn’t this role come into direct conflict with the roles of  COO and CFO?

Will a CFO handover control of financial information to get it from the CIO? Or will the COO give up operational data to get it from the CIO? I don’t think so! Every C-level executive with executive responsibility demands ownership control of the information supporting them and will use this information accordingly to make appropriate business decisions. This is the fundamental problem of where in the executive structure does the CIO fit? What strategic value can the CIO bring in the boardroom?

So then what is the real strategic value of the position of CIO? If the position cannot have oversight of all information then what is the role of the CIO. The answer is “integration”.

As Chief “Integration” Officer, the CIO’s role can focus on integrating and improving process and workflow. It is only by linking different systems to streamline business process workflow and by assuming responsibility for identifying and removing bottlenecks in the chain can the function of the CIO provide real strategic value to overall business operations. The CIO now becomes the primary integrator across the firm.

The role of CIO must move away from being just the head tech guy to having a more strategic role in a company’s operations. It is only by having a more strategic role can the position of CIO provide real value.