Be Ready for CIO Turnover: Cultivate a Professional Network

Pounding the Pavement

Take it from the experts: It's all about staying marketable, attacking the job market and becoming what many CIOs abhor -- a salesperson. "For better or worse, I've been through the job hunt process a couple of times in my career," says Bill Rogers, former global director of IT at a financially troubled auto parts company in Ann Arbor, Mich. His position was eliminated earlier this year.

Rogers went a step beyond conventional job search techniques. Besides taking advantage of outplacement services, posting his resumé on all the major job boards and lunching with fellow job seekers from church, he launched a full-frontal assault on local businesses.

He scoured trade magazines, journals and business publications for articles about companies with IT-related concerns that matched with his experience. When he found a relevant article, he used it to make a pitch. He ran his resumé along the right-hand side of a page; down the left-hand side, he handwrote a letter to the company president, highlighting how his experience directly related to the issues in the article.

Of the roughly 20 letters Rogers sent to companies in the Detroit area, 12 companies invited him in for a meeting; in six cases, he actually met with the company president and members of the senior staff. "Some of the companies had no idea that I didn't know the president personally," Rogers recalls. "If you want to be a CIO, you need to network with CEOs, CFOs and COOs: the buyers of IT services."

Even the smallest effort can pay off. Among his many lead-generating labors, Rogers updated a resumé that he had posted on a recruiter's Web site four years ago. That put him on the radar screen of Goss International Corp., a $1-billion printing press manufacturer in Bolingbrook, Ill. Rogers had enterprise resource planning integration skills, which helped him land the job of vice president and CIO, and he moved to a Goss facility in Dover, N.H.

Shotgun networking can also help CIOs do their jobs better. "Networking can lead you to a tool or software that other companies are using to increase productivity, or it can help you fill positions in your company," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif.

There's no question that CIOs should be doing more of it. "You should have networking-related activities on your calendar, just like a project plan," says Martha Heller, managing director of the IT Leadership Practice at Z Resource Group, a search firm in Westborough, Mass., that works on behalf of companies looking to fill executive positions.

In fact, Heller recommends that CIOs get their names out to companies and executives beyond their immediate realm, especially if they want to either move to larger organizations or join the business side -- two trends that Heller sees a lot of in her practice. CIOs at $1-billion companies likely won't make the leap to $20-billion ones, she says, but they can find a spot at a $4-billion company or move to the business side of another midmarket organization.

This was first published in October 2005

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