Executives exploring options outside their current company are often in need of job search etiquette tips. Especially since the immediacy and transparency of today's technology can easily create an uncomfortable situation. So how can you avoid being "that guy" while still incorporating social networking tools into your job hunt?
A good first rule of thumb: If you find yourself hesitating before clicking send, stop and review what you're doing. Laying the right groundwork with your network can also help protect your reputation.
Organize your contacts by trust level. Say you've decided it's time to look for a new job and want to begin to contact people in your network. You should be building concentric circles based on trust levels and initiate contact with your core trusted resources first. But you may want to modify the tone of your conversation from, "Get me the heck out of here!" to "I'm seeking more challenge than my current company offers," depending on your relationship with your contact.
Never talk trash. Bashing your current employer to professional contacts is never acceptable. Too many networking conversations begin with, "Of course this must be kept confidential, but so-and-so said..." Dishing dirt is infinitely appealing, but the world we work in is a small one. It's far too easy for your name to be sullied when you toss around negative opinions.
Be direct in your requests for help. Job seekers commonly make the mistake of being too hesitant to ask for help right off the bat. Don't simply ask networking contacts to keep you on their radar screen. Most of us have about 5,000 people on our radar screens that we've completely forgotten about. We all have good intentions when we use that phrase, but it's too passive to be effective. It's human nature to want to help someone in need, and people remember the times they're able to provide real assistance.
So make that easy for them. Imagine you contact a former CEO and tell her you're being downsized. Here are two ways she could view that conversation after you hang up, depending on how you direct it: 1) "I got a call from Bob today. He's losing his job. [sigh] So many folks are being cut; the economy just sucks right now." Or, 2) "I got a call from Bob today. He's losing his job. He asked me for the names of three companies I respect so he could research them. I named X, Y and Z. I'm really glad I was able to help him."
Which conversation seems more memorable? The yet-another-boat-anchor depressing one or the one that was action-oriented and positive? Develop a list of short tasks that will advance your search in tactical and practical ways. By keeping the tasks small and not too time-consuming, you're being respectful of people's calendars and increasing your chance for a positive outcome.
Be present online. Capitalize on tools such as LinkedIn and use your status updates wisely. Share an article once a month. Twice a month, swap out a book on your Amazon reading list. Regularly look for industry events or webinars and indicate you're interested in attending, or join a professional group.
It's up to you to keep your name out there by conducting yourself professionally online. Folks really read their LinkedIn network's updates. What you share can demonstrate your effort to improve yourself and position yourself as a thought leader.
Read more about careers in CIO's Careers Drilldown.