By Sue Bergamo

Recently, in speaking with a group of executives who are in transition, I asked a question about how each person approached networking. While there were many similarities, to my surprise there were also varying degrees of doubt about what worked and what didn't. The conclusion was that networking is more of a learned skill than a science and should be approached as an opportunity to interact with others―with the hope that these interactions will eventually lead to a new position.

Networking Rule #1 – Always believe in yourself - As a CIO, I’ve personally had many professionals request my assistance finding a new position. It is surprising that, as professionals, we are confident in our ability to hold and function at a job but as soon as someone becomes unemployed how quickly they start to disbelieve in their accomplishments and their ability to land a new role.

The longer a person is on the job market, the worse this self-defeating cycle becomes. Losing a job is a significant change in anyone’s life, and it is only natural to grieve the loss and fear the unknown. Getting yourself entrenched in a job search is one sure way to pull yourself out of the doldrums of being unemployed. I’ve met with CEOs, COOs, CIOs, VPs and individual contributors and can attest that everyone goes through the same turmoil while looking for new opportunities.

Networking Rule #2 – Have a plan - It’s easy to say that a plan is needed, but formulating one is not always easy. For some people, starting a job search is easy and the prospects of meeting new people seem adventurous. For others, the search may be considered absolutely torturous.

Start by asking yourself how comfortable you are with meeting new people. Next make a list of target companies, current opportunities, people and networking events in your area. Determine how far the search will reach: are you willing to relocate or is staying local a must have criteria? Next, divide the list by three sections: low stress effort, medium stress effort and high stress efforts. Examples of these categories could be:
* Low Stress: Reach out to peers, family and friends.
* Medium Stress: Research target companies and send in a resume.
* High Stress: Seek out unknown individuals through networking groups, social networking sites and cold calling.

If you are someone who dreads the thought of meeting new people, then start with low stress efforts to begin a search. Let everyone that you know, including other unemployed people that you are looking for another opportunity. Push yourself to move into a higher stress category and keep on networking.

Networking Rule #3 – Create and practice a 30 second speech - This speech will be replayed over and over, so it’s important to have the salient points of your career on the tip of the tongue. The speech represents skills and talents and describes the type of company and culture that you are looking for. It is surprising how many people flub on this rule. An adjunct rule is to always say the speech with confidence and smile, smile, smile (using both facial expressions and your voice).

Networking Rule #4 – Ask for additional contact names - The one key rule of networking is that for every person that you speak with, try to obtain one or two new names to contact. This increases your network and, after a few attempts, will become second nature to you.

Networking Rule #5 – It’s OK to post your resume on a job board - Recruiters and HR personnel will look at job boards and find candidates that meet a position’s criteria. Remember to refresh your resume often to continue to remind the recruiters that you are still out there. Another rule of thumb is that if you are not receiving any call backs on your resume, consider having a trusted colleague critique the document and provide you with solid feedback.

Networking Rule #6 – Social networking is your friend - As you gain more confidence in your networking abilities, branch out to new areas. Networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn should be considered key in your search efforts. These sites have features to search for jobs, companies and for people. While some people have posted their desire/need for a new position on these sites, I’m not sure this tactic actually shortens your job search. It may even seem desperate to potential employers.

LinkedIn is a tool that recruiters and HR representatives use on a daily basis. Candidates can search for people, jobs and look for the right individual to network with from within a company. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a LinkedIn profile and in using your network to find a new position.

Networking Rule #7 – Review your Internet presence - This important step looks at how you are seen on the Internet. Try using Google to search for your name then review your results, your online "presence", if you will. Ask yourself if it’s the presence that you’d like to have. If you are blogging, are the blogs appropriate? Have you written any articles within your industry? It’s important to keep your Internet presence up to date. And remember, a professional image is one way to land a new job.

Networking Rule #8 – Don’t ever stop networking - Everywhere that you go, everyone that you touch may know someone who has an opening. Use every conversation as a way to gain another name to contact. In no time, you’ll have established a considerable network. Every month or two reach out to the people in your network and remind them that you are still on the market. Eventually, people will begin to contact you regarding openings.

I’ve had conversations with individuals that have said things like “Once I have an interview, I stop and wait for an answer” or “I’ve reached out to several headhunters, but no one has called me back”. In both of these instances, the answer is the same … don’t stop networking. Don’t wait for someone to get back to you. Every candidate needs to keep on top of the market, the openings, and the players. Networking should be considered a full time job.

Networking Rule #9 – There is never enough touch points - In searching for a position, in addition for striving for face-to-face interviews, networking calls and meetings should be a part of your overall plan. It is not unreasonable to have 25-100 touch points per week with people in and outside of your network. Remember, the benefits that are reaped from networking is directly aligned to the effort that you put into the process.

Networking Rule #10 - The longer the search lasts, the harder it becomes to keep the faith. Candidates need to continuously push themselves to stay abreast of the market and to continue to have confidence in their ability to land a new position. Seek out others that in the same position and you’ll find it is helpful to have the empathy and support of others who can clearly understand what you are going through.

Best of luck to you in your search.

Sue Bergamo is the former CIO at Aramark’s WearGuard & Galls companies. She can be reached at suebergamo@yahoo.com.