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Executive networks, how professionals leverage their way to a new position

executive network

“When opportunity knocks on this guys door and he isn’t home, opportunity waits.” For the rest of us, be interesting with your executive network my friends.

The executive network experience

Last week I posted a typical experience when I am asked to meet with a recent graduate. This week, I want to compare and contrast that experience with what happens within the executive network.  I want to shed insight on how experienced professionals network.   

When I meet an executive, I may or may not have a position open.  95% of the time I do not have an open position, but this doesn’t matter.  Good executives are always networking. They are not just using the executive network for themselves and their careers, executives are also networking on behalf of the companies they work for. 

Meeting new people in your industry is ALWAYS a good thing. You receive the opportunity to learn about new ideas, new technologies, and yes, new job openings.  All managers want confidence that their team is networking.     

How it usually happens:

I receive an email introduction from a friend or acquaintance. The introduction could be from someone I have met briefly years ago or my mentor who I listen to unconditionally.  You never know where the next candidate will come from and it doesn’t cost me anything to listen.  Helping others is ALWAYS a good thing. The email introduction provides background on why I should meet and it is set up with more of an attitude that this is “two people meeting over coffee” vs. this is a candidate for your open position or “you should hire this person”.  Even if we have an open exec position, the meeting is positioned as:

Sally is interested in learning more about your company


Sally is interested in your VP position

There is a difference in the two above pitches and at this level, a couple of differentiators are taking place. Sally isn’t just looking for just ANY job.  Sally is looking for the right fit, Sally is looking for HER opportunity.  She isn’t going to try to squeeze herself into any job because she is confident in her skill set.  She knows what she wants, she knows where she will be successful, and more importantly, she knows the type of environment where she will not succeed. There isn’t any pressure on me.  I don’t have to think about “declining” someone if they haven’t applied. 

Sally will do a number of things with her executive network that a recent grad will not.

  • Sets up a meeting a few days in advance.  They aren’t giving any indication of being last-minute or desperate.   
  • Respond quickly to email, phone, and texts.  I won’t have to wait more than 12 hours for a response and in most cases; I won’t wait more than 2-3 hours. 
  • The meeting place will be convenient for me.
  • The exec will arrive early, and appropriately dressed, AKA business casual. 
  • We will both have done a Google search on each other, we will have reviewed each other’s LinkedIn profile. 
  • A resume may or may not be forwarded before the meeting.  No one will pull out a resume in the face to face and the last thing anyone will do is walk me through the resume bullet by bullet. 
  • Out of a 45-minute meeting, it wouldn’t be unusual for at least 10 minutes of chit-chat before getting down to ‘business’.  We are both professionals so we will BRIEFLY describe our prior backgrounds at a very high level. We don’t need much more than this, as we have already done our homework.  The exec asking for the meeting will take a bit more time than me, but we both realize this will only be a 45-minute meeting and we can always schedule a follow-up.   
  • I will be asked some specific questions about the company but a lot of the questions will be confirmations of what was researched.  Throughout the conversation, it will be reinforced that the exec did their homework.
    • “I read about this new development, can you tell me more?
    • “I read bios of the management team, can you tell me more?”
    • “Your careers page presented a fun company culture.  Can you describe the culture of the company?”
    • “What do you like about the company?”
  • The conversation will evolve with a lot of back and forth.  It will be obvious between both of us if there is a potential fit.
  • Somewhere in this conversation, the exec will ask me if they can help me with anything.  Who can they refer to me so they can help me fill a position?  What company can they introduce me to?  This isn’t just a one-way street.  This is mutual respect and loyalty.
  • The exec will usually close me by asking to meet with someone else from the company/exec team.
  • I will receive a timely thank you email/text.
  • Over time, I will receive follow-up emails where articles and news updates are shared.  Just enough to let me know that I am still being thought of.  In a single word, “effort”. 

Last week, I boiled my experience with a recent graduate to 3 very sad bullets.  I list them here for convenience.    

  • A young person shows up in jeans and casual dress.  No hint of business casual dress or the even the ability to suit up. “I am looking for a job”.
  • “Here is my resume”.  We share a single copy for the rest of the meeting.  (I guess they wanted to save a tree.)
  • “What should I do?”

Hopefully, the difference is apparent.  None of the above happen within the executive network.  All of the above bullets make me think twice about how I will be represented if I refer the recent graduate to someone in my executive network.   

The executive has demonstrated effort.  The recent graduate barely showed up.  The executive is taking control of their destiny.  The recent graduate is looking for a softball and this is the Major leagues. 

Like anything that will get you ahead, networking takes practice and building a network takes time.  Networks were not built overnight.  Unlike most new skills, by the time we have graduated from school, we have had the practice that is relative so the switch shouldn’t be tough.

I am usually the shy and quiet one in a room or a meeting. One thing that has helped me is the realization that once two parties find something in common with each other, it is easier to form a relationship.  The trick is to keep asking questions until we discover we have something in common with the other party.  This is why everyone wants to be with the “most interesting person in the world”.  AKA, the Dos Equis man. He has done so many different and interesting things, he can find something in common with everyone.  Men want to be him and woman wants to be with him.  Next time you are nervous about meeting someone new, just make sure you offer to try to help out rather than use your connection to “step-up”.  You may or may not be able to help, but you’ll never know until you ask.

How do you network?  Leave your suggestions for others in the comments, and be interesting my friends. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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