The Key to Career Success

the-key-to-career-successValentine’s Day is a great time to talk about “keys to the heart,” but instead, let’s talk about a topic that’s close to all of our hearts… the key to career success.

Last month, we surveyed our network on a couple of career topics, and while my team is still breaking down the results, one thing jumped out at me right away: the vast majority of you believe the path to your next career opportunity will be found through networking. This is consistent with what we have been seeing for years from our landed members: networking is indeed the key to finding an executive-level job.

Seventy-nine percent of survey participants who are in transition expect they will find their next job through networking, and that number was practically the same for those who are employed.  Interestingly, it is the wider professional network, the “weak ties,” that are most relied upon to connect with a new job.

How do you expect you will find your next job?


This makes sense. Typically, people are reluctant to “bother” their closest contacts, and very often our closest connections are forged through working together. One cannot very well expect much help from people in the company they just left or are seeking to leave. But when the circle widens to intersect with other groups, things start to happen. It’s that next level connection where job seekers have success, those friend-of-a-friend connections are the hot bed of networking. It’s no longer who you know that is important…it’s who they know that matters.

The results were consistent across gender lines, which is particularly good news, as women have shown themselves to be adept at developing and maintaining relationships. Here are two great articles on asking your network for help: How to Ask for What You Want: 5 Easy Ways to Make a Request and Power Connecting for Success: 5 Radical Rules.


You can see on the charts that not many view job boards as their likely way of securing their next position. Typically, the job boards are good hunting grounds for directors and managers. When compensation reaches $200K, positions are posted less than 10 percent of the time, and when they are posted it may be for HR compliance reasons. Job boards at the senior levels are good for getting some sense of the marketplace and some language for your personal marketing materials, but at senior levels, applying is akin to cold calling. It’s certainly worth a flier and will make you feel productive, but you are better off finding a connection to make an introduction for you into that company.

Another way smart networkers use their time is to “fish where the fish are” as Don Weintraub, head of ExecuNet’s career strategists likes to say. Have a pull strategy. Recruiters and hiring managers are on ExecuNet and LinkedIn looking for profiles to fit their searches. You need to pull them in with a professional profile. Just putting in your title and some responsibilities won’t pull searchers in. Have you joined all the LinkedIn groups related to the companies and industries you are interested in? You should. That’s a place where the searchers are.

Networking is king when it comes to getting an executive-level job. You showed in the survey that you know that, and you are right. Too often we are consumed by doing our jobs, and we lose sight of the fact that these days building and maintaining one’s network is a never-ending process that’s vital career insurance. No matter your career stage, network…and don’t stop networking. That’s where opportunity is found. Here’s our list of upcoming networking meetings and a recording of a master class by master networker Judy Robinett that will help you to network more effectively.

Happy connecting!

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

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