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Why and how you should befriend a tech recruiter

Two weeks ago, we wrote about networking and why Midwest corporate technology types should get out on the networking circuit more often. We got mail: “Thanks for piercing the bubble [in which] some corporate people live!”

Everyone has to network, we argued, or at least everyone can benefit from an occasional networking outing. So here’s the corollary: Whether you’re unemployed, happily employed or employed but not so happy, you also need a headhunter (an executive search consultant) on your side.

Of course, you need the right person. It can’t just be any random person with a business card who represents him or herself as a Midwest technology recruiter. Having a trusted search partner in your Palm Pilot is a great asset in business (and not just when you’re in job search mode).

For starters, you need someone who knows your technology job history and experience and can keep you in mind for great opportunities.

Why should you care if you’re not job hunting? Well, wouldn’t you be interested in checking out a really wonderful opportunity even if you’re snug as a bug in your current role? Also, what if things change? What if your company is bought tomorrow or your function is outsourced or there’s a cataclysmic reorganization?
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With the job market, can anyone really afford not to have an ear to the ground?

This is the most obvious reason to cultivate a trusted technology search partner. Still, there are other reasons. HR people who talk often with search folks are much more on top of what’s happening in the marketplace (I mean the job market and the product/service market, which are inextricably connected).

Your search friend will tell you that Motorola just announced its purchase of Ucentric Systems (a company I co-founded five years ago; yippee!), what that means for other Motorola product development efforts and what that means for Motorola’s organizational requirements.

Being so close to the action (by virtue of frequent conversations with HR folks, hiring managers and candidates), a well-connected search professional will know which managers are great to work for and which are a pain and why so many people have been through Company X in such short cycles over the past year.

Having a good headhunter on your side is like having a telescope pointed right into the boardrooms of technology companies that are hiring in 2005. Isn’t that knowledge and advice something that’s worth your time and energy?

If you don’t already have a search buddy who has placed you at a job or two, you need to put things right quickly in the first quarter of this year. This is one of the reasons to get out to those networking events: to meet the search guys (a unisex term) who can be your links to your next great position or to whom you can send a friend who’s entering the job market.

Of course, in such a symbiotic relationship, you’ll be happy to pass on your headhunter’s name to any hiring managers you meet who might have job openings that need filling (except your own manager at your current job).

If your search dude starts working on assignments for your company, he or she will most likely be barred from pulling folks (like you) out of the same company. That would defeat the purpose of cultivating the partnership in the first place.

If you don’t meet Mr. or Ms. Right Headhunter at a few networking gatherings, ask your colleagues (or the friendly people on a list serv like ChicWIT, which ePrairie readers by now have heard that I helped start) for a recommendation.

Choose your search partner carefully. There are some rogue search folks around who will not handle your resume responsibly should they have access to it. That could be bad for you. Ask about the assignments the search partner has filled recently (not worked on but filled) and ask about the duration of his or her client relationships.

Over time, the relationship should flourish. It should flourish if you treat it as you would your relationship with any valuable business contact (not only asking for help and advice but also providing them contacts and leads when you can).

It’s a great leg up in the tumultuous (and at times incestuous) Midwest tech job market to have such a friend in your corner.

Sure, you’ll still have the occasional bad day at your job when you can’t wait to get home and complain to your spouse or your dog about how rotten your job is, but with a headhunter friend just a call away, you can (if you so choose) also act on your frustration by calling your buddy and saying: “Get me out of here!”

That’s a nice thing to know.

Liz Ryan is the founder of ChicWIT (Chicago Women in Technology) and founder of WorldWIT (World Women in Technology). She can be e-mailed at lizryan@worldwit.org. Her column Nine2Five, which appears on ePrairie every Friday, is designed to keep you up to date with career trends and advice related to working and managing organizations in the post-bubble technology world. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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