How Unemployed CIOs Can Survive the Dark Days

A long job hunt takes a personal and professional toll. CIOs have family and financial concerns while they reassess their careers and face a changing job market. But here's how CIOs can emerge stronger than ever.

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Mark Tonnesen

Sometimes adverse business events can interrupt a CIO's career, as Mark Tonnesen, former CIO of Electronic Arts, knows.

Tonnesen was at Electronic Arts for 16 months, helping build the company's cloud computing setup to support its online and mobile gaming business. But revenues have swung up and down for the past several years, and CEO John Riccitiello resigned in March 2013. Tonnesen, whom Riccitiello had hired, soon followed.

Now Tonnesen, who has also been CIO at IT vendors McAfee and Logitech, isn't necessarily looking for another CIO post. He is focused on high-growth companies where he can influence business strategy. That could mean a senior role in operations or customer service, he says.

To make it happen, he spends about an hour a day on LinkedIn, refining his profile and communicating with his network. He sets up about five breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings per week, reserving Fridays for family time. The meetings help him define his own strengths and selling points. Meanwhile, Tonnesen consults on cloud computing and is a temporary CIO-for-hire.

Unemployment is frustrating in some surprising ways, he says. For example, the administrative work of tracking job-hunt expenses and wading through private health insurance options can be onerous. Also, Tonnesen has opened up his job search worldwide. One day he could be flying to Chicago, another he might do phone interviews with a European company, and third day could be quiet with no interviews. "There was nothing about it that was routine," he says.

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