by Maryfran Johnson

Bouncing Back From CIO Unemployment

Feb 25, 20143 mins

A long job hunt takes a personal and professional toll, even on the most accomplished IT leaders. Here's how to emerge stronger than ever.

“Never, ever disappear.” Those haunting words of advice from Texas A&M University CIO Mark Stone sum up the wisest career guidance a CIO could get about dealing with today’s capricious, unpredictable job market.

Stay visible. Stay connected to your network. Stay aware of the market.

If you’re happily secure in your job now, you may be tempted to skip our cover story (“Unemployed CIOs Face Dark Days”), which explores the personal and professional toll that job loss can take on CIOs. “Sounds like such a downer,” you’re thinking, “I don’t need that. I’m doing fine.”

We all think that, of course. We forget that company fortunes are (largely) beyond our control. We fail to stay in touch with our colleagues. We intend to get to that networking event, but something always comes up. Heads down in the work, we allow ourselves to disappear.

When Stone lost his CIO job at Zale as the company downsized in 2009, he hadn’t written a resume in 14 years and his network had died of neglect. But he rebooted his approach to networking by taking a pay-it-forward mentoring approach that is one of the most inspiring examples in our story. Like so many other CIOs in transition, he learned how dramatically the job market had changed while he wasn’t paying attention.

“Where a CIO may once have received job offers based on reputation and well-known IT achievements, those factors are only part of the equation today,” writes Managing Editor Kim S. Nash. “The Great Recession, followed now by an intense period of digital disruption, has left some companies–some CEOs, really–unsure of what they want in a CIO.”

That can be the most disheartening aspect of a CIO job hunt today. That strategic, game-changing business role you want isn’t what most companies are offering in the typical, tactical CIO job description. “Some IT executives are finding that positions that fulfill their desires…aren’t necessarily called ‘CIO,'” Nash writes. One CIO in our story ended up as a company president in an entirely different industry. Another is working as a CIO-for-hire but has refocused his search on senior business roles in operations, not IT.

Everyone we spoke with emerged from the unemployment experience with heightened empathy for other job seekers. Nowadays, they make the time to mentor, write up recommendations and return calls. They keep their networks strong. You should, too.

So sign up to attend one of our CIO events. Get interviewed for a story. Start up a CIO dinner club in your town. Never, ever disappear.