Mention the word ‘networking’ and most people think of sipping champagne at a business function and exchanging business cards. Meeting new contacts this way is a valid form of networking, but it has a very low return on investment as it usually takes lots of meetings before a genuine connection is made.
When it comes to looking for a job, another favoured form of networking is when you ask people you know to look out for possible opportunities. This ‘sending out feelers’ approach CAN work in a boom economy or if you have a skill set that is in demand. If not, the trail comes to a quick end with no job offer and can leave you with a sense of frustration and powerlessness.
Neither of the above two approaches are as powerful as Job Search Networking. By using Job Search Networking, you take charge of your own future. You pursue leads and possibilities wherever they take you. And, you’re more likely to discover the job of your dreams.
Of course, networking is not new. Most of us do it as a part of our normal social interactions. When we’re looking for a plumber to do some work, we usually ask our contacts for recommendations.
The difference is that Job Search Networking is more formal and strategic. It’s NOT just casual conversations with people you meet. It is a calculated campaign to contact people for ideas, suggestions and information.
Job Search Networking is a great strategy if you have to ‘reinvent’ yourself – either because your previous line of work is no longer available or no longer desirable. It allows you to totally bypass the pile of résumés and sell your transferable skills face to face to an employer.
It’s an approach I took myself many years ago when I wasn’t happy in my line of work. My initial meeting with an acquaintance led to two further meetings with new contacts. It saved my business and resulted in me thriving as a career specialist ever since.
I have almost never met anyone who has heard about Job Search Networking or who knows how to do it correctly. So, if you have the courage to do it, you have a huge advantage in the Hidden Job Market.
Just what is Job Search Networking?
The essence of Job Search Networking is to arrange a face to face meeting with contacts and to ask for ADVICE, not a job.
Step one is to meet up with an acquaintance, explain your job search strategy and ask for further contacts who might give useful advice. When people give you a name, they are putting their credibility on the line so the name they give you will be a powerful contact.
The next stage is to phone this unknown contact to ask for a short meeting to, once again, ask their advice on your job search strategy. When it is done correctly, each individual meeting with a new contact either results in a job offer or the referral to another contact who either offers a job or refers another stranger. And so the journey continues.
As a general rule of thumb, a job offer eventuates from the third or fourth person in the chain of meetings. It is important to have faith that each individual meeting has possibilities. It is only when a job offer eventuates that you can trace all the meetings that led to it.
Overcoming Negative Self-Talk
Many people have trouble with formal networking, especially as a job search strategy. Here are some common networking concerns:
- ‘I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m looking for work.’
- ‘I feel that it would be like begging for a job.’
- ‘I don’t want people to think that I’m taking advantage of them.’
- ‘I’m straight out of Uni and no-one will want to talk to me.’
It’s important to not allow yourself to be caught up in these thoughts. Instead, use the following principles when preparing for your networking:
- Most people like to help others
- You may not recognise it but you do have your own personal network of direct contacts. These people in turn know other people whom you do not know, but who may be of great help to you
- Many employers use networking themselves to find suitable employees and never advertise available positions, preferring to rely on referrals from someone they trust to fill vacancies. In this way, they cut the cost of recruiting and believe that they end up with a better candidate
- Job Search Networking works particularly well if you are straight out of school or University. Most people in the business community find it immensely satisfying to offer support to people at the start of their career and will go out of their way to offer further leads and contacts
Secrets of the 5 Step Approach
Here are the 5 distinct stages of a successful campaign.
1. Develop Your List of Primary Contacts
Think creatively about all the people you know. Remember, they don’t need to be friends – merely people who know and respect you, and who are willing to talk to you for a few minutes about your career plans. The ABSOLUTE best primary contact meeting I ever had was with a slight business acquaintance.
2. Make Contact with the Primary Contact
Give priority to those Primary Contacts who are in some way associated with your target marketplace. It’s best to make your initial contact by phone. Make sure that your approach is for information only and not to apply for a job. You do not want to embarrass your contacts by asking for a job as they will almost certainly not be able to, or not want to give you one at this stage.
Here is a sample introduction you could use:
‘Dinh, as you may have heard, I’ve left XYZ and I’ve been giving some serious thought about where I will head next. I’ve developed a marketing plan for myself, and I’d like to get your feedback on it. You know the industry well and you also know quite a bit about me. Could we spend 20 minutes together later this week?’
When you meet, clearly explain your strategy and use a detailed ‘elevator pitch’ to remind your primary contact of your Key Point of Differentiation. And, of course, try to obtain as many referrals as possible to Secondary Contacts. I once met with an old swimming friend who gave me 5 contacts, all of whom agreed to meet me.
3. Getting an Appointment with the Secondary Contact
Make sure that you CALL your target. Do not send an email. Be prepared to make lots of phone calls before you finally get hold of the person. Once you have your target on the line, be brief. Don’t allow yourself to be interviewed over the phone.
The following sample introduction can be used as a guide, but you should change it into your own natural language so that you feel comfortable saying it.
‘Hello, Amanda. My name is Mauro Vincenzi. I was talking to John Brown the other day and he suggested that I call you. I’m a Mechanical Engineer and am looking at moving into the automotive industry. John told me that I would really benefit from talking with you and that you would give me some good advice on what’s happening in that area. Would you be free, say, Tuesday or Thursday morning next week?’
You may meet with objections from your target and the key here is polite persistence. Here are three of the main blocking statements you’re likely to hear. Your job is to lob that tennis ball back over the net and send the message that you’d really like to meet.
‘Are you looking for a job?’
‘Yes, I am, but at this stage I’m looking for advice and information, not specific openings and that’s why John suggested that I meet with you.’
‘The best thing for you to do is to see someone from HR.’
‘I’m not quite ready to talk to anyone about a concrete position. What I’m looking for is advice and for someone to have a look at my marketing strategy. John thought that your suggestions would be very valuable’
‘Just send me your résumé and I’ll circulate it amongst my colleagues.’
‘I usually like to tailor my résumé to specific positions I’m interested in. But I would like to show you my résumé and talk to you about which of your colleagues would be interested.’
4. Smoothing the Meeting with the Secondary Contact
Start the meeting and break the ice with some small talk. It is then a good idea to informally outline an agenda: you have requested the meeting and it is up to you to suggest and keep to an agenda. It is also critical that you let the person know at this point that you will be asking them for further contacts at the end of the meeting.
Then, give a brief (1 ½ minute) background presentation on yourself. Make it interesting and use it to sell your personality as well as your skills.
Finally, talk about your job search strategy and ask for advice on its effectiveness. Ask specific questions about the industry, best area for job prospects.
Make sure that you obtain two or more contacts to follow up. Leave a copy of your résumé (a one page version is best).
5. Following Up
It is crucial that you complete the networking approach with a personal thank you letter to each contact – a hand written note to acknowledge that a busy person has made the effort to see you as a favour. Especially in this age of email overload, a ‘snail mail’ note or card works wonderfully. Make sure your handwriting is easy to read and use plain stationery. Keep it simple and businesslike.
Baking a Cake
Job Search Networking is the most powerful technique available for getting a new job. Networking can help you research career options and new industries. It is one of the best ways of finding out what the culture of an organisation is. It gives you vital information that can prevent poor career choices.
Along the way, you develop strong interview skills as each meeting is, in effect, an unofficial sales meeting. And you generally grow in confidence, because you typically receive positive feedback from each meeting.
Job Search Networking is like baking a cake. You need ALL the ingredients, in the RIGHT ORDER. Get this right, and it works. So, work through the theory thoroughly, have the courage to pick up the phone and then have faith that it works.
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