7 Steps to Effective Career Search Networking
by John West Hadley & David C. Miller
1. Take Inventory of Yourself
Nothing impresses a prospective employer more than someone with a clear focus.
Invest the time to get really clear on the skills you offer, and exactly what you want to do with them. One exercise to help you do this is to write six to twelve stories about things you’ve done that gave you a sense of adventure or accomplishment. Include what you set out to do, the obstacles you encountered, the action steps you took and the results of those actions. Go through and analyze each story for skills, qualities and characteristics you exhibited. You will most likely find commonalities between stories. This will help you get clear on what you offer and also provide you with some great examples that you can use in your networking, interviewing and on your resume.
2. Create Your Compelling Message
Develop a clear, compelling, concise message of what you want to do. This should be something you can communicate in no more than 30 seconds. Many people make the mistake of describing what they do in a process format. Your message will have more impact if it speaks to problems you will solve and results you will provide. For example,
Process: “I want to design administrative systems.”
Solution: “ I want to help companies save thousands of dollars a month by designing systems which streamline their administrative processes.”
Practice your message on friends and relatives until it’s very fluid.
3. Get Clear On Your Outcome
Know what results you want to get from each networking meeting. If you know what information you are seeking, you can focus on asking questions to elicit this information. You won’t walk away saying, “Shoot, I should have asked…” Set weekly goals for how many networking calls you are going to make, how many networking events you are going to attend, how many people you are going to meet at those events, how many networking interviews you are going to succeed in setting up, etc.
4. Develop A Specific Strategy To Build Confidence
Confidence is essential to a successful career search, and particularly in the critical networking component. Think of who made the biggest (positive) impression on you at your last business meeting or networking event; wasn’t it someone who exhibited confidence? Tentative people generally don’t get results, or at least not the results they want. Don’t be the wallflower who stands in the corner hoping someone will talk to him. Most people lack confidence at networking functions because they don’t know what to do. Having a specific strategy is a great anecdote for tentativeness. Here’s a good strategy for you to use: go up and introduce yourself to people. Ask them what they do, how did they get involved in their job and what do they like most about it. Have 5 to 10 questions like this in your back pocket. By showing interest in them this way it takes the pressure off of you and develops rapport with them. Eventually, they will ask you what you do. Tell them your 30 second “elevator story” and now you’ve got the ball rolling..
5. Play The Numbers
Remember the “Six Degrees of Separation” game that used to be popular at cocktail parties? Where you would start with some actor, and find linkages that ultimately led to Kevin Bacon? The same theory applies to networking. Studies show that on average everyone knows about 250 people. This means that every time you make a connection with just one new person, you increase your personal sphere of influence by about 250 people! Also, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that someone isn’t a good prospect for networking because they don’t work in your field of interest. Your accountant may may have a client in your field. The person who cleans your house may also clean the house of senior executive in your desired field. Your friends may have a relative in a key position in a company you are interested in. You get the idea.
6. Thank Everyone
You will stand out from the pack if you follow up every networking contact with a thank you note (or email). And make it personal – point out how they were helpful and what you will be doing to follow up. If they gave you a referral, get back to them after the appointment with the referral to let them know how the meeting went.
7. Have a Winning Resume…then use it sparingly!
Nothing kills a job potential more quickly than a poorly written resume. Make sure yours is a strong, results oriented statement of what you can do for a prospective employer. When you go to a networking interview, make sure you have a clean copy of the resume in your briefcase in case it is requested. But don’t send it in advance unless requested. Let a contact get to know you through your strong, confident statement of what you bring to the table and are seeking to do, and the discussion that follows. A resume shown to a contact in advance of the discussion tends to pigeonhole you by what you have done in the past, rather than open the discussion up to other possibilities that fit your unique set of skills and abilities. In fact, don’t even leave it behind at the end of the session unless requested; send it with your thank you letter, that lets you also highlight the specific skills that were of interest to that person.
If you follow these steps, you will network like a master! Not only will you get all the referrals you need to make your career search a great success, but you will tap into the “hidden job market” - the unposted jobs that experts suggest comprise 65-75% of the available jobs.
This will only work if you take one last step: GET OUT THERE AND NETWORK!