LinkedIn is a great tool if you want to work for a specific company, and I frequently recommend that clients use it. However, almost all of us have a better tool for networking: our phones. Make a list of people who know you as a professional. Call them and let them know what company you are trying to work for. Then ask if they know anyone who works for that company. If they say no, don’t get frustrated. Good networking takes patience and the ability to hear the word no. If they do know some, ask if they would make an introduction for you or if you could use their name in contacting that person. Have a plan for what you want to say when you contact your new network partner. Be able to articulate why you want to work for the company and how you can contribute. Networking is never easy, and it takes a long time. Even so, when you make the right connection, doors will open.
Clients often tell me how much they hate networking. They don’t want to ask anyone to help them find a job. I agree with them for a very different reason. No one wants to be asked in such a direct way. I recommend that you start your networking campaign by identifying people who know your work and want to help you. This group can include relatives and friends. Try to meet with your network contacts for lunch or coffee in a space where you can be relaxed and have a conversation.
Start by explaining your situation and what you are looking for. If you are changing careers, be sure that you talk about how your new role will be related what you have done in the past. Now is the time to start networking. Begin with this question: “Based on your experiences with me, what advice would you give me in starting this job search?” Listen carefully and take notes. Some people will be slow to respond. Try to warm them up by asking follow up questions that remind them how they have worked with you or how they know about your skills.
If a network contact mentions a company or a person, then it is fair game to ask for a favor. Don’t start by pushing a resume. Find out if they know anyone at the company they’ve mentioned or if they would introduce you to the person they know. Remember that your contact is doing you a favor and try to follow their advice.
Networking is never easy, and it is often frustrating. At the same time, it is often the best way to have access to jobs that you will never find online. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you, but, at the same time, remember to help them. Networking is a two street, and – with a little luck – it can lead to a new job and better career.
Last month I recommended using holiday parties and family gatherings as a time to light the fires for networking. Now is the time to follow up. Make a list of the people you’ve met over the past few weeks who could help you advance in your career or find a new job. Set up a time to meet them for lunch or coffee.
At the meeting, don’t make it all about you. First let your network contacts know that you appreciate their friendship and support. Then let them know what your current goal is and ask for their advice: “Based on your knowledge of my career, what do you think I should do?” Listen to what they say and take notes. Ask follow up questions on any point that is not clear or needs more information. If a contact says you should look at a certain company, find out why she thinks that company is right for you. Ask if she knows anyone at that company. If she does, ask if she will make an introduction or if you can use her name in a cover letter. Most importantly, never let a networking meeting end without finding out how your contacts are doing and if there is any way you can help them.
Networking is always a two way street. Look for ways to help others, and they will remember you and want to return favors. Start your New Year on the right foot – Get your network humming.
One of the worst mistakes job seekers make is to stop looking for work during the holidays. In fact, the holidays are a great time to re-establish ties with networking contacts. The best way to do this is to set a plan: Who do I want to contact? What do I want each person to know about me? What do I want to learn about them? Since many of these contacts will be friends as well as colleagues, it is perfectly acceptable to ask about family and other personal matters.
Keep the contact friendly and loose. Start by wishing your contacts a happy holiday season and ask first about their lives and careers. When you talk about your career goals, don’t be too pushy about asking for direct help unless there is a definite opportunity that a contact can help you with. A better way is to set up a meeting or call just after the New Year. In other cases, your goal is to let your contacts know what is going on in your life and career. That opens the door for them to help.
Don’t waste the holiday season on shopping and parties. Enjoy yourself, but do so in a way that keeps your network pot simmering. With the right contact and a little luck , you could find a new job.
One of my clients is very talented. However, she was very hesitant about networking. She thought no one would want to help somebody else get a job in a competitive market.
I asked her to start networking in a simple way: Call the three people who are her references, let them know she is looking for work, and ask for advice. Two days later she had an interview with a company much better than the one that laid her off. Networking doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes clients have done everything correctly, and networking brings no results. That said, everyone should network, especially people who are looking for work.
Make a list of 10-20 people who know you as a professional. Here’s my suggestion about how you should ask for help: “I want to call you because I’m looking for a new job. You know me and how I work, and I’d appreciate it if you’d take a few minutes and give me some advice. What do you think I should do in my job search?”
Keep the conversation open and listen carefully. If a network contact gives you advice that is bad or useless, take it for what it is and be grateful for the time your contact has given you. If the advice is good, follow up quickly and let your contact know that you’ve done so. If your network connection suggests that you contact a certain person a potential employer, ask if you could use her name or if she will make an introduction. Always end your conversations by finding out if there is any way you can help people in your network.
Networking isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always work. However, a good network connection can lead you to jobs you didn’t know exist. It can also open doors quickly. Make networking part of your job search and career management strategy. Start with those people who know you best, your references. If you’re like my client, an interview with a great company can be in your future.
Some clients complain that hiring slows down during the holidays, which is often true. However, this season offers a different opportunity to improve your career management and job search: networking.
When you’re at holiday parties or meeting friends for dinner, let them know what is happening in your career and find out what is happening in their careers. If you’re looking for work, the holidays might be a good time to set up a lunch or coffee meeting. At that meeting, don’t simply ask your contacts to help you find a job. Start this way: “I’m looking for a new job, what advice do you have for me?” Keep the question open and see where your contact takes you. If she suggests you talk to someone, ask if she can make an introduction or if you can use her name in contacting the potential employers.
Remember that it’s the holiday season. Don’t be too pushy. Take advantage of your meetings. If it seems best to wait to meet a contact, set up a meeting after the new year. Keep looking for new ways to push your career and job search forward. Don’t forget to look for ways to help your network partners. Helping each other. That’s the holiday spirit.
One of my clients is in the insurance industry. He's not happy at his current job. But rather than throw his resume at every open position he can find, my client is taking the time to identify the companies where he most wants to work. He's also talking to people who work at those companies or to people who have connections at those companies. This kind of networking is not fast. These is no guarantee that it will work. But it's still the best way to look for a new job because you have the most control over the process. Try to build a network that will give you this advantage.