I recently spent several months in a job search and am now wondering how much networking I need to continue to do? Also, I feel I might not have used my time in the most productive way I could have during my job search.
First of all, congratulations on your new job. I hope it is even better than you expected.
There are many ideas about networking, and most of the good teachers in this area agree on most of them. The ones that I am going to write about that seem to contradict some other suggestions are my opinion but are based on personal experience and talking to some of the most accomplished networkers I know.
This next thing I am throwing in as a freebie. I have talked about it before, but I think it is well worth repeating. While in job-search mode, you should devote time to certain activities based on the percentages. People actually secure jobs through direct application on the Internet only 6-8% of the time. (And by the way, that does not include research, locating companies to talk with, etc. In many cases, though, the Internet is still the most effective way to get a job.) Jobs secured through recruiters account for between 10 and 15%. (The tighter the candidate market, the higher the success rates for recruiters.) Using the liberal sides of these numbers, you still have 75-80% of jobs being secured by other means. Of course, there are various other ways that people find jobs, but the consensus of people knowledgeable in this area put the share of jobs found through networking at about 70%. This estimate seems to remain consistent no matter what the condition of the job market. Those are the percentages you should use in allocating your time in a job search. That is a bit off-subject but still valuable enough to include.
So, should you continue to network? Yes. I would suggest you get and read a few books on the subject such as Endless Referrals, Never Eat Alone…, and Power Netweaving… This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the better ones I have read. You will obviously get a lot more information by reading two or three books on the subject than I could ever produce in a column, and many of these authors do speaking engagements. You can check their websites, keep an eye on the local newspapers, or even book them as part of a group. Some, like Bob Burg, won’t charge you upfront but split the gate and give you a percentage of the material sales. They will even walk you through the promotion piece. I am not very big on motivational speakers, but content speakers such as these are worth the time and money. If you happen to book Bob Burg, tell him I sent you.
As far as time involved, I would say as much as possible, which is a pretty generic answer. But there is no set amount. The time you need to spend will vary according to your profession. Obviously, sales people are going to spend a lot more time at it than corporate finance people. But everyone should spend some time networking every week. It is critical you keep up your networks, whether you are in job-search mode or not. And, there is certainly no excuse not to network, especially with sites like LinkedIn and MySpace now available. I have talked about such sites in the past. I would suggest you spend a minimum of five hours per week networking if you are currently employed. The only wrong amount of networking is not doing it at all.
And now, I want to provide some of the networking ideas that I have found most useful.
Have a purpose for going, especially to networking events. This means much more than the generic “to network.” Are you looking for business leads, to just make some additional contacts, or what? This is critical because you go at different times for different reasons. Again, have a specific purpose, not a generic one. (If he said it twice, it must be very important.)
Know who the attendees are, both generically and specifically. Many times you can get a list of attendees upfront, especially if you are a member. It is important that you do so. If you are someone who specializes in very large data networks, chances are good that an event filled with real estate and mortgage brokers is not a great target. Also, don’t automatically assume that a networking event you have attended in the past is going to be the same the next time. The focuses of specific events can sometimes change. Finally, if you have attended the same event two or three times in a row without any results, why would you go again, unless you also believe in the tooth fairy?
Identify three to five people you want to meet, either from a list or once you get there. This is pretty self-explanatory, but in a 90-minute to two-hour event you will get maximum effectiveness out of this method. You will meet other people because you are typically not going to spend 20-30 minutes with your targets. But this tells you where to place your focus. I am not generally big on power networking events where you move from table to table and get a two-minute pitch at each. I find these a lot less effective. This does not include groups like BNI or PRE or some of the professional search groups like Gray Hair Management of ExecuNet nor professional groups like FENG, MENG, TENG, etc. Those 30-second to two-minute elevator speeches are just part of this meeting, if they are even included.
Spend 80% of your time listening and asking questions. This can be a little difficult if both parties are doing this. Someone has to go first. I would suggest that it should be the one who makes the initial approach. After all, he or she is the one who has shown the interest. Have you ever been at an event where someone who talked non-stop, without taking a breath for five minutes, approached you? (How the heck do they do that, anyway?) Of course you have. Don’t be that person. Also, leave the canned speech at the door. This is more informal. It might be uncomfortable, but you will get much better results. You certainly can keep that speech in mind, though. The other person is typically going to ask what you do, and you don’t want to stumble all over yourself or deliver the first act of Hamlet.
Do have an elevator speech!! I am not suggesting you shouldn’t. There will be times you need one. It should be 30-45 seconds in length. If you have never been in a meeting where everyone was told they had 30-45 seconds and a couple people droned on for four minutes, consider yourself lucky. Some people thin k they are “getting over” by doing this. But they are actually hurting themselves. Don’t you just want to yell at them to shut up? If you are at a job-networking event where they are doing pitches, they still shouldn’t take more than one to two minutes. Anything longer in either of these situations means you are not really prepared. Two golden rules: remember that there are others who have to do their 30 seconds, and try not to be robotic. I am a member of one organization. As many times as I have heard one person’s pitch, I can’t wait to hear it again. She is always creative, funny, and no two of her pitches are exactly the same. To me, that shows she is doing more than going through the motions.
Every event or meeting is a networking opportunity. Grocery store, doctor’s office, PTA meeting, Scouts, wedding, etc. Just be curious.
Here’s Wishing You Terrific Hunting,
About the Author
Bill Gaffney has had 17 years of experience as an executive recruiter and a career coach. He can be reached at 937-567-5267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.