Use a Network to Catch Your Prey
Statistics tells us that 85 percent of all jobs are never advertised. Rather, they are circulated-and filled-through an inside "network." This network is made up of individuals who, quite simply, are the most immediately accessible-not necessarily the most qualified-for the upcoming job opening. If you are a job hunter who is not networking, you are missing 85 percent of the job market. You are competing with every other job hunter for a mere 15 percent of the total openings in the employment marketplace. Not good odds!
By the Time a Hot Job Reaches the Newspapers, It's Usually Too Late
Ask yourself this question: If you could choose to interview an applicant who has been referred to you by a colleague or a perfect stranger, with whom would you rather talk?
Networking is a cumulative activity. It is a delicate science, a weaving of interconnected contacts. When properly done, it can maximize your best asset: the people who know your value. Begin with the people nearest to you-friends, family members, business associates with whom you’ve established a personal relationship.
Each of these people will have a set of contacts that may be of use to you. People are willing to lend a hand because it feels good to help. It's in their nature to give advice and make recommendations. So as a networker you have this in your favor. People who know you and believe in you will most likely want to recommend you. But recommend you for what and to whom? And will they say the right thing? And is their reputation a positive one? Do they really know what you want?
Your Network Needs to Be Spoon-fed Ever So Carefully
As a networker, you need to nourish and nurture each contact in your network. Unfortunately, that is not what usually happens. Here is an example of bad (and typical) networking,
You lose your job as Administrative Services Manager at Typicorp. You’re mad as hell and understandably frazzled, but figure you had better not waste any time. That's your first mistake. You immediately call Colleen Smith, a contact in Administrative Services at Acme, Inc., a competitor. Colleen once indicated at a trade show that she liked your style. And now, on the phone, Colleen seems sympathetic, so you give her an earful, saying how shortsighted Typicorp was in eliminating such a valuable position as yours. Further, you continue, Typicorp was not the place to be anyway; you really always wanted to be with a progressive company like Acme, Inc. Did she have anything?
Great speech, you think, she may just jump at the opportunity. But Colleen’s reaction is just the opposite.
First, she feels as if she and Acme, Inc. are a second choice, a fallback for you. She feels used. She hasn’t heard from you in months. Now you’ve got problems and you unload them on her. Second, Colleen feels your anger, and that just makes her uncomfortable.
Third, she doesn't like the fact that, not even one full day after being let go from your company, you are suddenly bad-mouthing Typicorp. Wouldn't you be capable of doing the same to Acme, Inc.?
Finally, and ironically, she really made that trade show comment about liking your style as a part of her own networking, to plant seeds for possible opportunities at Typicorp, in case anything went awry at Acme, Inc.! Now, in light of your comments about Typicorp, she thinks shell happily stays put. In fact, she'll do everything she can to protect her position.
Proper Networking Guidelines for Launching Your Networking Effort
Give Yourself Time to Vent Any Anger.
If you have to unload, do it on someone who's close to you, who can’t or won’t harm your job search, and who can both empathize and offer objective advice. Sometimes a well-reputed career counselor can also help, but don’t blindly hire one. Get references or ask around.
Taking your anger, hurt, or diminished self-esteem directly into the face of your most valuable contacts is a serious mistake. Give yourself a few days to recompose. During those days, concentrate on making a list of your value points, skills, and career/job achievements, rather than focusing on the negatives of your situation. Look backward only if it brings you ahead.
Make a Three-column List of Your Network
In the left-hand column of a large sheet of paper, list your contacts or any contacts of contacts. These should be people who, for whatever reason, know your skills and/or industry have valuable connections or contacts in your industry or the new field into which you are headed, or can connect you to valuable contacts.
Make your list as exhaustive as possible; sleep on it; tap into the mental data bases of other people for names that have slipped your mind (you'll be amazed at some of the obvious contacts you’ve temporarily forgotten). Review any industry memos, notes, association lists, or trade publications to jog your memory for names you may have ignored. Look into your situation with a historical perspective: What did your previous colleagues do when they were in your situation? Which contacts worked? Which ones didn't? Where did your old colleagues finally land?
In the second column, list the relationship of these names to you and your industry or field of interest.
In the third column, comment on what they could possibly do for you, and/or whom they might contact on your behalf.
Make a File Folder for Each Name
Label the folder and make a data sheet for each name, restating the information on that individual. You now have something tangible, something to work within your job search. You have a stack of folders (leads!) ready to accumulate information relative to your job search. Suddenly there appears to be much more to work with than just the Sunday classifieds.
Now Make a Second Sheet
On it outline the best approach and best time of approach for each name on the List. Ask yourself questions about the logic of approaching each contact: Is this a bad time to contact him since it's his most hectic season? Would I be stepping on his toes by first contacting her rather than him? Is a lunch appropriate? Should I write a note first? To pave the way, what about that industry article I found interesting? Maybe I should send it to Colleen to break the ice-I haven't seen her in a while and it could smooth the way to talk about Acme, Inc.
Get Large Calendar of the Current Month
Transfer the dates planned for your initial contact and/or correspondence with each person from each folder. You’ll be surprised at how full your calendar will suddenly become. For example, if you have 30 names, you will have at least 30 things to do. These 30 tasks will be either letters or phone calls or personal calls to approach your network. When accomplished correctly, these 30 tasks will blossom into more tasks: lunches, informational interviews, more letters and phone calls to new names referred from the initial contacts. As you can see, the goal here is to nourish each contact, to allow it to bloom and create further contacts, hence enlarging your network, increasing your odds, and bringing you closer to your ultimate goal: the right job.
Understand the Do's and Don'ts of Approaching and Activating Your Network.
- Contact each person in your network in a way that is the most convenient and least imposing for that person.
- Approach each contact in the most complimentary way possible. Examples: "Everyone I spoke to said if anybody might know about this it would be you."-"Jim, you know a lot of people and I have lots to offer. I know they'd value your comments about my abilities."-"Everyone said you were the guru."-"I’d respect your ideas and opinions on where I might go next in the area of…"-"I’ve got what I think are some good ideas regarding... and I’d really value your feedback."
- Be respectful of your contact's time limitations.
- Clearly communicate as specifically as possible what you do, why you are good, and where you best do what you’re good at!
- Don’t say something like: "I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know if you hear of anything that opens up in my area." This request will get limited or no response. The contact person won’t know what specific task is assigned to him or her, and therefore probably won’t take any specificaction.
- Give each contact a specific task, not a general one. Then the contact can take action. Examples: "Would you know of any individuals within that division with whom I might speak? If I check back on Friday, could I get those names from you?"-"I'm trying to learn more about the profile of management candidates in your field. Could you be kind enough to tell me what kinds of people you like to hire?"
- Don't say you need a job. Don't ask for a job. Don't bad-mouth anyone.
- Don't approach your most powerful contacts right away. Develop your learning curve and make your mistakes on what you think are your least-valuable contacts. Accumulate as much information as possible before presenting yourself to the critical and most powerful contacts in your network.
If You Don't Have the Contacts, Make Them!
And you should do it when you are job seeking. Just as you would naturally indicate what kind of restaurant or what kind of a car or what kind of doctor you need, in job-search networking you should indicate what kind of job you want. Job-search networking, however, requires more effort than most other kinds of networking. It requires preparation and forethought, prior to the contact-making. The contacts are often more critical, and in shorter supply. The whole process is more precious and needs to be treated that way, because precious things, by their very nature, are of great value.