In my previous posts about Engaging in Your Job search, I provided a few recommendations regarding how to start your job search by clarifying your goals, values and where you want to go, and assessing your capabilities, competencies and development needs, I also posted information about your resume, and using Social Media as a tool to get your word out and building your network Last week I wrote about the importance of a Marketing Plan and today I’m going to share high level information about Networking, which is probably the most important, and most uncomfortable part of your job search.
In my first post, I talked about how I have found in many cases, clients who have been displaced (laid-off), that their first instinct is to update their resume and apply for many jobs on-line, and then wait, and wait and wait to receive a response. Studies vary regarding how many jobs are found through networking vs. through job boards; some estimates are as high at 85% of jobs are found through networking. So if you were wondering if it’s important, it is.
Networking takes on many forms, today I’ll outline a few approaches: Passive, Reactive, Proactive, and Group networking.
For those of you that are new to the networking world, it’s best to start out passively. This is letting your inner circle and/or those that you have social relationships with know that you are seeking a new role. Don’t worry about the stigma of looking for work. Unfortunately, today it’s more common than you know.
Example: You’re out walking your dog and you run into your neighbors. You exchange small talk then say:
“You know that I’ve been working at x company for the last 10 years, analyzing sales and market trends. Unfortunately, the competition of one of the major product lines shifted and a number of employees, including me, have been laid off. But, I’m optimistic, this gives me the opportunity to seek out other companies. I love the data analytics work and this is a good time to see what else is out there.”
This has the potential to lead the conversation in a number of ways, here are a couple examples:
Silence, and everyone feeling uncomfortable. If this happens, acknowledge the uncomfortableness and change the subject “Hey, sorry for bringing things down, I’m really doing okay. What did you think of the game on Sunday?”
Your neighbor asks how they can help. Thank them and let them know of some of the industries and/or companies your targeting.
I had a client who was at his son’s baseball game, and another parent asked “what do you do for work?” My client responded with “I’ve been at x company for the last x years as an x, where my major responsibilities were ___. But sadly, I was laid off and am now spending time with my family as I look for my next opportunity.” The two parents got into a conversation about their respective careers; the other parent was an Executive with a company that my client was interested in. My client has been happily employed there for last few years.
Passive networking is also meeting with people who are in your professional network. Those might be people who you are connected to on your Social Media sites, such as LinkedIn, former colleagues, classmates and professors. These networking meetings might also turn into Pro-Active networking meetings (see below). It’s important in these meetings to have your homework done ahead of time – including your Marketing Plan
These meetings are typically pretty casual (depending on the relationship). They might cocsist of getting together for coffee, lunch, etc.. They start out as casual conversation, catching up, etc., then it gets into the “networking” part of the meeting. For example, say you’re meeting with a former colleague who is also seeking new employment. After your “catch up” conversation, start talking about your job search, explaining what type of job you’re looking for, industries you’re interested in and your target companies (feel free to share your marketing plan). Ask if they have any connections, or suggestions of other companies to consider. The job search goal of a networking meeting is to get names of people in those organizations that you are targeting and ultimately, an introduction. Always end a networking meeting by asking how you can help the person you’re meeting with.
Reactive networking is what I find is most common, it’s effective and necessary, but shouldn’t be your main source of networking.
Reactive networking is where you find a job posting through any of the various job boards, you search your network to see who you know at that company and A.) Let them know you’re interested in the job and ask them to put a good word in for you, or, B.) Ask this person for a meeting to learn more about the job, company and ask them to put a good work in for you.
You should also do your homework before reaching out. Why are you interested in this company and position (is it on your target list – if not, why?) Practice your intro speech, or what you bring to the table speech. My professional colleague Marnie Hockenberg published a post “Are People Changing Channels on Your 60 Second Commercial?” that nicely explains the structure of your intro speech.
While Reactive networking is a good way to get an internal referral for a specific position, it’s just that “reactive”. What you don’t know is if the company already has their top candidate and is posting the posting the position as a formality.
Proactive networking is the best way to become the top candidate before a position is even posted. You really don’t have internal knowledge of an organization. Are they adding to headcount? Is someone leaving? Are they adding a new business or product line? Is there a new strategic initiative? Being a pro-active networker is knowing the industries that you are interested in and the companies you have targeted. Then finding people in those organizations and getting in front of them to share how you can solve their business problem. (Companies don’t hire people because they are nice, they hire people because they have business problems that need solving.)
Several years ago, when I was in a job search, I was interested in working for a Fortune 100 company that was a short distance from my home. I had a good friend in my “inner circle” who was an Administrative Assistant, she introduced me to her manager (neither were people who could hire me). Her manager referred me to the HR Business Partner for their particular department, who introduced me to the head of HR. The head of HR then referred me to a VP of HR who had a position that would becoming available in the near future.
I also have a client who was introduced through a friend to a VP of a company that she is targeting. She met with the VP, who told my client that she wants to hire her, but doesn’t have approved headcount until after the first of the year, but since they’ve met she (the VP) would try to get the approved headcount moved to Q4.
The above examples show how proactive networking works to make you the top candidate for opportunities that are not known to the general public.
Group networking can take on many forms. Industry specific professional organizations, Profession specific organizations, self-development organizations, etc.
I call these networking events “working the room” and are good for getting your name out and building your network.
For these meetings, I recommend to have business cards made – your business cards should have the same information that is included in the header of your resume. And have your intro speech down pat.
With this type of networking, introduce yourself to random people, if you find that you might be able to help one another, then continue the conversation. If not, politely move on. Provide people you meet your business card, tell them your intro speech and see where the conversation goes.
I recommend that after the group networking meeting, invite those that you’d like to join your LinkedIn network, and instead of sending the standard invitation, add your own comment, something like “I enjoyed meeting you at the xx meeting last night, and I’d like to add you to my professional network.” If you met someone that is in an industry or company that you are interested in, invite them for coffee or lunch, and start the “pro-active” networking.
NOTE: Networking should never stop once you’ve found your next position. Building your network takes time and it should be continuously nurtured, so when and if you find yourself looking for work again, you don’t have to start from scratch.