Networking in a job search is critical. Often people don’t do it because they think they have to know hiring managers in their field in order for it to be productive. Not True!
It’s not who YOU know. It’s who you know, knows, and who THEY know!
Many people may think of their grandmother as a poor job networking contact. However, you may not know who her neighbors are, or who she knows at her church, or seniors club. You may not know which of her friends has a son or daughter in a hiring role. And more importantly, you don’t know who any of those people know.
Your job in your job search is to follow the trail of one referral to the next, and the next, and the next until you get to the one with the right opportunity for you.
In a Job Search Skills class I lead, I had one participant that found his job opportunity through an 85 year old grandmother at his church. She overheard him talking to someone else about his job search, and asked him what kind of job he was looking for. He told her he was an IT Director and she asked him what that was. He impatiently explained it to her, wondering how this person could possibly help. After he finished explaining his role, she told him to give her his phone number. He did and they left. The next day he received a call from her son who owned a mid-size company and needed a new IT Director! Who does your Grandma know???
Here are some tips to help you begin networking effectively:
~ Create a list of EVERYONE you know. One study showed that the average person knows nearly 300 people. Who do you know. Write out a list. Create headings of different ways and venues you may know people. Perhaps headings like: Family; Church; Service Providers; Kids sports; Health Club; All previous co-workers; Professional Association meetings; Friends; etc.
Don’t exclude ANYONE. Even if you assume they don’t know anyone relevant for you, you never know who the people they do know, know.
~ Gather all the contact information you can for each of them. This may take some time and effort. You may need to go through old notes, phone books, or online resources. WhitePages.com, LinkedIn, and Google may be good ways to compile that information. You’ll be much more productive contacting more people if you can make several calls in a row. You won’t be able to do that if you have to look up each persons phone number between each call.
~ Don’t ask if they know of a job! This is one of the biggest networking mistakes most people make in their job search. They ask everyone they talk to whether they know of a relevant job opening. The person may not fully understand your field, or simply nothing comes to mind, and it becomes a very awkward conversation at that point.
Let them know you are looking for a new position, and they will certainly realize that you would be interested in hearing about appropriate opportunities… so don’t ask! You have a different agenda in this call…
~ Ask for “Breadcrumbs”. Your objective from each networking call is to gain 2 or 3 additional names of people to contact. Let them know that directly. Tell them: “My job while I’m in my search is to follow the trail of breadcrumbs from one person to another until I get to one with the right opportunity. So I’m really just hoping you might be able to let me know of a couple other people that you think might be worthwhile for me to talk to. If you were in my situation, who would you connect with?” Then let them answer.
You’ll find the vast majority of people want to help. They just aren’t sure how. If they don’t know of a job, they often can’t think of what else they can offer. This gives them that answer, and most everyone will be able to think of a couple people they would talk to if they had to look for a new position.
~ Give them your contact information! Whether they think of something for you right then and there or not, be sure they have your contact information. They may think of someone else or something more for you 5 minutes or 5 weeks later. If they don’t know how to reach you, that lead is lost. Send them an email, give them a business card, mail them a note, or whatever works best for that individual. Make sure they know how to get back in touch with any additional helpful information.
~ Contact the referral… it’s a ‘warm’ call! You now have a new name that was referred by someone else that knows you. You can certainly now call them and say: “Bob Smith gave me your name as someone that may be able to point me in the right direction in my job search…”
You ask them for a couple of names that they think would be worthwhile for you to talk to, and it’s a warm call to those next contacts as well. It’s similar to instructions on a shampoo bottle: Wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat; instead it’s: Call, introduce, ask, repeat!
Networking for a new job is not just for those that are ‘connected’. It’s for everyone that’s looking for a job! Build your list and begin!