Very often, I talk with job seekers who are frustrated at the lack of results from their attempts at networking. As I ask them some questions about the conversations they have, it becomes apparent what the problem has been…
They never get to any specifics!
They state in very broad terms what it is they are looking for, and they rarely have any particular requests from the person they are networking with.
As a result, they often get irritated or angry with their contacts because they "never hear anything".
Great networking takes a great attitude and preparation. Here are some observations…
Attitude really matters! Your own expectation, or lack thereof, comes across clearly when your talk to others. If you are cynical, with no anticipation of results from your conversations, it will come across in your voice, in your posture, and in the words you choose. People like talking to, and helping positive people! And no one enjoys talking to a grouch, or someone that seems defeated before they even start… and they're certainly not going to refer someone like that to others they know! Examine and adjust your attitude before you ever make a call!
Presentation matters! Job seekers generally give to little thought to how they come across in their networking conversations. Listen to yourself! Do you sound professional, energetic, upbeat, cheerful, and concise? Or do you sound down, inappropriately casual, cynical, and overly verbose? How would you respond if someone that sounded like you called you for contacts or leads?
Know your audience! Any time you talk to someone about your job search, you should have at least some idea of what you might expect from them. Tailor your conversation accordingly! If you are talking to someone in your field, you should be able to talk to them in more detail about your experience and what you are targeting. They will more likely understand what you do and what you are seeking and be able to refer you to more highly focused contacts, ideas, or leads. However, if you are speaking with someone that may not have a great understanding of your field or industry, you will have to describe what you are looking for in simpler terms. You will be seeking a broader range of contacts that might be one step closer to someone you really want, but not necessarily the direct person themselves. If you are targeting a Network Engineering position, an Accountant at a company you are targeting is still a good contact that can then refer you to someone in the IT department and give you more information about the company. Don't network with a "one size fits all" Elevator Speech. Adapt based on who you're talking to!
Focus! Very often, people falsely assume that by giving multiple targets it will produce more referrals. Usually the opposite is true. Without a clear focus, people are less likely to be able to think of an appropriate additional contact or idea for you, assume you don't really know what you want, and are less willing to refer you to someone in the fear that you will be wishy-washy with them as well. The more you can concisely describe a specific type of position you are seeking, they take you more seriously, it narrows their thinking to people that are more likely good connections for you, and they feel more confident about referring you to other people they know because you come across more professionally.
'Ya Gotta Ask! Stating your background and your target with out following up with a question rarely produces results. You have to ask a question at the end to get them to offer something in return. Always follow up your Elevator Speech with questions like:
- Who else do you know that might be worthwhile for me to talk to?
- Who do you know that works at ABC Company, or XYZ Corporation?
- Who else do you know that works in my field?
- If you were in my situation, who are the first couple of people you would reach out to?
Those questions and others will much more likely give you additional connections that can get you one step closer to the job you are pursuing. Without asking, your conversation was a pleasant conversation, but without fruitful results.
The next time you are networking for your job search… check your attitude, be prepared, get specific, and ask!