Monday, July 26, 2004
Some notes on Networking
Getting an Employer's Attention
By Debra Feldman, the JobWhiz
Your Executive Ascent - Personally Delivered. Swift, Discreet, Guaranteed.
A new job is not going to find you. If it hasn't found you in the past, it probaly isn't going to in the future, either. It is going to take some logical planning and precise execution to produce new opportunities where you want them and with those you think will further your career. Getting started is by far the most difficult part of any job search. The good news is that you have a golden opportunity to accelerate your job search progress today by leveraging your recent networking experiences (virtual contacts as well as live connections).
The first step is to define the goals for your search campaign: where you want to live and work, what kinds of assignments you prefer, what you'd like to learn, what your next job after this one might be and what you need to learn or achieve in your career to make this possible, your bottom line on key variables like salary, benefits, hours, travel, etc. Then draw up a very specific list naming people whom you recently interacted with and those you would like to contact. Next, get on the stick making appointments, telephone calls and scheduling other opportunities to deepen or establish your relationship with these connections. Don't wait for a job to find you, follow the steps recommended below, to propel yourself towards a new job offer as swiftly as possible on the career path you design.
You want to market yourself making your talents known to more potential employers by connecting with individuals who will appreciate your value. You need to prepare a succinct, persuasive message that unquestionably shows that you have the right stuff. How? By providing enough detail to demonstrate your savviness and enough insights for them to want to know more.
Don't confuse a potential employer by covering the gamut of issues that may interest them. Rather choose one or two where you can demonstrate your solid expertise to get them intrigued and then expand on these topics only after you have a good rapport established. It is easier for people to be impressed if you just focus on what you can do for them than if you bring up too many subjects. You want to leave them with the impression that you could be their go-to person for something special. In general, specialists get more respect than generalists and command a higher salary as well. If you try to be everything to everyone, you may end up being nothing to anyone. Focus is one of the key ingredients for success in today's job market.
Begin by assembling the names and contact information of those that might be good networking connections and then religiously follow up on your holiday meeting or e-mail exchange. If you didn't get to see or speak to someone you had hoped to run into on the holiday circuit or if there are others that you missed sending a note to, use this occasion to get in touch now.
Network Purposefully™ with specifically targeted individuals who have good connections and who are most likely to be able to accelerate your career to the next level.
Who should you contact? Answer this by describing your focus. Review new and renewed contacts made in the past couple of months and identify individuals whom you admire, who are affiliated with companies you'd like to work for, or who know others that you would like to speak with about opportunities. Prioritize this list of contacts so that you can focus your efforts where they are most likely to produce the best results. Rank names by how likely they are to be both accessible and helpful as well as how well connected they are to those who need to know you. Make a commitment to yourself to attempt contact with a minimum of two to four individuals every business day and to stay with this until you have enlarged your network and feel confident that you will be apprised of leads early, before a job is officially announced so that you gain the competitive advantage afforded to those with inside connections. Follow the same steps to reconnect with individuals who you missed during the holidays that are solid prospective networking connections to new opportunities.
What is the purpose of your call? That's sometimes a little tricky. Few of us are comfortable tooting our own horn or asking directly for help. You can improve your networking results by focusing on meeting the contact's needs and gaining their appreciation before bringing up anything about obtaining a targeted introduction or tips about future openings. Before making that initial phone call to a contact, do some Web searching to identify challenges in their organization where you have expertise. Set up a news alert to keep you automatically updated with developments. Offer to share your knowledge which then provides a chance to clearly demonstrate to hiring managers what you offer as a prospective member of their team. Is this a bold strategy? Yes. Is it effective? Yes.
What should you say? Use the research you've gathered to focus the conversation on the contact's needs. You are networking to share information and ideas, to help each other. You are not the one looking for assistance, but want to offer advice and resources. Networking is a two-way street. You should always be on the giving end if you want to grow your connections and be someone that others seek out. By positioning yourself as a generous networker, you get to learn of opportunities that are likely to become new career opportunities without having to actually ask about openings and avoiding the unpleasantness of feeling like a beggar.
How frequently should you try to connect?Before leaving a message, you should call several times at different points in the day, since people have hectic schedules and are usually difficult to reach. Only leave a message once every five days or so and be sure to leave your contact information even if you are sure they have it already. This calling pattern demonstrates that you seriously want to speak to them, are persistent and are respecting their choice to initiate a call to you at their convenience.
When should you call? If you don't want to go through someone's administrative assistant or would prefer to catch them live instead of leaving a voice mail, you have a few options. You can try calling early before the general business day gets started or try reaching them late into the evening when they may not be in a meeting or traveling. If you can obtain their direct dial number, this is preferable to going through the switchboard. You may have to initially make a call just to get the extension from a directory or operator and then keep trying to get through or leave a message. Yes, it is a drag, but you will be successful using this technique if you follow up and are patient.
Getting past the gatekeepers. There is not one surefire way, but try varying your practice among a few of these: ingratiate the gatekeeper as a support for your diligent efforts; ask them to pass an e-mail along that you send to the assistant's inbox; make small talk with the assistant so that they develop a sense of relationship and care about helping you reach your goal. This is better than having the assistant keeping you out of their boss's way. Enlist the assistant's help in arranging a telephone appointment time or suggesting when you might catch your contact on their cell phone or at their desk between meetings or ask them if they would get feedback about your inquiry for you so you don't have to bother their boss. For automated systems, it gets a little dicey since they aren't human so the sympathy factor is eliminated from your repertoire. You can use the company phone directory or call a departmental number that will ring to a live person and ask them to help you reach your contact. You might try getting through via customer service or another manned department. If all else fails, call a client or associate of your contact at another company and ask them for the direct dial information or email address you need.
If you haven't had luck making contact with someone in the past, that doesn't necessarily mean that they would reject you now. One thing is guaranteed and that is change, change in circumstances, change in attitude, and change in needs!
Remember that it's quality interacting, not the quantity of exchanges, that makes for the kind of impression that might generate a recommendation. You want people to like you as a person, trust you, want to help further your career and feel comfortable referring you to their contacts. It may take several calls or meetings until the other person fully appreciates your value and offers a suggestion that can help you network. You want others to sense that you are genuine and would gladly return the favor, that they aren't being used. It takes investing yourself in a relationship so that the other person truly understands what your strengths are and what you'd like to do in your next job.
Just for the next position, but a long term strategy connecting to others in your field. People who also come to you for information or assistance will naturally provide leads to new opportunities as you continue to share ideas and resources. Share your list of individuals you want to know with your contacts and ask if they know anyone you have targeted and if they are willing to help you connect with them. By designing your networking strategy correctly and planning how to use your contacts, you join the ranks of purposeful networkers. Each interaction counts, accelerating you, the candidate, toward personalized connections that ultimately produce job leads.
Copyright, Debra Feldman, 2005