Networking is at the heart of business development, selling, marketing, raising capital, recruiting, promotional advertising and job hunting. It is all about building and sustaining relationships and friendships: who do you know, who do they know, who do you want to know and who wants to know you, all for mutual benefit.
Networking is considered the most effective way to find a job. ABC reports that 80% of all positions are filled by a referral from a friend of a friend. Networking is simply the process of making new friends and acquaintances by building positive relationships in a mutually advantageous manner, either in person or online. Since at least half of all available positions are never advertised, networking allows you access to the hidden job market. In today’s hiring environment, most people have found their most recent position from a referral or by contacting the hiring manager directly. A referral minimizes the risk of hiring by hiring someone who is known to the organization.
Everyone is capable of networking. Oftentimes, people are uncomfortable contacting others that they don’t know or haven’t met before. This is normal. The thing to remember is that the vast majority of the people you will contact have been in your shoes and have empathy for the process. The market bias is to be helpful if at all possible. You don’t ever have to ask for a job. When making a contact, tell them you are in a job search and describe what you are looking for. Tell them how you are going about it and touch on your strengths. Ask for their advice and opinion on how to proceed, and ask what else you could be doing. Trust that they will offer you referrals if they think they can help you. Always be positive, project confidence, offer to help them in return and be appreciative. Whenever, I am calling a company for the first time, I like to call the VP of Sales and ask them about their business. They are the most open to wide ranging discussions. Ask them about their career, how they got there, what would they do different, what would they recommend for you.
Make a Plan
Who are you going to connect with, or contact and why? What companies would be most interested in your background? What companies would you be most interested in working for? Prepare a target list, but first, start building your network with family, friends, neighbors and people you know socially in the community, volunteer organizations, school affiliations, local sports teams, recreational activities, children’s activities, clubs and social organizations. Be careful to not exclude anyone. The more people who know about your job search, the better. Next, focus on professional relationships: employers, present and past; co-workers, supervisors, competitors, suppliers, customers, professional associations, trade associations, CPA’s, bankers, attorneys and financial services professionals. You will surprise yourself with how many people you have worked with and met over the years. Get organized and keep track of your network.
Use Social Media
The most common social media resources for a job search are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I would strongly recommend keeping your personal contacts on Facebook and your professional contacts separate on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is by far the best resource for job search because companies go there first to identify potential candidates for their openings. On LinkedIn, you want to be found. Join related groups, follow companies on your target list and expand your connections from 500 to 1000 to be most effective. When making a connection, go through their connections and see who you know and send a connection request. Use your email database to send out a mass request. Think of LinkedIn as your on-line rolodex. On Twitter, you must create a following and follow others that are interesting to you and, who are in your target market. Interact with those companies or build a name for yourself with those contacts to improve name recognition and show you care about what they are doing. You can use pen and paper or any number of available contact databases to organize and keep track of your growing network i.e. Outlook, Live Mail, Gmail, Jibber Jabber and others. Post on your social media sites something of interest bi-weekly to stay in front of your growing network.
Building your network is something that you should be doing every day and not just when you need to find a job. As you grow your network, organize it. Track the name of each person. What do you know about each person? What does each person know about you? Start calling or emailing. In addition to online resources, there are networking events, job fairs, conferences and trade shows that you can use to expand your contacts. Meet in person whenever possible. It’s a game of statistics. You only need one job, but you can’t be sure where it will come from. Your network can deliver it to you. Don’t be afraid to call people you haven’t talked to in years. They will be happy to hear from you and help if they can. Remember, most people have been in your shoes and understand what you are trying to accomplish. Be sincere and people will respond. Be patient but persistent.
Now, don’t wait.
Expand your connections continually.
Technology makes it easy to do.
What will you say?
Offer something in return.
Reconnect by staying in touch on a regular basis.
Knock on every door, be inclusive.
Bob Harrington Associates has been in the executive search business for 20 years and can help you find the best people for your business.