Have you ever started an exercise or diet program, then stopped after a little while- maybe you got sick for a week, or went on vacation, and never got back in the habit?
I’m finding that clients these days are starting the networking process, meeting or talking with a few people at first, then letting their efforts peter out over time. Then, they think, “I know I SHOULD be networking, but I tried it and I didn’t get anywhere, so I’m not sure what else to do.” As your tough love job coach, that’s kind of like exercising for a week and saying you didn’t see any results.
You have to CONSISTENTLY network, each week, each month. You have to dig deep, be disciplined about the process, and create good networking habits. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the incredible helpfulness and generosity I’m seeing in the job market these days.
How can you be consistent about networking?
1) List out your personal and professional contacts. Make it as long as you can. Then keep making it longer. There HAVE to be coworkers you can connect with, college friends, neighbors, etc. If you don’t have too many personal contacts, join groups, even if they are neighborhood associations or industry/trade groups.
2) Join groups on LinkedIn, and make sure your LinkedIn profile is clear, easy to read, and targeted toward your ideal industry and role.
3) Email your contacts (you can call if that’s easier for you) and see if you can set up a 15-20 minute conversation. Don’t ask them for a job, or if they’ve heard of any jobs. Instead, ask for their guidance on the industry, and ask if there’s anyone else they know that you should be connecting to.
4) Keep track of the people you’ve spoken to so far. You’ll find that there will be one or two people who will provide the majority of your leads. These people are worth their weight in gold- make sure you’re appreciative, and that you don’t take up too much of their time.
5) Tell everyone about your job search. That means everyone- your cousin, your dentist, the people who come to your garage sale… really, anyone who’s next to you for more than 10 minutes at a time. Don’t be pushy about it, but if they ask how things are going, feel free to say you’re in a job search, and then when they ask what field you’re in, be concise. If they know of anyone who can help, they’ll tell you. You’d be amazed the number of people who have told me that a seemingly random person in their network has a son, brother-in-law, or niece in the field who’s been a valuable source of information. (One example: a client was taking an elderly neighbor to the doctor, and given our conversations she made sure she mentioned her search… it turns out the neighbor’s son ran a department that was exactly in my client’s domain, and she had a very informative conversation with the son.)
6) Don’t worry about networking making you seem “desperate”. That only happens if you have a desperate tone when you’re talking… so please, don’t sound desperate. Just tell people what you are looking for, see if they have any good advice for you, thank them and move on to the next person.
7) Finally, follow up with the contacts that networking brings up. Often, a client will say, “I had a great call with so-and-so, but I haven’t yet followed up with his suggestions.” Make it a point to follow up within 24 hours, both with a thank-you note to the person and also with outreach to the people/companies your contact has recommended.
8) Most of all, keep the activity up. Remember, it’s about following through on a daily habit, just like exercise…