Networking to find a job is very effective. It works especially well when you make it easy for your network to help you. Here are some tips to do it for the best results.
1. Start with your “natural network.” You have good friends, former colleagues, current colleagues you trust completely, and family members. These are the first people with whom you can network. They know you, you know them, it’s relatively easy to ask them for help. See below for the help you will request.
Later you will branch out, contacting people you know less well and contacting people two or three degrees of connection away from you. I believe a successful networking meeting is one where you walk away with at least one more person to contact who could help you in your job search.
2. Clarify what you want to do for work in an “intention statement” so you can communicate it easily and quickly to people in conversation and via e-mail. For details about an intention statement, see my blog post of December 14, 2010.
- Use your written intention statement in emails to people, to help them help you.
- Rehearse your intention statement verbally, putting it into colloquial language so it sounds natural yet clear when you are talking to someone.
3. Tell people exactly what you want them to do for you. This insight comes from my background raising tens of millions of dollars through direct mail. If you don’t tell people what you want them to do, they won’t do it. No one is a mind reader. It’s called the “Call to Action” or CTA. Here are the exact words you need to say:
“Would you be willing to introduce me to people you think could give me advice and guidance on my job search?”
- “Introduce me” says you want them to write an e-mail, make a phone call, or cross the hall to pave the way for you to then make contact.
- “Advice and guidance” leaves people off the hook for recommending you for an actual job. That might be awkward and people might say “no” or that they don’t know anyone. You are not asking for a job, you are asking for their wisdom. It appeals to the ego, too – who doesn’t like giving advice and guidance?
A variant of this is “would you be willing to introduce me to that person?” when they suggest a specific name
If they are not willing to introduce you, then ask if you can use their name in the email you plan to send. If they’re not willing to do that either, then you will be making a “cold call” and will have to build in a lot of flattery to your request.
4. Ask for 20 minutes of someone’s time, preferably in person, to get their advice and guidance on your job search.
- 20 minutes is long enough to be serious, yet not so long that someone can’t spare it. Stick to the 20 minutes unless the other person insists. Show you care about them and their time.
- Ask for an in-person meeting so you can impress them with your demeanor, appearance, and intelligence. Personal connections get people more invested in helping you, when you make a good first impression.
5. Complete your resume well before you start networking. Every networking request must be accompanied by or followed up with a resume that represents you as completely capable and qualified for the work you want to do.
- Attach to e-mail requests for advice and guidance.
- Send it to your friends with your intention statement.
- Bring an extra copy of it to your in-person meeting.
- Have it ready to send at a moment’s notice when someone suggests you contact so-and-so.
If you don’t have a great resume before you start networking, you may blow an opportunity because you take too long to contact someone.
Last word: Ask for help, not for a job. People rarely have jobs. Friends rarely hire friends. People hate being put on the spot. And you are looking for your “right fit” job, not just any job.