I had the amazing opportunity to help a former employee from City Harvest, who is now looking for a food service operations job. He has so many skills and abilities, and now has the marketing materials to let others know about them – resume and stories about accomplishments.

Now his task is to get his information in front of the right people. He wants something very specific, and there simply are not many job postings for his specialty (university food service operations). In other words, it’s time for NETWORKING! Here’s some of what I recommended:

There is what I just heard called the retail approach to job search.” In this approach, you are looking for a fluke opportunity. Identify companies for which you want to work. Find the name of someone fairly high in the company, preferably someone in an operations slot. While HR can be helpful, it’s not my recommended first stop. If an operations leader wants to hire someone, HR will make it happen. If HR wants someone hired, it could happen but it probably won’t be a very happy supervisory relationship – unless HR is an amazingly loved entity (rare indeed!).

Then draft a letter and introduce yourself to that person. Follow up with an e-mail or call to say “I hope you got my materials” and keep periodically following up, because those positions are fluke positions. The point is to be somewhat known if and when a specific job opens up. Of course, it’s MUCH better if you can say “so and so suggested I introduce myself to you.” The person may be predisposed to talk to you.

Thus, that’s the second thing to identify: who do you know, who do you remember.
For example, you started thinking about your old boss. What about past vendors? Food donors from City Harvest food donors. Other old bosses? Those are the people to whom you say, “I’d appreciate your advice and guidance in my job-search. Where could I go, what kind of jobs do you think would be good for me?”

You’re not asking them for a job, you’re asking them for advice and guidance. That’s easy for someone to give; who doesn’t want to give advice?

Put together your natural network. Who are the people you know who would help you immediately? Identify the easy ones first. Then you make concentric rings outward, with the next group being people who might be a little more difficult to reach out, who require a little more courage and preparation. Write them an e-mail that says “I’m writing to you to ask for your advice and guidance in my job-search. I’m looking for blah, blah, blah. I’m hoping you can give me 20 minutes of your time. I’ll come to you.” Go to them if at all possible, because in person is better. And then you must say “if I don’t hear back from you, I will call you in a couple days to set something up.”

It’s very rare for people not to respond, so if they don’t get back to you, they’re probably on vacation or very busy. Simply e-mail them again.

The third thing you can do is ask people at the big food service companies for an informational interview. You say “I want to branch out of the side of the food service business that I’ve been in and learn more about what they do.” They may not be hiring. You’ll get into their presence & consciousness, though, and you’ll be ‘top of mind’ when/if a job comes up.

Very important: reach out to the muckety-mucks. I can tell you that the bigger they are, the more likely they are to help somebody who has the chutzpah to get in touch with them. I always helped people who got in touch with me, simply because they did. It was impressive. Plus the bigger people are, the more one’s ego likes to hear “I’d like your advice and guidance.”

Talking to a lot of people will help you narrow down what you want to do. Part of the process of networking is gathering more information. You have some ideas but you don’t know enough yet to narrow it your intention very specifically. You know what skills you want to use which is good.

Because your basic question is “Where can I use these skills?,” you will benefit from informational interviews with people who can help you direct those skills. “I’m looking for an opportunity where I can use XYZ skills in an environment where they are growing, that’s entrepreneurial. I am very interested in contract food service, catering, special events.” You want to give people a little bit of flavor of where you want to work so they can start thinking of people they know, “I know somebody at so-and-so and I know somebody here and I know somebody there you should talk to.”

Find some reason, piece of news or hook with which to open your communication. For example, you could say “I see so-and-so is no longer there. Hope everything is working out for you. I’d love to come by and just get your feedback on my resume, as I’m looking. I’m not asking for a job, simply your feedback and guidance.”

People like it when you’re not asking them for job; it makes them feel free and you’re not putting them on the spot. Obviously, it would be great if you got a job, but that’s not the reason you want to make connection. You want to reconnect in order to get feedback on the resume that you have now. And you want to talk a little bit about ideas you have about branching out and expanding, and to talk about the skills that you want to use. Part of what you want to do with these people is remind them what you can do so they’ll feel comfortable referring you on to other people.

Go after both food service and non-profit. If you don’t know exactly what your “right fit job” is, go after everything. The right fit will come to you.

In other words, do everything. Leave no stone unturned. I know that the more actions you take, the quicker you get to where you want to be.