Eight Networking Tips for Job Seekers
By Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, MFRW, MFRW/T
A lot of people—particularly introverts and the shy—would be extremely grateful if every single job were advertised and posted in one spot, on one designated website; that way, the whole networking process could be bypassed. But that simply isn’t the way it works for the modern job seeker.
The truth is, the best way to find jobs that aren’t advertised is to network. There are many ways you can network; below are a few tips to get you started, as well as strategies for success.
1. Brainstorm for Contacts
Think of everyone who could possibly serve as a contact. Don’t limit yourself to people who could clearly help you out; friendly, accessible people in unrelated fields often have contacts they would be happy to share with you. Also, people who—through either work or volunteer activities—have contact with a diverse crowd can be extremely helpful. To get you started with your list, here are some suggestions:
|Family friends||Local politicians|
|Former employees||Your hairdresser|
|Former co-workers||Prominent community members|
|Public relations officials||Members of professional organizations|
2. Tried-and-True Places to Network—Where the Contacts Are
|Local alumni association||Conventions|
|Class reunions||Club meetings|
|Cocktail parties||Internet listservs|
|Business conferences||Continuing education classes|
3. Be Prepared
Networking is a little like planning a political campaign. While it’s essential that you are honest and relaxed, you should not simply “wing it.” Just as politicians think about what they tactically need to accomplish, convey, and gain when they make an appearance or give a speech, you should approach networking opportunities with a game plan. Before you confidently and charmingly glide into a business conference room, a dinner party, or group event, do your homework. Find out who will be there, or do your best to list whom you think will probably be present. Then, decide whom you would most like to meet. Finally, think critically about what your goals are for your networking function. What information do you want to walk away with? What do you want to convey to the people you meet? But, as is always true, it’s important to be flexible and to perceive opportunities you didn’t plan to confront.
4. There Are No Boundaries in Networking
Informational meetings, business conferences, college reunions, and parties are all obvious networking opportunities. However, the reality is that invaluable contacts and enviable opportunities often surprise us. Good networkers are flexible people who approach connection making as a fluid enterprise that extends far beyond hotel conference room walls. You never know who will step onto the adjacent elliptical trainer at the gym; who will be parked behind you in a grocery store line; who will sit next to you on an airplane. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. While it may have been sheer luck that you bumped into an affable CEO, your savvy approach to networking can turn a banal exchange into a pivotal moment in your career path. Always be ready to make a contact and exchange business cards. Additionally, your new contact may be able to give you relevant names of his or her friends and colleagues.
5. Follow Up
After you meet with a contact, it is absolutely essential to write a thank-you note, if the situation deems appropriate. Advise your contact how much he/she helped you, and refer to particularly helpful, specific advice. Everyone—even the most high-level executive—likes to feel appreciated. Keep in touch with your contacts via email, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter. This way, they may think of you if an opportunity comes up, and they will also be forthcoming with new advice. It’s important to stay on their radar screens without being imposing or invasive.
6. What Goes Around Comes Around
If you want to be treated with respect, treat others with respect. If you want your phone calls and emails returned, call and write back to the people who contact you. If you want executives to make time for you, make yourself available to others whom you might be able to help out.
The higher up you climb in the professional world, the more you’ll find that everyone knows everyone else. Thus, if you’re impolite, curt, condescending, or disposed to burning bridges, you’ll cultivate a reputation that will serve as a constant obstacle. Remember, the people who seem “little” or unimportant now will one day be running companies and making decisions. If you treated them with kindness and respect when they were “green,” they’ll remember and return the favor later.
7. Make It Easy for Your Contacts
When you call, meet with, or write to a potential contact, make it as easy as possible for them to help you. Explain what you specifically want, and ask detail-oriented questions.
Be sure to avoid making general demands, such as, “Do you know of any jobs that would be good for me?” This sort of question is overwhelming, and it puts an undue burden on your contact.
8. Stay Organized
Keep a record of your networking. It’s important to keep track of your contacts. List contact names, addresses, phone numbers, companies, job titles, how you met them, and subsequent conversations you’ve had with them.
Networking is extremely important for discovering those “golden-nugget” positions that you know are out there, but are not published. Just when you think you’ve tried everything to land your next job, keep trying, and keep networking.
Barbara Adams is the President and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG). For more than 20 years, Barbara has grown CPG into one of the largest federal, military transition and private sector resume and career coaching companies by keeping her finger on the pulse of continuously changing federal hiring trends. She has cultivated a niche market in the preparation of job-winning Senior Executive Service (SES) applications. Barbara is the co-author of Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service (to be released in June 2011), author and administrator of the Certified Military Resume Writer (CMRW) and Master Federal Career Coach (MFCC) credentials. Barbara and her team of senior certified writers have assisted clients through the complex SES application process with the development of more than 2,400 SES applications.