So, you want to find a new and exciting job, but where will you find it?
According to multiple sources, 70 – 85% of the time, people find their next role from networking. Whatever the correct number is, it is a pretty compelling reason for putting a lot of effort into this route.
But what actually is networking? Well, it is not about reaching out to somebody and aggressively selling yourself, which can be a temptation (best resisted), it’s about building relationships with existing and new contacts and mutually helping each other.
When I was looking for a career change some time ago, through trial and error and the excellent support from a coach, I learnt a number of key success factors.
Here are some tips I hope you find useful that I thought I would pass on.
1. Carefully target
Make a list of all your contacts, they will probably be far more than you may first think. LinkedIn has a great tool for this whereby you can download all your contacts on the platform onto a spreadsheet https://www.linkedin.com/people/export-settings. Also check your phone contact list. Rank your contacts into three levels of priority based upon your views of how well they are connected and their degree of influence. Adjust this as you learn more through the process.
2. Polish your LinkedIn profile and your CV
Your potential contact may well “check you out” on Linked In before agreeing to any meeting so it could well be their first impression of you, and as we know, first impressions count. It’s also very useful source for you to learn a bit more about the person you want to connect with. The following gives some useful tips: https://business.linkedin.com/en-uk/marketing-solutions/blog/posts/content-marketing/2017/17-steps-to-a-better-LinkedIn-profile-in-2017
3. Do your homework
Look into the background of the person and the organisation you are going to meet. What do you have in common? Who do you have in common? The answers to these questions can be very useful early in the conversation to make a connection. What can you learn about the organisational challenges? What is happening in the economy and society that could impact them?
Make the initial connection
4. Keep it light
Start with people you know and give them a call (always better than e-mail). Could you meet for a “coffee” (real or more likely virtually nowadays) for a catch up. This not only keeps it light, it implies it will not take too much of the person’s time, 30 min max. Get a date and time. If you do not know the person well, or at all, you might ask if they could spare 20 – 30 mins maximum to get their advice. This is often a useful “opener” when you have been refereed on by someone.
5. The Golden Rule
Never, ever, ask the person you are networking with for a job. This will probably not only negatively impact the immediate conversation, it can sour the long-term relationship, and will likely cut down future connections. It can sound desperate.
If they know from your conversation what you are looking for, and if they know of anything in their organisation that they think might be suitable, and if they are willing to recommend you, they will put two and two together.
6. Success from the conversation is getting 2-3 great new relevant contacts
The absolute key objective from your networking conversation is to get 2 or 3 great contacts that the person you are networking with thinks could potentially help you in your search. Make sure you ask them for this.
The measure of success from the conversation is not “did I find a vacancy to apply for”, that will come in time when opportunities arise and they recall your discussion.
Your contact might provide you with referrals that focus on head-hunters. While these should be gratefully received, encourage your contact to think of people in position as this is your primary goal. For example, who do they know in your target companies? Also ask them if they could introduce you to their contact as this will considerably increase the chances of the next connection.
7. Focus on the relationship
The conversation should not all be about you. It’s more about mutually helping each other. Be curious about their challenges, think about how you can help them. This creates a positive atmosphere that will help the conversation. It also takes the pressure off both parties as it is more equal. And keep the tone relaxed, while covering the things you want to discuss.
8. Be clear what you are looking for
If you are not clear what you are looking for, nor will your networking contact. What function, size of organisation, sectors are you targeting? Define it not so tight that you shut down thinking, or so broad that you project a lack of clarity.
If your contact cannot easily suggest some great contacts, mention some organisations that you would be especially interested in to stimulate their thinking. It does not matter if the refereed contact is not in the “right position” (great if they are), because they may well know who best to contact so you are only one step away.
9. Be prepared for the question, what are you doing now?
It’s a natural question, but it can also be a tricky one. “Just” looking for a job is not really the answer. Show your energy, your imagination, your added value, your continued growth. For example, taking on some consultancy, volunteering for charities, studying for “X”, writing an article for publication “Y”, etc. Keep it short and confident.
10. Ask for advice
Most people like to be asked for their advice, its quite flattering. It also helps the conversation and can be very insightful. When you receive it, don’t critique it, but receive with thanks, it’s a gift to you. Reflect upon it later, it might be invaluable.
11. Offer help (genuinely)
As mentioned before, networking works best when it’s a mutual exchange. Be politely curious, what are their challenges? Who do you know who might be a good contact for them and what do you know you can pass on that would be useful to them?
Stay in touch
12. Be thankful and keep in mind
After the meeting send them a short note (not an essay, they are likely to be busy) on any key points that came out from the meeting. Thank them for any connections. Include any relevant “gifts” you might have, for example a useful piece of reading on an issue they are wrestling with, an introduction to someone who might be able to help if they requested it.
Keep in contact over time but do not pester. Maybe after a couple of months send them a relevant useful article or another way of adding value. As well as helping them it will provide a nudge to keep you in mind.
13. Getting a job, is a job
When you are in full time “regular” work you will most likely follow a pattern of work hours etc. It is advantageous to create another regular pattern during your search. Set X amount of time per day to focus on networking activity and be quite disciplined. Factor in breaks and other activities to keep the mind and body fresh.
While extroverts often gain energy from conversations, many introverts can find it energy demanding, so factor that into your routine so it works for you. Ensure you keep your energy levels up so you can show your best alert self in any conversation.
14. Be patient
It takes time to have quality conversations, for connections to be made, and for meetings to be arranged.
15. It’s a numbers game
You may find a wonderful opportunity from the first few conversations, it can happen. More often it is after a series of conversations and referrals.
Target the number of conservations you want in a week and after each one take some time to reflect upon what went well, what did you learn, how can the next conversation be even better?
You will find your next role but be kind to yourself in the interim if it takes a bit of time, it usually does, and the reward of the new opportunity can be great.
16. Keep smiling
People pick up on positive energy. It immediately helps the conversation, even on the phone!
Good luck, because luck can also play a part, although to adapt a well-known quote, the harder you network, the luckier you will become!
Want to learn more? Contact Alan:
Call Oliver on +44 (0)7920 151955