In a previous article, How to Create a Job Search Strategy, I wrote about the importance of having a documented, forward focused job search strategy to minimize the stress and duration of your search. This companion article will highlight the mechanics of how to most effectively use your strategy.
We have all heard that networking is the key to a successful job search and that there is a high probability that your next opportunity will come from someone you have not yet met. Research indicates that successful candidates spend between 80%-90% of their job search time networking. Assuming that your current job is to find a job, that translates into approximately 32-36 hours per week. How many of you are spending that much time every week networking? Seems almost impossible doesn’t it? Well it’s not. In fact, once you do the math, it’s relatively easy… assuming you are willing to expend the required amount of positive energy. I will show you the math in a moment.
So, where do you network and with whom? The short answer is everywhere and with everyone. It is critical to get the word out that you are looking for a new role and to restrict your networking to only those that are employed or in your profession will significantly reduce your networking opportunities. Think about it, if you are a marketing professional you have partnered with folks in IT, Finance, HR and many other functional areas within a corporate environment, so why would you exclude those functional areas from your networking plan? This logic applies no matter what your role is. There is value in meeting with others outside of your industry and profession, so I recommend that you throw a wide networking net.
How do you find group networking opportunities? A simple Google search will work, as well as contacting any professional or alumni organizations that you belong to. You can also identify networking groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites. And for those of you in the NY, NJ, CT, and Eastern PA area a list of all networking events has already been compiled and is available to you at landingexpert.com in PDF format.
I suggest that you identify five or six groups in your area and put them on your schedule. There are meetings scheduled throughout the week, day or night, so this should be relatively easy to do.
Now, let’s go back to the math. If you attend five meetings a week with the objective of meeting at least five people at each of the meetings, you will average approximately 35 hours a week networking. Here’s how. Each group networking meeting is usually two hours in duration. If you schedule separate one hour discussions (30 minutes for your agenda and 30 minutes for your contacts agenda) with five people from each group meeting you will reach the 32-36 hour objective (2 hours (per group meeting) + 5 hours (from individual meetings) = 7 hours generated from each group meeting x 5 group meetings per week = 35 hours). Give it a try. You don’t need to get there over night but the sooner you do the better.
Now, back to your crisp one-page strategy document. When you schedule discussions with five people from each of the five group networking meetings your strategy document will be the agenda for your 30 minute portion of the discussion.
Here’s a tip. Practice in a structured way with family and friends to hone your message both in language and tone before scheduling discussions with your professional network. This way, if you slip up or stumble over some words there is no negative impact.
And one last note, these discussions can be face-to-face, on the phone or over Skype. All can be effective.
Here’s how I suggest that you request, schedule, and prepare for these discussions:
- Reach out to your contacts and ask for 20-30 minutes of their time and offer them 20-30 minutes of your time. Explain that your reason for the discussion is to build your network and to establish connections inside some target companies whether or not there are any current openings. Then ask them what you can help them with.
- Let your contact know that you will send your strategy document to them via email the day before your discussion and ask them to spend five minutes reviewing it before the discussion. Offer to do the same for them.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask in order to direct the conversation to your objectives.
Here’s another tip. If you are meeting face-to-face bring two copies of your strategy with you in case your contact doesn’t bring theirs. If you are meeting on the phone or via Skype ask if they have your strategy in front of them. If not send them another via email.
The following is my suggested format for these discussions, including the practice discussions.
- Spend a few minutes reconnecting with your contact. Try not to be too abrupt by jumping right into your objectives for the call. Remember, networking is all about creating and maintaining relationships.
- Spend five minutes or so highlighting your objective and positioning statement so your contact understands the type of position you are looking for.
- Spend five minutes or so reviewing the remaining content of your plan while primarily focusing on your target employer list.
- While reviewing your target employer list ask the questions that you prepared prior to the meeting. In addition you might want to use these questions as well.
- Can you think of any other employers that should be on my list?
- Can you introduce me to anyone within my target employers?
- Will you introduce me to one or two people in your network that I can have a similar discussion with?
- Can I circle back with you periodically to share my progress and any changes I have made to my strategy?
- How can I help you now or in the future?
While in these discussions keep a close eye on the clock. Since you requested 20-30 minutes of their time it is your responsibility to make sure you do not run over that time.
At the close of the discussion thank your contact for their time and insights as well as any referrals they provided. Tell your contact that you will update them on the discussions with their referrals upon completion of those discussions.
Networking is basically a numbers game. The more discussions you have with people you know the greater the opportunity to meet those you have not yet met. And odds are this is where your next opportunity will come from.
Good luck. I hope this helps.