You hear it all the time. Networking is the best way to land your next gig.
In this slow job market recovery with more competition for opportunities at the top executive level, networking well is more critical than ever.
The people you meet through networking may be able to help you identify “hidden jobs” at your target companies. That is, unadvertised positions and new opportunities created around your unique promise of value.
Start with the people you already know.
In a post on the Personal Branding Blog, smart-networking expert Liz Lynch said:
“Connect more deeply with more people who are already around you, those involved in the same activities, interested in the same issues, or pursuing the same goals. When you already share a common purpose with someone, the rest of the process of conversation and conversion flow more easily.”
Reconnect with and revive your existing network. If you’re like many executives I talk with, you’ve neglected them because you had a job and didn’t think you needed them or you just lost track of them.
This happens to the best of us. It’s okay to circle back to them. Briefly apologize for not re-connecting sooner.
Start compiling a list of people you want to reconnect with. If you don’t know where they are now, search for them on LinkedIn and ask them to join your LI network. If they’re not there, Google “their name” (in quotes) and find out how to contact them.
Reach out to former clients and vendors, professional associations, community groups and lifestyle groups. Check in with people and find out what they’re up to and update them on what you’ve been doing.
Rely on your existing contacts to expand your network. Ask for their referrals and recommendations to their connections at your target companies.
If you’re several months into a search and already connected with everyone in your circle at the beginning, give it another go.
In her Forbes article, How To Find A Job When You’ve Been Looking Forever, Susan Adams interviewed career coach Eileen Wolkstein, who said:
“You may have been asking unfocused questions when you were at an earlier stage in your search. Since then, you’ve gathered new information and leads and new thoughts about what you want to do.
Be specific in asking for help. Ask them for three good contacts and ask if they’d be willing to talk with those three people on your behalf.
And when asking for help, “If you can’t give a coherent, responsible answer to the question, ‘How can I help you,’ then you don’t have the right to ask for help.”
Cast a far-reaching net to build out your existing network with fresh faces.
Here are some places and ways to connect online and in person:
Search online for people who work at your target companies. Find out where they hang out so you can position yourself in front of them. If they’re on Twitter, follow them, and re-tweet them. If they blog, comment on their blog posts in a way that reinforces your brand and promise of value.
LinkedIn – the gold standard for executive networking. If you’re not there already participating in Groups, providing Answers, and making connections, it’s time to get busy.
Twitter – Search for hiring decision makers and people who work at your target companies, along with executive recruiters, job search experts, and job boards. They’re tweeting job openings, offering advice and resources, and much more. An active Twitter presence also shows you’re an up-to-date, social media-savvy candidate.
Facebook and other social networks. Each one offers its own benefits. Decide how much time you can allot to social networking and which ones will work for you.
Get involved with relevant professional associations. Hobnob with other subject matter experts and thought leaders. Join committees and communicate through their e-lists. Write articles within your areas of expertise for their newsletters and Websites. Mentor a new member and/or less experienced professional. Check out job-hunt.org’s extensive list of professional associations and societies by industry.
Get to know those around you – your co-workers, vendors, customers, and people in other departments.
Connect with more people through Job-Hunt’s local networking and job search support groups and company alumni and military/government “alumni” groups.
Connect on a local level by volunteering. Tap into your areas of expertise to lead and/or participate in community events, PTA efforts, organization Boards of Directors, fundraising efforts, sports activities, etc.
Also, check out — Industry trade shows and conferences, trade publications, and community events.
Need some help with real-life connecting at networking events?
Karen Burns offers 13 ice-breakers for introverts that apply to anyone. Here are few of her ideas:
1. This is my first time here. Who do you think I need to meet?
2. I just got here. Did I miss anything?
3. What do you do?
4. How did you get into (whatever their career is)?
5. Do you like it?
6. Where did you get that (fabulous purse? snazzy tie? cool laptop?)?
7. The freeway was like a parking lot this morning. Did you have trouble getting here too?
Tips to keep your network happy with you:
Keep in mind that, in this anemic job market, people in your network are probably being tapped by more job seeking connections than ever before for advice and leads. Be kind, take it slow, and practice “give to get” networking.
Approach new contacts with the attitude “how can we help each other?” Don’t expect favors without giving something in return. Networking that works for everyone is all about helping, sharing, finding common ground, and being a good listener.
Tone down your introduction. Be sure your personal brand positioning statement – the dreaded “30 second pitch” – doesn’t sound too self-promotional. Make it vibrant, but keep it short and to the point. Practice it many times until it becomes second nature and flows easily.
Be a good listener. People remember those who give them that boost by being truly interested in what they have to say. Good listeners set themselves up for reciprocity in networking. They’re much more inclined to keep engaged listeners top of mind when they hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit for them. More on how to be a good listener in my post, Do You Have a Good Ear for Networking?
Nurture relationships by staying in touch. Call just to say hello, with no hidden agenda. Send birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards by regular mail. Email them with links to blog posts and articles you know they’ll like. Let them know about upcoming industry events, trade shows and other events of interest. Follow them on Twitter and support them by re-tweeting their tweets.
Be friendly and upbeat. Nobody likes a downer who constantly complains about how bad things are out there.
And some other thoughts:
- Stay top of mind with your connections by following up regularly.
- Keep track of key new contacts, collect business cards, and jot down pertinent notes immediately afterward to help you frame what you want to say to the people you follow up with.
- Use JibberJobber to manage all your contacts, catalog specifics for each person, and build in reminders for yourself – a terrific tool and basic membership is free.
- Build visibility by speaking at professional events, publishing articles online, blogging, guest blogging, and commenting on blogs. New, valuable contacts will be drawn to you.
- Try to get yourself in front of hiring decision makers and their circle.
- Arm yourself with industry and company research to help you speak intelligently about trends and issues impacting your target market.
- Build relationships with executives who have similar and different competencies. Look toward forming co-mentorships in which you support each other.
And lastly, one of the most neglected networking best-practices:
Say thank you a lot – in person, on paper, and digitally. Nothing shows your appreciation better than a hand-written, regular-mailed thank you note for an introduction, kindness or special gesture. And remember to extend your thanks and compliments to presenters and contributors at industry events, and anyone whose work was valuable and impressed you.
Your take-away from all these concerted efforts?
Circle back to your established, trusted network, while reaching out to new people in new places.
Strategically spreading your personal brand and promise of value across diverse outlets online and offline will link you to opportunities that otherwise may have been invisible to you. You just never know who may lead you to a key decision maker and when a great opportunity may literally fall in your lap.