One of the most influential ways to approach a job search is through networking. But how and why invest your time in networking?
“In 2012, networking accounted for more than one in four hires at major companies, the most of any strategy used in job hunting,” says David Vander Does, President of the National Search Advisory and a Recruitment Consultant with Gore Medical Products and CBI Group. “And if a candidate has a referral from inside a company, he/she is 70 times more likely to be hired than a candidate without this connection,” Dave adds, referring to a finding published by Career Xroads.
So how do you network? Where do you start and what are the tools to help you?
“Networking is all about relationship-building. It’s who you know and who they know that can really make the difference in your search” Dave says.
The first step is to make a list of current and prospective contacts. “Think about the relationships that you already have (family, friends, previous co-workers, etc…) and add them to your list. Then do your research and identify others that you need to know (company contacts, business leaders, others in your profession) and add them to your list. Think beyond the obvious, be strategic,” Dave advises.
There are lots of tools to use in building your network with www.LinkedIn.com as one of the best places to start. “If you don’t already have a LinkedIn presence, establish one,” Dave says. “This serves as your professional profile for recruiters, hiring managers and all the current and potential people in your network. Think of it this way: if you don’t have a presence on LinkedIn, you don’t exist.”
Once you’re on LinkedIn, you can conduct searches by company name, industry, through current and former co-workers and through your network of LinkedIn contacts that you should be continuously growing. Similarly, using search engines like Google can provide great insight into your field, and help you identify prospective companies and professional associations.
Dave says your next step is to divide your list of contacts into three groups: warm (people who know who you are and can give you a good reference), casual (people you may need to reconnect with) and cold contacts (people you haven’t met yet, but you need to meet). “This will help you prioritize and maximize your efforts as you begin to work your network”
Develop a database or a spreadsheet with of course names, titles, e-mail addresses, etc. but then leave a column for “Notes” where you can track of your progress with each networking target.
Now you’re ready to get out there and network. Dave says to practice these four steps with each person you meet:
1. Make them aware that you are looking for your next “adventure”
2. Guide their thinking about what that “adventure” could be
3. Be confident and specific
4. Give them permission to share your name or resume as they see fit
Dave also encourages job hunters and net-workers to develop a script and practice in your home or office. “For most, networking can be overwhelming and frightening. But remember, it’s really nothing more then the act of building relationships one contact at a time. The more you do it; the easier it becomes.” Keep these elements in mind:
1. Intro- who am I and why am I calling or e-mailing?
2. Your mission- I’m pursuing my next best adventure and thought you could help…
3. Give them permission to say “no.”
4. Provide something of value in return.
5. The sensational close- share your plans for follow-up and ask if you can keep in touch.
“Most people will encourage you to stay in touch… do-so, you’d be surprised at how many people never get in touch with these prospects again,” Dave says.
When reaching out to a networking prospect you haven’t met, start with an e-mail introducing yourself and making a connection (Our mutual friend Sam Jones suggested I contact you; we attended xx college at the same time, I’m also a member of your professional association…). Then state your purpose and tell them when you’ll follow-up. Then when you call, say “I’m following up on the e-mail I sent you on…this process helps to eliminate the “cold call””
Remember to say thank you. “People in jobs today are busier than ever and even if they only give you five minutes, it’s important that you acknowledge their time,” Dave points out. “And if they help you make a good connection, let them know how grateful you are.”
And remember; always try to provide value in return.“Good relationships are not one sided; do what you can to help others in your network in return for the help they provided to you. It makes all the difference and will help to strengthen your network for the future.”