I once had a client who was the best-connected person in Denver. We joked that he knew everyone, including the Pope. But before coming to us, he had been looking for a job for close to two years, without even one interview. We figured out what he was doing wrong and this changed very rapidly, and he got employed.
It points up a common fallacy that simply having a large network will obtain a job for you. It won’t. You must be proactive in turning networking meetings into interviews or, at least, leads to interviews. Here are some essential tips for doing so.
- Listen well. Don’t be a “networking nerd.” Listen to the other person and give a hand if you can. Don’t say “I don’t know anyone.” Of course you know some people, and some of those could probably help. Talk about the needs of the other person first.
- Get help. Never leave a network meeting empty handed. Be very specific in asking for help. But don’t ask who the networking partner knows who has a job. Ask to whom you should be speaking for help, advice, or information. Others may not know of jobs, but they will know of others who can give you advice and help. However, once you’ve gotten names and leads, ask if your networking partner knows of any jobs that would suit you. You might be surprised.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Before you can use a network, you have to build one. This takes a bit of time, even if you have the help of a ready-made network. While you can sometimes get very lucky, it usually takes at least a couple of months to fill your pipeline. During this time it seems like nothing is happening. But be patient. All of a sudden, lots of things will start to happen.
- Remember, this is a numbers game. You should have seven to 12 networking coffees a week. That’s right. Seven to twelve a week, not a month. Less than this, and you’re not really networking enough.
- Follow up on everything. Immediate follow up is probably the most important part of networking. If someone gives you a lead, call on it at once. If you’re told to talk to a certain person in a company, talk to him or her. If you’re given names, call that day. You don’t have time to waste in this. Immediate follow-up is essential.
- Keep your momentum. One of the most foolish things that a job seeker can do is to go on vacation. Being out of pocket destroys all momentum and can literally cost you a job. Stay put and stay in the game! If you must take time away, make it a Friday through Monday long weekend. Then get back to work.
- Make sure that people know you’re looking for a job. I know that sounds ridiculous, but some executives are so good at circumlocution that they don’t ever come right out and say that they’re looking for a new position. Hints don’t work. Pointed hints don’t work. Say what you’re looking for clearly and concisely (and without your jargon!).
- State your skills and title clearly and in simple English. Don’t say that you’re a “senior executive.” What the heck does that mean? Say you’re at, for example, “the VP level.” State what you do so that a third grader could understand it. Dump your jargon, your corporate titles and the rest of your standard bovine effluvium. Speak so that everyone can understand you, and don’t beat around the bush. Be clear, simple and concise.
- Who is as important as how many. This is a fine line. You want to network with a variety of people. But if all of your networking meetings are with people at a much lower level than you, you aren’t going to get anywhere. Make it a mix of levels, and make sure they’re high quality.
The most common reasons that networking meetings don’t turn into job interviews are:
- The networker is not being clear.
- The networker is not following up.
- The networker is not asking for help.
- The networker is not meeting with quality network partners.
- (The big one) The networker is not working enough numbers.
Networking is the primary way people get jobs these days. But it isn’t magic. It requires skill, planning and flawless execution to pay off.