Networking refined: New practices for making connections that count
How to make the most of the time you have and people you’re connected to in order to forge a powerful network of supporters for your career success.
You work hard, you have exemplary credentials, you have spent 12 years of your life making a difference at one company, you are a great person and well liked. One day you come into work and your senior level position has been eliminated. Such was the case with Cheryl S.
Once the shock and disorientation of the termination had dissipated, Cheryl realized she needed a plan, a strategy, to get her work search started and under way. She ascertained that she needed a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A is to find another corporate job and Plan B is to set up her own practice as an HR consultant.
“First I defined the type of role I wanted and the industries I would explore that I wanted to work in.” Cheryl told me. Next she identified what industries and roles her skills would be transferable to. Identifying what target companies met her criteria was to be her roadmap. Figuring out how to find it was the challenge. She did a lot of analysis to get to this point.
After so many years in a retail corporate environment, Cheryl needed to realistically identify what other arenas might appreciate her professional wonderment. “I also narrowed down the geographical area in which I wanted to work.” Cheryl added.
“I started by updating my LinkedIn profile and arranged to have a professional photograph taken to put on the site,” Cheryl said. “I selected the job boards I wanted to concentrate on and which professional organizations I should belong to.” Cheryl had been a member of a couple HR related groups prior to her termination but now she wanted to up her ante. She realized she needed to increase her visibility, stay in the loop with the goings on in the HR world and she needed to meet interesting, helpful people.
“It dawned on me that I should also join multidisciplinary groups as well as my industry related ones. This led me to thinking about the actual act of networking. This was going to be a new skill area for me.” Cheryl shared.
Once her roadmap was laid out, she set out to find contacts within the companies she had identified. Some were folks she knew and others were from business associates, outplacement consultants and new people she met along the way. Having a name and referral made each call Cheryl made a ‘warm introduction’ rather than a cold call.
Tip:: When you meet people during your job search, maintain the theory that people feel good when they help others, therefore, rather than fear asking for help, embrace it.
When offered a free ticket to an entrepreneur fair, Cheryl grabbed it and took full advantage of the opportunity.
Tip: Attend as many activities as you can as you never know who will be there. At this event Cheryl was asked for an advice call, it made her feel good to be able to ‘pay it forward’ after so many people had been so gracious toward her. Cheryl believes in the law of reciprocity and tries not to prejudge a situation thereby looking for opportunities at every turn.
TIP: Get out and be seen, project a positive and helpful attitude. Focus on the quality of the people you meet, not quantity.
As for recruiters, she believes it is necessary to ‘get in their face’ so as to increase visibility and be memorable.
Clean out your business card box, Cheryl suggests. Recall the people you’ve met at conferences and panels you have spoken on and contact these people to remind them of your encounter and to tell them what you are up to at this point in time.
Get business cards printed and never leave home without them. She even gave out her card on a ski hill. You can forget your wallet but never your business cards.
Tip: Know that your next lead, tip or job could come from your weakest link. I suggest you put your contacts into piles or lists of importance – A, B and C level. Start contacting the A level people first, working all the way through to the end of your C pile.
Tip: Never leave home without your business cards. The only place it is not appropriate to blatantly network for business is at a funeral. Cheryl gave out a card on a ski hill.
Tip: Be organized and mindful how much time and energy you need to arrange and conduct network meetings. Allow an hour for a half hour meeting in case your contact is detained or loves you so much they insist you stay longer.
Tip:Be thoughtful of giving and taking. Tell people what you are in need of and always be sure to ask how you can help them as well.
Arrange to meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch. Do not feel you have to treat. People know you are (usually) unemployed and they do not expect you to pay. Food courts are great meeting spots as there is free parking, either that, or on transit lines.
Tip: Look good. Just because it is summer doesn’t mean you can arrive for a networking meeting in flip flops or a golf shirt. Dress the part of the role you are targeting.
Tip: Call or email ahead to confirm your appointment the day of or late the day before. Never suggest “is this a bad time?” or “if you are too busy….” Do not go there, stay positive about the meeting time and confirm the location. If your contact misses the appointment, never make that person wrong, remember you are a lower priority than corporate goings on. Undoubtedly the meeting would be rescheduled and they will feel badly for standing you up and you will get the royal treatment.
After four months, Cheryl has yet to secure a new position but has she ever been busy. I asked Cheryl why she continues to put so much energy, time and expense into networking if it hasn’t yielded any returns to date. “ I have gained an in depth knowledge of business sectors I didn’t know about when I was employed, I have met and now know so many great, new people and I know networking is more about farming than hunting; plant the seeds, nurture your contacts and watch them grow.”
Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It
Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group