The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

Networking Is *Not* Bothering Your Friends

Networking is NOT "Bothering Your Friends"I’m going to tell you a secret. I dislike reading job search books.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job by Orville Pierson, and not just because it’s well written and has an encouraging tone.

This book does a great job of dispelling the myths that making your networking a loss less enjoyable and effective than it could be – or stopping you from even doing it.

In job search networking, the one most important thing is to make everyone you talk to comfortable. Why? If they’re not comfortable, nothing will happen … If they’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable.

Isn’t that awesome? It seems there’s actually a way networking can be comfortable.

Another big stumbling block for many of us is that we don’t want to bother people. We don’t want to impose.

Here’s what Pierson says to that:

“Don’t forget to look at it from the other person’s point of view. If you were a friend of mine and had something important happening – like a job search, maybe – and you didn’t include me, I’d wonder if we were really friends. If I heard from others about it, rather than from you, I might actually be offended.

“Now … it’s also true that you need to help your friends help. They probably don’t know much about a highly effective job search. Most people don’t. Everyone thinks of ‘job openings’ or ‘who’s hiring.’ Then they feel helpless and unable to assist you because they don’t know much in either of those categories. When they’re uncomfortable, the discussion becomes awkward.

“Don’t let that happen. … Help them help you.”

How do you learn to “help them help you”? Read the book. Or, for a quicker introduction right now, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.” 

I’ve been coaching my clients in networking approaches very similar to those of Pierson and LHH. I actually worked for LHH for a year in 2008, right after I was laid off from my last corporate job at the beginning of the Great Recession. I never met Orville, but I taught job-search classes that he probably designed, and I saw how well it worked for those clients.

As one of my own private clients wrote more recently,

Thea’s approach put my contacts and me at ease.

If you’d like customized, one-on-one assistance in setting up networking habits and activities that will help you get a great job sooner, I’m here to help.

And you don’t have to “bother” anybody!

Get Back in Touch with a LinkedIn Recommendation

Refresh Your Connections by Giving a LinkedIn RecommendationWant to stay top-of-mind with your connections?

Networking and connections are the lifeblood of career management, but those connections go stale if you never get in contact – or worse, if you only call when you need something!

To nourish your connection with a former co-worker whose work you respect, give them a LinkedIn recommendation.

You can give those quick-click endorsements, too, but recommendations are more valuable. Here’s an explanation of the difference between endorsements and recommendations, and instructions for giving and receiving recommendations.

Researching Your Target Companies: Questions to Ask

Knowledge Is PowerInterested in working for a certain company? Knowledge is power. Certain kinds of information can help you get an interview there – or help you decide if you even want to.

The most effective job search techniques involve making a list of companies you’d like to work for and then gradually becoming well informed about them and connected to them so you’re well positioned to hear about openings before they’re ever announced to the masses.

Researching your target companies often starts with the Internet and then progresses to meeting with people acquainted with the companies. (To learn more about this approach, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.”)

In both cases, it helps to identify what you want to find out about the company and the relevant division. Make a list of questions. The following list will get you started.

1. Do I want to work there?

This is really more than one question. Of course it’s important what they do – and how well. Opportunities for training and advancement may also be important to you. How are the pay and benefits? How about lifestyle factors like telecommuting?

Then there’s the culture: the unique way things get done there, and the atmosphere. What kind of person succeeds there? If you’re that kind of person, make sure you’re branding yourself accordingly as you network your way into the company. If you’re not, is it the right environment for you?

2. What’s the news?

This, too is more than one question. How is the company changing; what are its opportunities and challenges currently and in the near future? Obviously you need to be well-informed in networking and interviews. This kind of information can help you make a case for how you can be useful to them.

3. How do people get hired there?

The path to hire is not the same everywhere. Do they post openings online or rely heavily on referrals? Do they have an active company page on Facebook? Do they source people through LinkedIn? What search firms do they use? You can also find clues at Glassdoor among other places.

4.  Do they pay a hiring bonus to employees who refer someone?

This can help you get the attention of insiders.

5.  Who are their main competitors, vendors and partners?

People there can tell you about the company you’re researching. You may also want to add these companies to your list of employers.

6.  Who is the hiring manager for your target position? What are that person’s interests, concerns and background?

Ultimately, you want an introduction to this person and an informational interview with them. This may not be easy, but work up to it by talking with others in the company or people they deal with.

7.  Who else should you talk to?

Ask this question only after you’ve built some rapport and made a good impression. Get contact information, and ask whether you may mention your contact’s name, or whether they can introduce you.

Whatever information you receive from people, accept it very appreciatively, take notes, plan to follow up on the information, and keep this person in the loop afterwards.

A Final Note:

You’ll notice I didn’t include “Is the company hiring?” This is a good question, but it’s easy to overemphasize it and make your contacts feel like all you’re looking for is leads, which they may not be able to provide. Look at it this way: there may not be an opening now, but there will be eventually.

Start researching and networking now, and the next job at one of your target companies may never be posted because it was quietly filled – by you.

A Networking Bio: Why Use One?

A Networking Bio: Why Use One?Let’s say you’re doing an informational interview. Should you leave behind a resume? Nope – leave a bio instead.

Why?

  • Offering a resume may make your networking partner feel pressured, as if though you’re imposing on them to find you a job. Focus on developing relationships and sharing information; you’re not applying for a job. (Read my article, “Networking: Organizations vs. Openings.”)
  • You can’t target your resume for a job opening that doesn’t yet exist. Providing a bio leaves the door open for you to submit a carefully customized resume later, when something opens up.
  • If you’re a stealth job seeker, you don’t want your resume floating around as evidence that you’re looking for a new job. A bio is a bit more discreet.
  • Unlike a resume, a bio can appropriately include a photo, which can help your contact remember you.

What’s in a Bio?

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what information to include in a bio. What information about you will help solidify your brand in the minds of the people you meet? What kind of description would encourage them to keep you in mind as a resource?

A bio can be a bit less formal than a resume. For example, you can quote yourself, or even write the whole thing in first person.

Limit your bio to one page or less. Be concise.

You can include much of the same information that’s in your resume, but make sure the bio is engaging and conveys a sense of who you are as a person. Ask yourself questions like the following, and use your answers to focus and enliven the bio.

  • What is my unique selling proposition or brand? What facts about me give evidence of that?
  • What’s interesting or impressive about my career path?
  • Is there a story of something I’ve done at work that illustrates my talents and skills?
  • What am I passionate about, professionally?
  • What do I love about my field? about my current employer? about my team?

A good bio reinforces an impression of you as someone who is good to know – a person to keep in touch with.

Networking with a Marketing Plan (continued)

Networking with a Marketing PlanIs your networking not working? (Or not happening at all?)

You’ve heard that networking is crucial when you’re looking for a new job, but you may not feel that it can really work for you.

In my previous posts I’ve presented a networking method that has been proven effective by thousands of smart job seekers. This post will help you put it into practice.

If you haven’t yet read the other posts, my January 8th post  introduced the concept, explaining why a marketing plan and target companies list are so essential. Last week’s post showed a sample Personal Marketing Plan and how referring to your plan can help you set up a one-on-one meeting with new contacts who may be able to help you in your search.

This may leave some questions in your mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Who will I network with? I don’t have a lot of professional contacts.”

Start with anybody – former co-workers, managers or clients, classmates and professors, family members – and build from there. As long as you end every conversation with “Who else should I talk to?” you will continually get closer to valuable inside contacts and hiring managers.

This is where LinkedIn can be tremendously helpful. Many people find Facebook and Twitter useful as well for building a network of relationships that you can then deepen with strategically chosen one-on-one meetings.

“What will I do and say in the one-on-one meetings?”

After a little friendly chitchat, take a moment to go over your skills and the type of organizations you’re interested in, as described in your Personal Marketing Plan. Then give a copy of that document to your contact and ask these three questions:

  1. What do you know about any of the companies on this list?
  2. Given my criteria, what other organizations should I add?
  3. Who else should I talk to?

Jot down any information they give you, without evaluating it, as in a brainstorm. Then go talk to the people they referred you to. And so on!

“How should I follow up afterwards?”

First, send a thank-you card, not an email. A card feels more appreciative, and it’s likely to sit on the person’s desk for a while, reminding them that you exist. Remember, your goal is to maintain a relationship for ongoing mutual benefit. Otherwise, assurances that “I’ll keep you in mind and let you know if I hear of anything” aren’t worth much. Buy a box of cards ahead of time.

And always report back to your contacts about how you followed up and what it led to. People want to know how their advice was helpful, and finding out helps keep them interested in your search.

Look for ways to be helpful to your contacts. Perhaps you asked a question and the reply was “I wish I knew – that information would be helpful to me, too.” When you later find the answer elsewhere, send it on to your contact.

“What are the results of all this?”

You’ll gradually find that you’re becoming well informed about companies among whom may be your next employer. Information is power! For example, it can help you write a much smarter cover letter. And of course, you’re becoming known to people who may hear of an opening. You’re on track toward accessing those three quarters of all jobs that are filled through word of mouth.

“How can I organize all this information I’ll be gathering?”

A contact management system or other database is extremely helpful. I recommend JibberJobber. You’ll have paper as well – notes, cover letters, etc. Sort it into categories and label some file folders. Get organized early in your search, before it gets overwhelming.

Make sure you have a system for reminding yourself to follow up on certain dates. You can use JibberJobber for this, for example, or schedule tasks in Outlook and/or keep a tickler file.

“Yeah, but…”

If networking with a Personal Marketing Plan is not working for you, or you have a problem with starting, that problem has a solution. Don’t give up. Keep trying. You may want to check out my Networking Jumpstart service and enlist me to help you maximize your networking productivity.

Make networking work for you!

Networking with a Marketing Plan

We’ve all had the experience of hearing from a friend who asks, “Do you know of any job openings for me?” The answer is usually very short and sad: “No, I’m sorry, I don’t, but I’ll keep you in mind!” And how well do we really keep them in mind?

Here’s a technique that can make networking less stressful and more successful: using a Personal Marketing Plan to start upbeat, productive conversations.

In my last post Networking: Organizations vs. Openings, I discussed the importance of focusing your networking on gathering information about your target companies or organizations. To guide you in doing this, create a document like this sample:

Joe Jobseeker

(Contact information)

MARKETING PLAN

Regional Sales Manager

Seasoned Manager and Sales Consultant in construction and energy management with experience as Regional Manager for Fortune 500 energy firm and as Owner / President of startup (grew to $200K by second year)…” (etc. – but keep it short!)

Competencies: 

Energy Management  |  Team Leadership  |  (etc.)  |  (etc.)  |  (etc.)  |  (etc.)   |  (etc.)

Position Sought / Criteria

Position Sought:  Regional Sales Manager
Industry:  Energy
Size:  Large Fortune 500 company, or green energy company of any size over 100 employees
Location:  East Bay, South Bay, San Francisco; or Denver, CO area

Target Organizations:

ABC Big Energy
Green Innovators, Inc.
(etc. – about 50 organizations)

 

Then use this document in the following ways:

To focus your networking efforts. Your goal is to gather information and contacts that can help you get a job in any of these companies.

To help your networking partners see how they can help you. If you tell me “I’m looking for a job,” I have no idea how to help you. If you tell me, “I’m looking for a job as a sales manager in a large energy company in the Bay Area or Denver,” now I know what kinds of information to search for in my mind and my address book.

To refer to when asking for a meeting. “I’ve written a marketing plan for my job search, including a lists of organizations I’m interested in, and I wanted to show it to you and get your reaction to it. Can I buy you lunch or a cup of coffee on Friday?” You may find that this opening line gets a better response than others. It’s very low-pressure; your contact knows they’re only being asked for their reaction to something you have prepared.

This approach can make networking less nervewracking and more productive. And your contacts are more likely to remember you, since they’ve had a more complete introduction to you and what you’re looking for.

In my next post, Networking with a Marketing Plan #2, I’ll provide very useful tips for using this method. To ensure you don’t miss it, you may want to subscribe to my blog.

Networking: Organizations vs. Openings

networkingOne of the biggest mistakes job seekers make in networking is focusing too much on asking about job openings.

Do you find networking stressful, depressing or unproductive? Shifting your focus could transform your whole experience – and get you a better job, sooner.

Consider this: Have you ever gotten a call or email from an acquaintance saying they’re looking for a job, and asking whether you know of any openings for them?

If you’re like most people, your answer to that question tends to be short and sad: “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I’ll keep you in mind if I hear of anything.”

Or perhaps the acquaintance wants to meet with you, but it’s not clear exactly what they want from you – are they hoping you’ll find them a job somehow? Do you feel a little pressured? Sorry for them? This can be uncomfortable for both people.

Try this approach instead: Instead of asking about openings, say “I’ve developed a list a companies I’m targeting in my job search, and I was wondering if I could show it to you and bounce some ideas off you.”

Doesn’t this sound more upbeat and attractive?

With this approach, networking becomes an opportunity to:

  • Build your Target Companies List – the list of organizations you might want to work for and that you’re focusing on in your networking.
  • Become well informed about those companies, which helps you sell yourself to them – and also makes you a more interesting networking partner.
  • Gain referrals to other people to network with – people who can provide information or leads related to your list.
  • Spread the word about your skills and availability.

Focusing on organizations in your networking can lead to hearing about openings before they’re announced – when there is much less competition and you can really stand out. How would you like a message like this:

“We haven’t met, but Joe Jones said he spoke with you recently and was impressed. We might possibly have an opportunity coming up that you’d be interested in. Would you to come in and talk about it?”

In a future post I’ll describe powerful techniques for using this approach to network your way into your next job. Subscribe to my blog to make sure you don’t miss it!

Job Postings: Better Uses for Them, #1

Search for Your Future Boss!

The only purpose for looking up job openings online is to apply to them, right?

Nope! Here’s the first in my series of better uses for these postings.

Clue: Who’s looking to hire your future boss? Soon after, that manager may need to hire you!

So as an example, if you’re seeking a job as a Training Specialist, start searching on www.indeed.com or www.simplyhired.com for Training and Development Manager openings that can tip you off to a future opening for you.

When a new manager is hired, new staff often follow. Many companies will hold off on filling the need for individual contributors until the new manager is on board to do the hiring.

Before that happens, you have a golden moment to start networking your way into this company, before the position is advertised and hundreds of resumes arrive.

Keep talking to people and monitoring the situation, and if something opens up – there you are, the first and possibly the only candidate, referred in by people who have spoken with you.

Congratulations.

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