Networking is a critical component to any job search. A recent survey shared by a national outplacement firm suggested that networking was nearly five times more effective than recruiters and 14 times more effective than the internet for securing managerial positions.
Networking is powerful and simple when you consider two options:
1) the hiring manager has a stack of 50 or more resumes from the company web site or
2) a colleague suggests the hiring manager speak to a specific person. Option 2 is the benefit of networking and will advance a candidate more rapidly.
The first step to effectively network is a focus beyond “I’m looking for my next opportunity”. The more detailed the desired role, the easier it is for someone to help you. For example, “I’m looking for a sales management position, ideally in the consumer packaged goods industry”. This statement establishes boundaries. Further, it helps your contact help you with other contacts.
Beyond knowing the role you want, help the other person answer the question “why you”? A crisp one to three minute “elevator” speech is useful. In this speech, it should include what you’d like to do next and why you are the person who should get that type of opportunity.
The second part of the communication is usually shared via key highlights from your experience–delivered X growth over Y time; saved $z over Y time; created X new partnerships that led to growing the company; etc. Use your largest and most important accomplishments in your career to make your case.
Third, when networking, cast a broad net. Include persons from all aspects of your life: former co-workers, customers, vendors, alumni from your educational institutions, fellow members of volunteer organizations, neighbors, family members, etc.
The fourth step is to be mindful of your contact’s time. Wherever possible, make it easy for them and work on their schedules. At the same time strive for maximum impact which is in the following order: 1) in person; 2) phone call; and 3) letter/e-mail.
When someone is being asked to share their contacts or provide an introduction, they usually want to “know” the person. Importantly, if you are able to network in person, present yourself in a manner that makes the other person feel comfortable supporting your efforts.
Lastly, during the meeting or as a follow-up, share a copy of your resume. This will provide more detail of your accomplishments than you will discuss.
Networking is the core element to any search and increases in importance the more senior the role. This is one of the most powerful tools to identify new opportunities and should represent the majority of your search time.