People who want to change jobs or find a new one today know they have to take a pro-active approach: answering job ads is not enough, recruitment companies work on too few positions…
So everyone is networking now, contacting other people who they think can recruit them or lead them to those who would.
But that is not a walk in the park.
For many of us networking is a scary business. As it is not a classic activity, it generates a high amount of pressure. Afraid of giving a bad image of ourselves, of being perceived as beggars… we do not know how to do it efficiently.
Here are a few examples of what you shouldn’t do and ideas on how to proceed.
Mistake #1: Contact people in order to ask them for a job.
Networking is not another way of sending spontaneous applications.
Its goal is to investigate what you could be doing in companies you have targeted. When done properly that enables you to see if a company interests you and if you could interest them. So, please, network with an investigative attitude (“I’d like to ask you a few questions in order to know more about your company…”) not a passive one (“hey, I see you are working in X, here’s my cv, do you think your company would have perchance a job for me?”)
Direct consequence: No cv in networking, except if you are asked for it at a later stage of the discussion.
Mistake #2: Ask people to ‘validate’ your project.
Talk about transfer of pressure! They might not feel at ease with such a responsibility, they are not recruitment experts, the most they could tell you is whether or not they might recruit you if they had a vacancy…
And what if they give you their opinion?
What do you do with it? Change your plans? And if 3 people in a row tell you 3 different things, how do you adjust?
Mistake #3: Contact them without a game plan.
You have started it all: you better have a reason for it. If you ask for 15 minutes of somebody else’s time, you better make it worth it. Prepare the call: investigate beforehand and find all you can on the company already. This way you know which questions to ask and you lead the game.
But don’t ask questions you could have found answers for easily on the internet. Try to build a link with the person you contacted, ask about them in their company. You need to have researched them before. Show them you care.
Mistake #4: Contact them just to get names.
Networking is all about getting recommended by somebody in order to reach someone else. But you can’t call a person you don’t know and just ask for the contact details of another one.
You don’t deserve that a manager opens his/her network to you without a reason. You must work for it and prove you are worth it, e.g. that there is something in it for them if they recommend / introduce you. It’s all about professional image: if I introduce you to somebody and you have a good discussion with him/her, you will think I had a good idea and it will make me look smart.
Mistake #5: Make demands.
“Mr X gave me your name, I want to talk to you!” “I need you to tell me who you know in company Y.” “What is the strategy of your branch for 2014?” Being persistent, consistent and driven in your quest does not imply being rude. Be pleasant, polite and smile. Try to be fun to speak with.
Networking can be fun, believe me. If you have prepared well, if you lead it well, you will have interesting discussions with nice, open and benevolent people.
Each phone call will be a little victory. If they don’t lead you directly to your next job, they will for sure result in information and advice that you can use both in your quest and in your future role. Just do it right!
* Yes Denis, I had you in mind when I wrote this article :-) Keep the faith and keep on doing it!