Networking is one of the most critical elements for managing your career successfully, enabling you to connect with people in your industry, conduct a proactive job search and tap into unpublished jobs. People in your network — and you probably have more contacts than you realize — are your single strongest resource in a search. Kellogg coaches recommend spending as much as 75% of your time networking during a job search.
- Don't be intimidated by the word "networking." Networking is really about enlarging your contact base to help you gain visibility and find people to connect with. It’s one of the best ways to research roles, companies and industry trends as well as learn about unposted — or not yet posted — opportunities. A hidden job market really does exist, so having insider contacts at your target companies can make a big difference between getting in the door and getting ignored.
- Develop a spreadsheet of people you know who might be able to help you connect with one or more of the companies on your target list. Consider people from all the different parts of your life: school, hobbies, friends, family, religious affiliation, past jobs, etc. Don't discount a group because it isn't career focused; these people could be great potential contacts.
- True networking means reaching out to people for information, perspective, ideas and advice; it's not about asking people to help you find a job. It's critical that you know what you want so you don't flounder when talking with people or waste their time.
- Create a list of good questions that will engage the listener before making the call. Build your questions and talking points around functional and industry trends, research, challenges and innovation. Remember, focus on making a connection instead of dominating the conversation with your background and what you’re looking for.
- Most people will try to help you if they understand what you're looking for. Recognize that this is the way many people do business every day — by maintaining and nurturing a professional network. Instead of asking for a job, ask about contacts, companies and names of people who might talk with you about functions, careers or firms. Initiate a conversation or ask for perspective and insight on an industry or trend or market innovation.
Once You Have a List
- Once you have a list of potential contacts, keep your focus on having a conversation instead of getting help finding a job.
- Initial contact by email is usually best, and while your goal might be a face-to-face meeting, remember that a phone conversation or even an extended email exchange can be just as helpful. Keep your focus on having a conversation. To this end, hold off on including your resume until you've had a chance to talk or meet with the individual. Sending your resume too soon just encourages people to forward you on to HR!
- If you don't get a response to your first email or phone call, don't give up! Most people are very busy, so connecting might take two or three tries.
- If the person won't agree to see you, ask if there are others who might help. That next contact will be less of a "cold call" if you’re able to say, "Jason Smith suggested I contact you."
- Try using a script — or a friend — to practice before making your first call. Focus on gathering information, insight and perspective instead of getting a job. Try to schedule a meeting, and don’t forget to ask if they might have contacts to share or suggestions of others you might talk with. After the initial contact, send a follow-up email and your resume, if you wish. Make it a point to periodically stay in touch with this person.
- Keep notes about any conversations and meetings you have. Make sure you send thank you notes to your contacts and keep them informed of your progress.