Statistically, networking may account for 70% to 80% of all jobs landed, depending on strategy. Whether working or looking for work, your networking efforts should never stop. You should create a seamless loop between your professional life, personal life and community involvement. You do not want to find yourself out of work and out of touch. By networking and setting up informational meetings, you begin to tap into this very rich source of information and leads.
There are 8 objectives for an effective networking or informational meeting:
Put yourself in front of as many people as possible.
Give your 1-2 minute Statement of Purpose (i.e., tell them what you do or what you did most recently and what you want to do going forward).
Exchange and gather information.
Get a few names.
Make a friend.
Ask what you can do for them.
Leave a resume.
People will usually take time from their busy schedules to meet with you for several reasons:
Someone they know has referred you to them.
People feel good about sharing their expertise.
People love to give advice.
They have been through a job loss themselves.
It is very important for you to NOT TAKE UP TOO MUCH OF THEIR TIME! 20 MINUTES MAXIMUM. Remember – networking is not interviewing!
I also recommend that you keep these things in mind:
Who are your networking resources? Virtually everyone. It’s always better to put yourself in front of as many people as possible. Put together a list of possible networking contacts. You’ll want to list everyone you know personally, professionally or even casually. Do not leave anyone out.
Do not be reluctant to ask for a networking or informational meeting. Mention first who you are, who referred you, (if this was a referral) and then say you are exploring career options(never say you are looking for a job) and you would appreciate a brief meeting to get some information and advice. (Never use the word help). Tell them you will not take more than 15 minutes or so.
Networking should always be done in person; people remember face-to-face meetings much more than telephone conversations. However, if long distance is an issue, you can still network over the telephone, although it’s not nearly as effective.
Always dress professionally – even though this is an informal meeting. You want to be remembered as very professional.
Open the meeting by giving your 1-2 minute Statement of Purpose which is an overview of you, your industry, a definition of your job and most importantly your goals and objectives going forward. You should rehearse your Statement of Purpose until it becomes second nature. After you conclude, ask for advice. e.g., what advice do you have, or what do you see going on?
Obtain 3 names and/or referrals. Remember, this is a critical part of the networking process. You must get names! You’re not just looking to speak with people in your industry; you’re looking to talk to people who might be well connected in any industry. Good leads could come from public officials, clergy, small business owners, accountants, lawyers, Rotarians, contacts from trade organizations, non profits, etc.
Bring copies of your resume, but never present a copy at the outset. You don’t want them reading your resume while you’re speaking. You can leave a copy at the end of the conversation.
You must always present yourself as enthusiastic, confident and upbeat.
Ask how you may be able to help them. Always offer to give back
Always get a business card and follow up with a “thank you” note. (Email is appropriate, although a handwritten “thank you” adds a special touch.)
Thomas Wharton is Managing Partner & Board Member of OI Global Partners and President ofLIFOCUS, a human resources consulting firm in Rhode Island, providing Career Development/Coaching, Outplacement, Executive Coaching, Assessments and Leadership Development. Tom can be reached at 401.884.7959 • firstname.lastname@example.org• www.lifocus.com • @careercoachTW