Learn how to polish your networking skills and land a new position — even in a down market
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking.
The importance of networking, which is a crucial component of any job search, increases exponentially in a down market, because there are fewer opportunities and more candidates competing for positions.
If you are looking for a position, remember many of the people you’ll be networking with will not know of an immediate job opportunity, but they may know someone who does.
So your job is to create a favorable and lasting impression on as many people as possible, until you daisy chain your way into enough interviews where you’re back in the driver’s seat, and you have some options, and find the job you can’t live without.
Remember you create your own luck: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
The number of opportunities you’ll uncover correspond directly to the number of networking events and calls you make. The more events and the more calls, the more opportunities you’ll find. Most importantly don’t forget to follow up with a note, an email, or even a phone call to leave a lasting impression on the people who could open the doorway to your next position.
Here are some things more things to can do to enhance your preparation, actions, and follow-up, and network your way into a new position faster.
1. Be prepared
Create “Interim” Business Cards
Nothing answers the question: “Who are you? What do you do?” better than a business card. VistaPrint offers Free Business Cards, or you can order 500 cards for $11.99 plus shipping. Include your name, a title that the job you’re looking for, and your contact information. Make sure to include your personal email address that looks professional. If you don’t have an email address, sign up for a Gmail or Yahoo account and use your full name or a variation of your full name.
Practice your elevator pitch
When you’re networking, you should plan to spend the majority of your time focused on others, and learning more about what they do. But you need to be prepared when someone asks you “What do you do?” Your response should be well-rehearsed, and let them know you’re in between positions, and looking for new opportunities.
Have your resume available (if needed)
At a networking event you might actually run into someone who could hire you. You should have some resumes in a folder if needed. But resumes should be given out only to those who ask. Don’t be tempted to start handing out resumes because then you can look desperate. You want to look prepared not desperate.
2. Move into action
Attend as many events as you can
Seek out many different types of social functions. Social events are a great way to network with people who are not always connected in your business circle: Holiday Parties, Church Functions, Non-Profit Fundraisers (if you can’t afford to give money—offer your time), Professional associations (Not a member? Ask to attend as a guest), Job fairs, Job Search Support Groups, and more. Remember you never know who you will meet and where. Did a neighbor invite you to join him at the annual non-profit fundraiser he attends? Go. Because you never know who he might introduce you to that is looking to hire or knows someone who is looking to hire somebody exactly like you.
Make a game of listening
Remember, if you’re going to engage others. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Ask questions: “So what do YOU do?” “Where do YOU come from?” “How did YOU get started doing that?” It only takes a few questions to get the ball rolling. People love people who are good listeners. Your objective should be for people to say: “Wow, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you—so what is it that YOU do?” And that’s your chance to give your elevator pitch.
Bring your gear and your goals
Business cards should be exchanged with everyone. See how many business cards you can collect. Make a game of it. Make sure you can answer who you are trying to meet and what is your desired goal or outcome. Do you want to walk out of the event with 10 new contacts? Make sure you talk to twice that many people. It will increase your potential outcome for achieving your goal.
3. Follow up
Don’t forget to say “thanks”
Send a thank you note, and email or a follow-up phone call after meeting someone who could help you. Thank them personally every time you connect with one of their referrals. It keeps you top of mind. Schedule contact on a regular basis to keep them updated on your search, and keep them involved until you have found the job you’re looking for.
Make the best use of your time
And be cognizant of other people’s time. When you’re making follow-up phone calls, instead of requesting an informational meeting (which could take away time from you finding your next position), be honest and tell them you’re on a mission to find the job you can’t live without. Give a short description of yourself, i.e., your 30-second elevator speech with a big benefit statement, and say “Do you know of anyone who could benefit from hiring someone like this?” If you end the call with two or three (even one) more new contact , you’re that much closer to landing a new position.
Use Social Networking to your advantage
Create an account on Linked-in and Facebook, and request the people you’re speaking with link back to you. In your profile, simply put “Looking for a new position as <your title>”. That way people will now you’re in the market, and when they link to you, it may occur to them that they know someone in their network who could help, and introduce you on the spot.
Networking, especially in a down market, can produce positive results if you’re prepared, you’re active, and you follow up effectively.
If you follow these three simple guidelines, you will be well on your way to landing a new position before you know it. You may even surprise yourself at how much fun the process can be, and the new friends and connections you’ll make who could help you for the rest of your life.