Tuesday, December 1, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #4 How do I start to network?

A: By networking

Everyone (myself included) hates those trite, circular answers (like the one I just gave). But in this case, it is the most effective way to find the next opportunity (always be closing).

The first question hurled at me during the last job coaching class I taught was, “You’re not going to tell us to network are you”? Well - yes, of course, I did.

I talk (and talk, and talk) about networking whenever the job search topic comes up. Because - as talked about in a previous post - networking is so crucial to the success of your hunt (as in that’s where the jobs are). But for folks new to it – or with a personalities not wired for initiating contact - it can be as nerve-racking as public speaking is for some.

There are blogs and books (ad nausea) on the subject. But a few thoughts (since I am asked about this all the time) that pertain to folks new to networking or our personality-challenged to it (introverted or new to transition).

Just Do It (Nike footwear optional)

In the same way you become a better blogger by simply blogging more (well – at least for some of us), you also get better at networking by just doing it.  Ready to dive into the deep end of the pool?  Here are places you can go that are ripe for this:high dive

  • Professional meetings Things like user groups, professional associations (e.g. local chapter of your PMI meetings), meetups (like your local Social Media Breakfast) and Conferences. These are all great places to meet people in the same profession or same interest (a natural toe hold for conversation).  Two tips if cost is an issue for you:
    • Stick to the free (or inexpensive) stuff. A trip to Las Vegas to attend the International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association (IBDEA) Annual Convention and Product Fair may not be a good idea
    • For sessions that are Happy Hours, order a club soda with a twist. It’s cheaper and you likely won’t end up singing and dancing atop the bar in only a wife-beater
  • Open groups (place were people linger) This could be a church or other religious/spiritual place, Starbucks (which is often a religious experience for me), libraries, book stores and alike. Not only are these places where you can spark up a conversation with a stranger without being arrested for stalking, it can be fruitful. I had a woman at a church gathering this Fall talk about her unemployment situtation. She was looking for a teaching job in a local school district. She told me she never networks and hates it. I told her (1) she should and (2) that in fact she just had. My wife teaches in that district – so I was able to provide a connection. It is that simple
  • Families/Friends/Reunions/Co-Workers Like I said before, never look for a job by yourself. Your Uncle Fester may not know what you really do for a living and may not know that one his customers (who recently told him he was hiring) has a need for someone just like you. Talk to folks tell them what you do (so they think of you when the hear of an opportunity).  I used this very tactic to find my wife (but that’s another story for another time)
  • Conjunction Junction – make that your function It is something I strongly believe in (and do at least once a week). Hooking-up folks whenever you can - WITH NO STRING ATTACHED. Whether you call it pay it forward or Instant Karma (as I prefer to call it), connecting others in your circle expands your circle, too.  So if you know two people that could benefit from meeting each other – hook-up them up.  I often do this with my “Blind Date Introduction” email I am fond of sending (just did it last night).  The email comes in 4 parts and goes something like this:
    • The set-up:  Why I think you two should meet
    • Person 1 Bio:  How I know you and why you are special
    • Person 2 Bio: How I know them and why they are special
    • Contact: Each others contact info with a note to contact the person (or not) as they both see fit.
  • Hey! You’ve got to NOT hide your love away Just get out and meet as many people as you can. Twittering (and DM’ing,thanking folks for RTs..and the lamest thing in the world #followfriday) alone is not networking. It can expand your reach (people and geography) – but at some point, face to face ( or a video Skype call) is still preferred. In other words - you need to get your fat butt out of the house and meet people from time to time.

So – go forth and network. Don’t be too afraid and don’t be too shy (hush, hush – eye to eye)

Up next: We hit the quarter turn on the 20 Questions on the next post with What is the purpose of the resume – and do I need one?


Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.


Marv said...

Regarding the comment "A trip to Las Vegas to attend the International Beverage Dispensing Equipment Association (IBDEA) Annual Convention and Product Fair may not be a good idea" For somebody looking for a position within this industry, a visit here might be just the answer.

Thomas Copenhaver said...

Righ on Marv. I totally agree with you. A perfect place to network it (if you have the means). I am sad to report not everyone can do that right now.