These are the words of a client who is networking like crazy to find a new job. So I asked, “Grant (not his real name), What are you telling these people when you talk to them?” As he gave his answer, I admit that I was rolling my eyes and shaking my head as I listened to a lengthy inventory of every skill set, list of top results and what seemed like a line-by-line tour of his entire resume. UGH… a huge mistake.
When to network:Grant has a job, but the handwriting is on the wall. In the last six years, he has lived through significant changes in his industry. He has a keen eye for the change agents and watches carefully. Even while he has been employed, he has stayed current on his industry and watched the implications of advancements in technology. As he watches his current company respond to challenges, he realizes that he needs to be looking for a new place to grow his career. Consequently, he started a networking campaign.
Where to network:Have you ever been introduced to someone (perhaps through email), and then made an appointment for coffee or lunch? Then you dressed up, drove to the meeting place and after 10 minutes, you realized that there really weren’t any valid reasons for you or your appointment to be spending time together. Does that ring a bell? I call it the wild-goose chase.
Before Grant started his networking campaign, he researched the jobs market in the areas where he has credibility based on his employment history, salary level and top skill sets. That research allowed him to prioritize his efforts and save time by avoiding unproductive meeting
How to prioritize your networking choices:Prioritization of your jobsearch efforts is critical. It prevents wasted time, excess rejection, and minimizes the emotional ups-and-downs that are typical of a jobsearch. Here are a few tips:
- Research the jobs market and be sure you are looking and applying for jobs where there is a high likelihood that you will be considered for the position.
If there are only three positions in your area and you know that several company layoffs have flooded the market for those positions, then there is less likelihood that you will get an interview.
- A good jobs market means that there are numerous job openings that require your level of experience and that match the market value with regard to salary.
Market value for the job you are going to do doesn’t have anything to do with your former salary. Market values change. The question is, does this job align with where you are in your career (early, mid, late, executive, etc.)
Networking preparation— it’s NOT what you think:Grant is analytical and a quick learner where facts and figures are concerned. He does his homework! Before going to a networking meeting, he researched the company, the individual with whom he would meet and gave substantial thought to the points the wanted to emphasize at the meeting. Sounds like the he’s well prepared. Right? Sorry, there is a much better approach.
Every part of Grant’s preparation was fine. But very little of it will help him get a job. That kind of research is appropriate for an interview. Networking is not interviewing.
Networking preparation should include the following research.
- Research industry trends, risks and challenges. This will allow you to ask your contact what s/he believes the challenges will be. Then you can discuss them from an informed perspective.
- Advances in technology will impact everyone in the United States. Therefore, I recommend spending time researching those advancements that may have a near-future impact on your industry.
- Research the person…of course! LinkedIn is a terrific tool that gives us information about people and their backgrounds. Study their background to ask the following question: “You have a background in _________. From that perspective, what do you think will:
- Have the greatest impact on the industry?”
- Be a threat to ______ (name of business, sector, industry, etc.)
The biggest mistake while networking:Grant’s preparation was all about himself. He is outstanding in his field and has many sets of skills. However, by presenting his listener with so much information, he was leaving out the number one critical point: He didn’t know his audience or the business pain his listener was experiencing. My comment to him was:
“Grant, you are running down an endless list of what you can do. You have so much to offer, that your audiences don’t know what to do with you because they have a flooded basement and their roof is on fire! Grant…they need a water pump!
“First find out their pain and THEN tell them about your expertise in the water-pump department. AFTER you are hired, you will be a hero for putting out the fire with the available resources and THEN you can find your way to the place in the company that is the best fit.”
Do you understand that networking is all about responding to their pain? If you don’t know their pain, then ask. Only then, can you clearly target an area where you can bring instant relief and get a phone call for an interview!
Two clear signals that you are on the wrong track:
- You are doing all the talking. (Stop and ask a question.)
- You don’t know what their concerns are in their business. (Ask!)
The simple rules of the road for networking:
- It’s all about them.
- It’s all about their pain.
- First solve their immediate need.
Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.