Since I’ve spent the majority of my career working for organizations to help them hire the best talent possible, it’s always gratifying to sit on the other side of the desk to share my insights from the past 20 plus years with job seekers.
So, along with my fellow TalentRISE partner, Jim O’Malley, we gladly accepted a recent invitation from well-known outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to speak to a group of high-level HR executives in transition.
Given the positive reception we received, I decided to share thoughts from that meeting on the five most important insights on networking that every successful job seeker needs to know in today’s job market and environment. The advice below holds equally true for those at the pinnacle of their career in the C-Suite…as well as for those who have just entered the job market. The “Five Rs”, as I call them, were standard operating procedure twenty years ago and are equally valid today, even in our LinkedIn and hash-tagged world. That’s because all networking – even given all the social media tools available to job seekers today – is ultimately all about relationship-building.
So, the best advice I can possibly give to job seekers today is encapsulated in five maxims, easily remembered as they all start with an R.
Before you speak, tweet or otherwise contact a single person to request help with networking, gather information about their company, industry, or the targeted hiring manager. This seems like such obvious advice but it never fails to amaze me how many job seekers simply don’t do their homework. There is so much information only a click away, from who is hiring; company financials, to industry analysts’ reports.
Tell the person you are networking with that you do not expect them to have or know about a job opening. This will not only make your contact more comfortable about speaking with you but will also broaden your network overall. After all, the people you get to know through your job search now can become important contacts (or even clients) as you evolve in your career and vice versa. Building a network should, afterall, never only be about getting a job but more of a career-long endeavor to broaden your perspectives.
Make sure you make yourself memorable (in a positive way!). See people in person when possible, but also be smart with your time and considerate of theirs. Always leave them with a hard copy of your resume as well as a typo-free PDF file that they can forward to others. Anchor your selling features with stories – these can be anecdotes of, for example, business situations in which you dealt with a problematic situation with a novel approach, new technology or other innovative solutions. Finally, stay in touch. Many people I know who serve as guides within their industry to job seekers lament the fact that while they give of their valuable time, they often don’t ever hear back from the people with whom they generously share their time or contacts.
If you are asking for referrals, be willing to share your contacts freely as well. Many job seekers I coach seek to get two names from each encounter, which is actually a pretty good yardstick. But also adhere to rule number 2 above and recognize that not all of the people you network with will be able to help you in such a direct fashion.
The final “R” involves building what scientists call “social IQ” and is about a basic human need to form connections. These connections, however, run on a two-way streets so never neglect to ask your contacts how you can best help them. This doesn’t always need to be – or can’t be – an even one-for-one exchange but you can offer to:
- Provide them with information about their industry, based on your research (see #1 above)
- Offer insights about what you have learned
- Offer ideas and contacts of your own
- Be courteous and appreciative
- Give the person plenty of air time and listen
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