Networking Works!

Miles Cooper explains how using your network can land you the job you seek…

When you face the need for a career change, you have something to sell and that something is YOU. You must ensure your availability is known as widely as possible. In other words, you must devise a personal advertising and public relations campaign to that end. To do this, you need to know where the market is and where your best sales opportunities are within it. The last thing the job hunter should do is to be secretive.

When you are in this position, you will study the appointments pages and send off applications. You will register with employment agencies, selection consultants and head hunters. You will take the advice of job centres and consultants, but jobs really are to be found by networking among those who ought to know about you and who may be able to give you valuable advice.

Three Forms Of Networking
There are three forms of networking. They all have the same aim and can be classified as casual, formal and specific.

The casual kind is carried out among friends and those whom you may meet socially. In conversation, you can tell people you are in the jobs market and say any suggestions will be gratefully received. It can happen that a conversation in a pub will lead to something of value when a networking contact tells a third party ‘I met a chap the other day with experience of??? and he is looking for a new job. He may be of interest to you’. That is a remark which has been sparked by casual networking.

As you network in this way, have a CV in your pocket, but never push it forward. Wait until you are asked for it.

Formal Networking
The ‘formal’ network needs planning, but the first principle is that while most people want to help, they can be scared by a feeling of inability to offer you a job. Every approach, therefore, has to be made with an understanding of this. You must make it clear that you do not expect a job lead. What you are seeking is advice based on their wide experience and acquaintances together with their opinions as to how best to set about your job hunt. You may even hint that you hope they may be able to lead you to others who will be able to advise you. The idea is that networking, say, two individuals, you can be led to four more, then eight and so on ad infinitum. It will not, of course, work out to such a super progression, but it is surprising how a pebble thrown into a pool sends out ripples. {mospagebreak}

How To Start
There are differences of opinion about how to make contact with your network. Do you use the telephone? Perhaps: but be quite sure what you are doing. Think about this carefully. It is possible that your call will come in at an unfortunate time when your contact is preoccupied. This then brings a brush-off which could have been avoided by a letter receiving attention when the recipient gets round to it. It can also be difficult at times to say succinctly on the telephone what you have in mind.

There is the risk, too, that, inadvertently, you give the impression you are asking for a job offer. That will put you on the wrong foot because the person called does not know how he can help. On the whole, it has to be said that a well phrased, brief letter is the more likely approach to be effective.
There can be no such thing as a standard, all-purpose networking letter. Each one must be drafted appropriately to its addressee. It ought, however, to include the following points:

– Give the reason you are in the jobs market, what you have been doing and why your job has come to an end.

– Stress that you are not asking for a job. You are writing to someone with wide experience and knowledge who will be able to give advice.

– Suggest that it may be agreeable for you to ‘phone the addressee’s secretary in a few days to ask if an appointment will be possible.

In drafting part 2, have no inhibitions about flattery. Your contacts need to be told how important they are.

Should you enclose a CV with this letter? Never! In spite of what you say in the letter, this indicates the suggestion that a job offer might be in your mind and it is off-putting. When you meet and you are asked for one, take it from your pocket. It may also happen that when an appointment is made you will be asked to send it. Then, confirm the date enclosing it. {mospagebreak}

A Key Word
You will hope the meeting will produce advice about possible vacancies and about the kind of work in which you might find job satisfaction. This might happen, but you are more likely to be given names of more contact whom you can approach. These names then call for further letters written on the same basis as before, but with one big difference. They can now have a key word. All the people in your network are likely to be those who receive many supplicatory letters. Their secretaries may act as filters or barriers. If, however, they begin with ‘Mr ‘X’ has suggested that I might approach you…’. That name should take you over the fence. The secretary may fear the boss might give offence to an important friend or even client if the usual ‘regret’ letter is sent off.

Specific Networking
During both casual and formal networking, you may be advised to look at the attraction of totally new kinds of career opportunity. Some years ago, there was the man who had considerable management experience in the communications industry. In his networking, he met an accountant who thought he might be happy as an independent financial adviser. After research, he found that idea attractive and he made the move after further networking. If you meet a similar suggestion, you must look carefully at it. This, however, is a seed which sometimes falls on stony ground because you find no attraction to the work. There have been several cases reported where networkers have found less prospects than might have been imagined. If, however, the field has appeal, you need to begin what can be called specific networking and find contacts who can tell you more.

Associations & Trade Shows
Another excellent method of specific networking is to visit trade exhibitions and see what firms have to offer. Men and women on exhibition hall stands often have spells of boredom and welcome a chat. If they are busy, however, steer clear, go to another stand and return later.

Trade shows are always worth a visit in order to investigate an industry. You can see the goods and services and can decide whether they appeal to you. At most bigger exhibitions, you are likely to find stands of recruitment firms. They are there in the hope of finding both clients and candidates. They are usually happy to discuss your talents and advise you about your prospects.{mospagebreak}

Say Thank You
Once you have met a networking contact and have taken action on the advice offered, write again. Say ‘thank you’ for the time and advice you have been given. Something like ‘You suggested I might approach Mr ‘X’, and he has given me further contacts which I am following up’. Rub in your gratitude and promise to let him know how and when you have made progress. This will help to ensure you are not forgotten. It is a reminder that you are still in the market. Such a letter has been known to bring further advice.

Recruitment Cost
Do remember that all recruitment is expensive and some companies hate it and try to reduce the expense. Space in the national and even regional press costs far more than it did. Employment agencies demand a fee. Selection and search consultancies charge what sometimes look awful figures. Interviewing even a reasonably small short list also takes time and costs money. If you can get your well researched application on to someone’s desk just as there is a vacancy, you may be lucky. It has often happened like that. If your letter begins with a statement that you have heard about a vacancy and that Mr ’X’ has suggested that you have the qualification and experience needed, you may be called for interview. There is nothing more exasperating or frustrating for a selection consultant if an assignment is about to begin when the client calls it off because someone has ‘walked through the door’. That sentence is written with feeling and is made worse when it turns out the appointment has been a success.

Networking is really an exercise in public relations. You have something to sell. Good PR helps sales. It helps you to develop your market and you never know when you might need to network again. Do it properly. The purpose of all networking is that it puts you in the market place. Never be bashful. Networking really does work.