Thursday, August 14, 2008

Networking Tips & Taboos

If you’re among the thousands looking for work, you know that a network is a must-have. So is the ability to properly tune it.

While WHO you know is important, HOW they can add value is the key to successful networking. Utilizing your contacts to generate job leads requires thought, effort and skill.

Don’t apply the most non-productive tactic

“Know about any job openings?” is a question that rarely results in a solid job lead.

All too often, I meet job-searching executives who express frustration over the results their networks produce. These are people who have amassed a solid group of really valuable contacts, approached them all and have little to show for it.

They report that their contacts seem genuinely willing to help, but when they inquire about job leads, the response often goes something like, ”Let me have your resume and as soon as I hear of something, I’ll get back to you.”

Though their contacts may have the best of intentions, the odds of them knowing about a suitable job opening are usually slim to none.

Provide the opportunity for “network assistance”

Your contacts want to be supportive, but if they don’t know of any job openings, that’s the end of that conversation. You need to make it easy for them to help you.

Laser-like questions yield the best results.

Before you ever touch base with anyone in your network, do your homework. Determine the companies you’re targeting, identify key executive recruiters and people you want to meet, organizations and associations that you’d like entrée to, private equity funds, relevant conferences … the list is as long as your needs.

Then critically evaluate your network and determine which contacts might be helpful in each case. Optimal results are obtained when each situation is matched with the contact best positioned to assist you.

For example, asking if they know anyone at company XYZ may yield a "no" reply, but allows you to segue into a broader discussion of similar companies where you could get the name of someone to call.

Pyramid your contacts

From each networking exchange you have, strive to get the names of at least two people or two important pieces of information that can further your efforts.

If you’re not achieving positive results from your network, you need to seriously examine your approach … it’s usually not the fault of your contacts. At the top level, networking requires that you set the tone with thorough planning, carefully thought-out questions and viable next-step actions.
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A well-tuned network is among the greatest assets a job seeker can have. Use it wisely.

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