Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Jumpstart your networking – managing your job search network

Posted in job search and career development, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 26, 2010

Effective networking does not begin with the first contact you have with someone. If that is the only time you reach out to them to share ideas and value you will forget who they are, they will forget you and nothing of any sustaining value will have been accomplished. This is true for networking in general and it is most certainly true for business networking and for networking that you conduct as part of a job search campaign.

In the first two postings in my Jumpstarting Your Networking series I wrote about building a networking foundation to build your job search campaign around and about keeping your networking in focus so your efforts effectively support your job search. This posting picks up from there to the issue of managing your networking and staying connected so actual value is created from your effort.

On the one hand, you do not want to reach out too often to your individual contacts, and certainly if you do so in ways that suggest you do not value their time or their busy schedules. On the other, you need to stay in contact with them often enough so that a real dialog is possible and real networking can take place.

This means finding a balance and any effective balance point here depends on two factors:

• How often you reach out to connect, and
• What messages you share in the reaching out.
• If you come across as simply seeking to use a networking contact in some way the first time you reach out to them will probably be too many.
• If you do not bother to at least quickly review their online networking profile or other resources that would give you an idea as to who they are and what they do – and where you may be able to offer them value, you blunt the potential of networking with them too.
• Reach out the first time to start a dialog and always offer to help them in their networking as and where you can.
• Do your research and learn at least something about who your contacts are.
• When you reach out to reconnect, always offer something positive. This may be a resource of focused value like a link to an article you found that is not in the mainstream literature of their field, and that connects both to their seeming interests and to your interests and goals. This may simply be acknowledging a holiday, such as New Years and wishing your contacts a happy and product New Year to come. Be willing to be creative and do not just ask for favors without at least attempting to offer something in return.
• And be respectful of their time constraints and schedules. If you want to meet with someone in your network in person offer to schedule this at their convenience, sharing availability information from your schedule as appropriate. If you are looking for specific help with your search in the form of a lead or other information of value, make it easier for your contact by being as clear and concise as you can be in what you ask for. Don’t for example ask for “a lead in banking or finance.” Ask if they know anyone who can help you bring your search into clearer focus who works in boutique banks with large private investor account management as a focus, and say you Skype so it would be easy for you to speak with them if they are in either the United States or Europe. (See Structuring and Effective Elevator Pitch.)
• Be open to the unexpected. If your contact asks you a clarifying question, or a question that would suggest a possible lead a bit outside of your constraints box they are probably waiting to offer you a present – a type of lead that might offer real value for you. Ask them what they had in mind and show interest. Certainly, if they end up giving you a lead to someone in Japan who works in the type of bank you are looking for, reach out and connect. In any case if you do contact this lead and reach them get back to the contact who gave you the lead to thank them and tell them how much your appreciated “getting to talk with Mr. Tokugawa.” I will add that even of you have no desire to move to Japan, this new lead many be able to help you connect to people in banking and in the right types of bank, at the right levels in them and in the right functional areas where you would like to work geographically. As I say in my core rules of good networking it is not who you know but who your contacts know and who they in turn know who you can come to directly connect with as well.

If I was to summarize this posting as a basic rule, briefly stated, it is that when you network you want to really connect and to build bridges for the exchange of information and value. This means not simply collecting direct contacts on Facebook or LinkedIn that in turn just collect dust. It does not matter if your networking contacts are potentially of real value to you or simply random selections of names on the list if your networking is just initial connecting and if it ends with that. It is in managing and cultivating your network that you gain value from it and this is where networking as an ongoing process can help you find and land your next job or achieve any other goal or priority where others could potentially contribute to your efforts.

My next posting in this series will be on tracking the effectiveness of your networking effort, and throughout your search campaigns. There are measures you can effectively track and use while still looking, and before you have reached your search end point of getting hired. I will be discussing how you can keep your search on track and know you are.

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