Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing the job market and marketplace into focus – Part 8: networking outside of your usual box

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on August 30, 2010

This is my ninth posting in a series on job search in a contracted job market, and career change and you can find the earlier installments to it in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 89 through 96. This is also my second posting in this series to deal with the issues of networking in your job search, and on how to more effectively do this when making a career change.

I would recommend that you read my first networking posting in this set, Part 6: Networking in Support of Making a Career Change as this posting will build from that as a foundation. As a quick refresher on what I covered there, effective networking in a time of contracted job markets and career change calls for expanding your networking reach and your more usual default networking comfort zone.

I cited my laws and principles of good business and social networking as a set of tools you can use in doing this so as to create a new, more effective comfort zone and so you can develop value from your networking efforts (see top of Social Networking and Business), and I at least touched on issues of more effectively saying your story online through a more effective social networking profile on sites like LinkedIn. That is all important but it can only be half of your networking effort. The second half is in what you network about at the level of your specific focus and your specific goals and priorities for specific networking meetings.

If there is any one take home message that I would share with you here in this posting is that you can only network as effectively as you prepare to network. And this becomes more complicated and requires more focused preparation effort when your job search reaches out of your familiar old comfort zone and your range of every day business world and workplace experience.

Go into any networking meeting with your eyes and ears open to the unexpected, but with a clearly thought out set of goals and objectives:

• In learning specific information that will help you further your search and to help you to better present yourself as an insider for a new job.
• In identifying specific types of new networking contacts that you have specific thought-out reasons for wanting to network with.

I touched on a core area where networking can be invaluable in the last posting before this one in this series, with Part 7: Training, Certifications and Filling in Gaps. When you reach out to new types of opportunity, and into new career paths you do not, almost by definition know as much about what you need for filling in background gaps as someone already in that field and job type would know. Effective networking can help you gain that insider’s edge for this, as well as learning the issues and concerns, and the priorities that a hiring manager or gatekeeper would have as they search for candidates. But this is not a place or time to simply settle for a checklist of core questions and issues to cover, as valuable as that type of resource can be as a starting point and a conversation ice breaker. Be prepared to learn and adapt on the fly.

This is largely a matter of becoming more comfortable with the networking process and in networking about your real needs and concerns with people you do not know like you know your friends and your usual social contacts. And this brings me to my exercise for this posting. Network!

More specifically, start networking outside of your usual circle and your usual networking reach. But don’t just talk with strangers without plan or purpose. Start with some of your initial questions that will help you bring your new job search targets into sharper focus and network for information only – not for job leads.

If one or more of the people you meet with here would also be good leads for specific jobs so much the better, but get to know them a bit better first and learn from them about the industry and type of company this job would be in. Let them get to know you too.

Learn from them what it means to be an insider where you are searching. Learn the industry and functional specialty vocabulary and buzz words in use, and the issues and priorities, and for this industry as a whole and drilling in. Then after you have developed this foothold to networking in this newly developing comfort zone, and only then do you begin networking for specific job leads, and for new networking contacts who could specifically help you develop them.

What do you do if a new contact wants to share a specific great sounding job lead with you early in this process? Take it and follow through, but ask this lead provider to help you prepare for any interview you get with a second background information meeting before you go for that interview. Tell them their advice and insight would really help you as they could approach your background and how you present yourself with a fresh pair of eyes. Then seek out information from them and from others where possible with this specific opportunity in mind, and with a practice interview if possible. And good luck. This type of opportunity can really work.

But mostly plan on following through on a systematic search where you have to proactively reach out to make every next step in the process happen. The next posting in this series will follow up on that process and on carrying out a systematic career changing job search.

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