Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Developing a career out of gigs and short-term work 5: understanding and expanding workplace and new career-developing options 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 24, 2014

This is my fifth installment to a series on job search and career development, when you at least start out from a position where your only options seem to be ad hoc and more an ongoing effort to simply find here-and-now work (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 368 and following for Parts 1-4.)

I focused in Part 4 of this series on two points: developing the skills and experience that will help you to more effectively move beyond gig work as a sole employment option, and marketing yourself with the employers you do find work with, and to help you develop opportunities to develop new skills. And that second point in fact strongly connects with the topic area that I would delve into here in this installment: networking, references and referrals, and reputation building.

I am going to discuss these issues here in this posting, but before I do so I am going to complete my foundation for that by noting that getting your foot in the right door can be more important than the terms under which you would work there. I will discuss this in my next series installment, but for here note that this means making decisions between work for here and now pay, and internship work and work for experience. On the work for pay side, for gig work this usually means minimum wage work and that can be by the hour or it can mean piece work where that compensation model could apply. On the internship side, this can and often does mean accepting and agreeing to a combination of rote work and work that does in fact give opportunity to develop new skills and work experience. This, as I will discuss in my next installment is all about understanding and reaching for effective balances.

And with that noted, I begin this posting’s discussion with the issues of finding the right doors to try to open and to get your foot into, and finding them with networking leads and with referrals to the right people: people who have the authority to say yes. This means planning for a career and for career development from the absolute fundamentals on, and from some critically important points that many of your job search competitors miss on. And this begins with the issue of systematically finding and meeting with the right people and move on from there:

• Research the businesses you would network to and the people you would meet with and network with while doing so. And look for and reach out to people who have contacts in the businesses that you are interested in. Regardless of that, reach out to and network with people who have knowledge and experience in the industry and with the types of business that you are seeking out, as sources of insight and information. And when you do network into target businesses that you are trying to reach, seek out people who have the authority to make real decisions: people who have the authority to say yes. There are always people who can say no, and who do not have the authority to go beyond that and certainly for anything like hiring. No is the default here. Identify and seek to network with and meet people who can say yes. And this all begins with a search for information and insight so you can present yourself as an industry and job-type insider who can be relied upon for knowing how to do the job that you seek, effectively.
• When you reach out to someone for advice and insight or for networking leads, you are asking them to give you time from their busy schedule and you are asking them to give value to you. And if they do offer you opportunity to reach out to and network with one of their professional contacts, they are placing a measure of trust in you that you will deal with them professionally too.
• This means you’re being appreciative of the fact that they are giving you of their time and energy, and of their insight. This means not making further demands on them. And that means not asking them for a job, and not asking any of their contacts that they help network you to for one either – unless you are specifically advised by a referring contact to do so.
• It is expected that you are looking for new work opportunity, but do not put the people you network with in a difficult or awkward position of having to tell you that they are not hiring for people with your skills and experience. If there is a possibility that a networking contact might consider trying you out as an employee, let them decide that on the basis of what you demonstrably know and can do. Let them decide that on the basis of the sense that they get from you as to how easy and comfortable it would be working with you. Are you accommodating or demanding? Do you listen and really hear what is being said to you or do you mostly just talk?
• Your goal when networking should be clearly stated. Tell the people you meet with what you seek to do and what types of information or leads you would hope to gain from them. But do not come across as pressuring them. And if you are appreciative and if you seek to offer them value from this meeting too, and if you take a no pressure approach towards them, these contacts are going to be much more likely to want to offer you value. And if they were ever to consider directly helping you land new work, this is when they would do that.

Begin looking for informational networking opportunities, and in that regard I strongly recommend that you review my earlier posting: Informational Interviews. I discuss the issues of learning how to speak and think like an insider for the type of work you are seeking out there, among other things. And really think through what you seek to achieve as a next step job. Be prepared to clearly, briefly state that and in this regard I strongly recommend your reviewing my core elevator pitch postings:

Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch, and
A Good Elevator Pitch is Never a Monolog. Yes, a good pitch has at least brief monolog elements but it is also an opportunity to enter into specific conversations as well – and ultimately, more importantly.

And I finish this posting on the topic of post-networking follow-throughs – your follow-throughs that you send out after meeting with others and whether face to face or more remotely where a contact has offered you value. And this brings me to what is probably the single most important point that I could raise in this posting.

• Always follow through after a networking meeting with a follow-up note. Thank the person who you have just met with for offering you of their time and expertise – and even if this meeting did not break new ground for you in your job search. Assume that whoever you have just networked with was trying to offer you real value that you could leave that meeting with.
• And do not stop with that. Briefly repeat the single most important point that you were trying to share with them, as to who you are and what you are looking for. This way, if they have thought even just a little about their meeting with you and if further reflection has brought any other networking leads to mind for them who they might be willing to share with you, they will more likely do so. And if they have not thought further about you or about their meeting with you, they are more likely to do so now and to remember you and favorably.
• An effective, well drafted follow-up from you shows that you appreciate the time and effort that a contact has shared with you, and it gives them a second opportunity to share further – and with reason for doing so. And I repeat – they will be that much more likely to remember you and favorably, going forward too.

And with that in place, I go back to the questions of what you seek to reach as a next step in moving from gig work to more stable employment, and to the issues of what you would consider doing in making that transition. And I will discuss those balances that I noted towards the top of this posting too. This complex of issues will be the area of discussion for my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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