Part Eleven: Networking (Part 2)

This is the eleventh part of a series of mini guides which aims to help you find a career you love. They include tips from me but also practical advice from some of the hundreds of individuals who I have coached over the last 10 years, the sort of things they may have shared with friends or family going through a career move.

In the last mini guide, I talked about the importance of networking and I would like to reiterate that 70% to 80% of all jobs that people get are through their networks. What I mean by networking is engaging with people you know, both via work and in your personal life. I advise that you approach networking in a very organised, thorough way. Start by downloading your contacts from LinkedIn to a spreadsheet and categorise them into different categories of how well you know them. You might also want to categorise them by how you got to know them or by what functional job they do. This will help you put a plan together as to how to approach them. Start with the contacts that you know best first as you can practice what you want to say with people you know well and ask for their feedback. I advise that you ring people rather than email; emails are okay if you have no other way of contacting someone but they are not as effective in engaging people as phone calls or face to face meetings.

“Use your networks, they are likely to lead to far more opportunities than speculatively applying for jobs online. I found online apps a real waste of time and I really wish I had done more networking.”

Two things that I would suggest when contacting people are:

  1. Have a reason for the call and try not to ring just for a catch up. If you rang me and we haven’t spoken for a year or so then I might think that it’s nice to speak to you but I will wonder why you called. So, throughout the call, I’m waiting for the thing that you’re going to ask me that will explain the purpose of the call. When you don’t ask me anything I might reflect afterwards that it was an awkward call and forget all about it. Let the person know very early on the reason for the call.
  2. Try to avoid the ‘can you find me a job’ call, that’s quite a big ask and it may put your contact off. The trick is to ask for a small favour or piece of advice that they can easily give and drop in your elevator pitch. The small favour might be something like which recruiters they recommend, advice on moving into the sector they are in, their opinion on trends in the market. Once someone has helped you, they have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. They don’t consciously go about their business thinking ‘I must find so-and-so a job’, however their unconscious remembers you. So, say in a weeks time, when they overhear a conversation that’s relevant to what you talked about, their subconscious says ‘hang on a sec that’s what so-and-so I was talking about’, so they mention your name.

“Ask people for advice and feedback. Never ask for a job! Most people will gladly offer advice. Not just friends and close colleagues. Reach out to people from your past. Use LinkedIn to contact and keep in touch. Look for articles that might interest contacts and send to them.”

The more phone calls you make, the more times you ask favours and deliver your elevator pitch, the more pairs of ears you have unconsciously listening for opportunities for you. It is amazing where jobs come from. Try not to judge whether people are in a position to help; I have learnt over the years that it’s hard to predict who will help you. It’s often someone your contact knows who has the role and you don’t know who your contact knows.

I knew a director of a company who was leaving her organisation and, in her last week, had a coffee with a lady who worked in admin in a completely different part of the business. The director dropped in her elevator pitch during the coffee conversation. The admin lady went home and explained to her husband that it was a shame the director was leaving and mentioned what role she was looking for. Her husband realised his sister was looking for someone with those skills and so the admin lady facilitated an introduction. The director secured a new role through this referral. She could not have predicted when she had the coffee that it would lead to a role but she made sure she delivered her elevator pitch whoever she spoke to.

“My first opportunity came through a contact I hadn’t spoken to in nearly 20 years.....surreal really and a good example how powerful your network can be.”

This series of mini guides will give you some practical tips and hints from people that have been through it and found what they are looking for. The next one is about staying motivated and strong in your search.

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