Networking is a CONTACT Sport

chalk1Job search does not happen in a digital vacuum.  You have learned in earlier sessions that the key to the whole notion of productive and efficient networking is to generate INTERACTIVE communication, the initial basis of relationship building!

When involved with active job search, part of our preparation is to develop your set of Personal Marketing collateral materials.   I have long suggested that steps one and two of our 12-step Process M.A.P. give us all the ingredients we need to “get in the galley” and cook up a three course meal of our personal marketing collateral materials.


This week’s session, Thursday, December 7th:  Implementing Your Personal Marketing Plan during the HOHoholidaze ahead


Pilot OnboardWhile most job seekers seem to prefer starting with a resume, so that they can begin simply applying to any job that seems remotely close to what they can do… I encourage you to work with all your ingredients at the same time…if your desired result is a nice prime rib dinner, don’t start with the meat—start with the seasonings and vegetables, even get your dessert started…

Because that “meaty” resume is the easiest and quickest of what you need to prepare!  So…job seeking ‘chefs,’ let’s look at the ingredients that you have identified through assessment of your galley shelves, and your dinner of choice.

WHERE To Start

As a contact sport, networking is about interaction between sender and receiver, buyer and seller… job seeker and potential employers. The great news is that you get to start from YOUR ‘sweet spot’ or middle ground where all this interaction occurs the easiest!

You start with people that you already know or have some connection to. If your ‘natural network’ doesn’t have a regular meeting—most do not, by their very diverse nature—groups of like-minded people are easy to identify and attend. As you begin to reach out and broaden your ‘sweet spot,’ be selective in your attempt to create a supportive ‘community’ grouping close to your targeted marketplace.

Networking within your targeted marketplace, your unique, job search ‘community’ should play a critical role in your Personal Marketing strategies. It is an easy means to getting the word out about your business to people who may purchase and influence others to purchase your service or goods. But just as with any other job search activity, we get what we put into it.

That being said, local networking events are seeing record turnouts lately, a sign that leads us to believe the networking is paying off. A Local Networking Group is any organization, which meets on a regular basis, to share and receive referrals and leads.

Some of the largest local organizations devoted to supporting job seeker efforts are  Frisco Connect, Cathedral of Hope, the Southlake Group, Watermark Church… to name just a few. Many are associated with church support organizations… but are completely nondenominational in their approach, operation and outreach.

WHAT to start with if you have a huge personal contact network to start with… great! Start by prioritizing your list into three sub categories… Seasoned networkers with terrific phone and interview skills will undoubtedly start their networking efforts at the “B” and “SEE” list levels… but for the ‘normal’ job seeker this represents pre-mature activity.

Use the earlier preparation steps, practice time, and your first several ‘baby steps’ to develop your effectiveness BEFORE having to perform for your best contacts. “Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.” Further, try to avoid the temptation to respond to your sense of urgency in securing your next employment, with lack of adequate preparation and planning— the first seven steps—don’t be guilty of… “Ready… FIRE… Aim” It is as easy as a-b-c…

YOUR DISTRIBUTION NETWORK

Steps six and seven of our 12-step Process M.A.P., initial research and pulling together your initial contact list are in place to create focus to your efforts… What are the trends in the market that are attractive to you, and which target organizations are most needy of your value proposition?

Your evolving contact list will take you through the A-B-C’s of networking and the development of your distribution channels…

  1. Start with people you already know or have reason to “should know,” as they are the most likely to be receptive to your initial efforts.
  2. As you develop your network, identify key bridge contacts that can give you specific information or introduce you to key decision-makers and hiring authorities.
  3. Critical to your success is building relationships with people who can influence your hiring. This ‘must see’ list of influential contacts and hiring authorities is the epicenter of your job search campaign!

BABY STEPS Revisited Be your own best coach… pay homage to the demon in the room, TECHNOLOGY, specifically social media… and your own communication preferences. Even the most passive communicators must learn to engage and interact… but with whom?

Use your FREE LinkedIn account to organize your contact list and to function like a road map of who to network to next. Once identified, get on the phone and meet your newest “A” list contact.

You’ll never know when a ‘hidden gem’ of a “B” or “See” list contact will materialize in the process. When you’re networking, ask for a reference, not a job. Whether you’re doing catch-up drinks or grabbing lunch to reconnect, your main goal is to get an ally, not a tally of job listings.

Recruiting a helping hand to your search is your aim.

So don’t ask your college buddy if he knows of any jobs for people like you. How would he know? And don’t ask your boss from two jobs ago if she has the names of any people who are currently looking to hire somebody like you. It puts her on the spot. No, instead, ask for their advice, some information, or a reference.

Hmmmm… JOB vs. A.I.R.

Mention that you’re going to be moving on, or you’re already looking, or that you’re actively “out there looking.”   Let them know the type of positions that are a good CareerFIT for you, and what you’re hoping to achieve in your next opportunity. And, if appropriate, ask them if — when it gets to the actual interviewing process — it would be OK to use them as a reference.

By letting them know that you hold them in high enough esteem to potentially use them as a reference, you’re actually paying them a compliment. By not putting them on the spot about specific job openings, you eliminate making them consider you as a Yes-NO-Maybe “applicant,” thus reducing the awkwardness inherent in the networking conversation.

You’re also making it easier for them to say “yes”, or convey useful information… or simply to feel good about themselves for being a good friend and helping you out with this little favor. All of which means that you have a new buddy in your search — one who’s going to be thinking about keeping an eye out for new opportunities and an ear open for fresh possibilities for their reference-able friend: you.

Now, this doesn’t work for just any old person you meet on the street. There’s probably a pretty good match between people you’d take to lunch and those you could ask to be a reference. So my advice would be to stick to asking those you know well enough.

Being realistic, the widely offered and deeply wrong advice from past decades of job search tricks and tips… that you should try to extract favors, concessions, names, jobs, and career assistance from people you’ve only met over the phone is not only useless, it can be counterproductive to your aims by antagonizing your broader network.

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