When I speak with executives about how to find their next position, almost always it seems like they want the easy answer yet deep inside, they know there is no magic answer or simple solution.
If published statistics are accurate, search firms and employment agencies fill about 20% of all jobs in the US. Job boards fill anywhere between 2% and 8%. So how do the others get filled?
Networking consistently fills more jobs than any other method. Yet people often don’t know how to network well or only act in crisis (I need a job now!) Networking when you don’t need a job will help you cultivate relationships that will help you find work.
Here’s what to do.
- Tap into your rolodex. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a rolodex was a desktop solution for saving your entire list of contacts on cards, sorted in alphabetical order. They usually consisted of names, addresses and phone numbers of clients to contact. Start reaching out to people with your “ask.” When I think of the term today, it is your network of professional and personal relationships. People who know, like, trust AND respect you.
- Cultivate your network of relationships.Tap into your existing relationships-friends, family, former colleagues, people you know. Just let them know you’re looking for work and ask them if they might know someone in your field who might be able to give you advice. Ask each person you are referred to for at least 3 referrals. Create a snowball effect.
- Develop a short “ask.” No one likes an elevator pitch. They appear as though you are vomiting on someone and expecting them to like it. Instead, connect with these people as one person to another. Ask about their work, wife/husband/partner/kids . . .social stuff Soon, you will be asked about what is going on with you. Start talking about your life and add that you are in a job search and looking for something and then describe it.
- Help others. I’m sure you’ve the phrase, “Give more, get more.” Help others and things will come back to you. The small business networking group, BNI, has built is on the philosophy of “Givers Gain.” They know what they are talking about. Over 200,000 members have earned over $11.2 billion in the past 12 months. Contributing to others and their successful search occurs when you genuinely listen to others and their professional needs and offer assistance. There is advice and leads that you will receive by supporting others, as well as ideas that will emerge from helping others work through their problems and opportunities that will be afforded to you through listening and helping.
- Cultivate your relationships. Like dating and good marriages, relationships take time to develop and blossom. Don’t expect instant results. Sending thank you notes, a quick email or a periodic phone call to stay in contact, not just while you job search but all the time.
- Participate in trade groups.The “mega-functions” are harder to be successful in than the smaller local ones. The more targeted the group, often the better. Get involved. Join committees. Let people get to know you through your contributions. Ask for support.
- Focus on creating a great impression. If all you do is ask for a job, a lot of doors will be slammed in your face. If you focus on creating a great impression and offering help, rest assured that when you are in front of someone who needs you, they will be smart enough to see the fit.
- Follow through. Act on all the leads you receive. If you promise to do something, do it when you say you will do it. Imagine what it is like for the other person who is trying to help you, who may have even alerted the other person to a phone call and then not have it acted upon.
- Be brave. We occasionally hear stories of ordinary bravery but usually, they go unnoticed. There is the story of security guard who noticed a piece of tape over a lock, removed it, and noticed that tape was there again later in his shift. Frank Willis called the police who came to an office building in Washington, DC and made the first step of arresting the Watergate burglars that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Your bravery may be as simple as using the three second rule of confronting your fear of networking and doing it anyway (The three second rule of networking says that you can be afraid and terrified of calling or talking to someone for three seconds. Then, you do it anyway). Small victories will result in bigger ones. Be brave and speak with people. You are too smart to “blow up” your relationships.
- Ask for support. In the US, we have the ridiculous idea that we have to do things by ourselves and figure things out by ourselves. Why does it have to be hard? Seriously. Why does it have to be so hard? Most people act like they know everything. I don’t know everything. You don’t know everything. Ask for help. After all, people want to help . . . they just don’t want to get creeped out or stalked into helping. Make it easy for them and give them the chance to.
Take the time to network, ideally when you are working and don’t necessarily need a job.
The investment will be worth your time.
© 2005, 2010, 2017 all rights reserved
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is an executive job search and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years.
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