By David Hults
Did anyone ever ask you about openings in your company? It’s painful to say “sorry” to these people, and it’s humiliating for them to ask. Networking for openings doesn’t work.
Well, it was OK when you were just beginning your career. Jack got his high school stock boy job by having a friend’s dad pull strings, and Steve got a job waiting tables by walking in and asking if they needed people. But that works only at entry-level jobs. Once you’ve got a career in mind, it’s unlikely that your friends and acquaintances know the right people to talk to.
Don’t get us wrong. Person-to-person job searching is the hands-down preferred method! It’s just that most people think networking works all by itself. They’ll go to association meetings (usually made up of 90 percent job-hunters and wannabes and only 10 percent doers) and ask about vacancies or openings. They’ll pass out their resumes on the street like flyers. They’ll collect business cards like baseball cards, hoard them, and wish they had some realistic good reason to talk to those people. They hope they’ll be remembered when a vacancy or opening turns up.
Then there’s networking among “primary” contacts. Friends and relatives and acquaintances don’t like being imposed on; besides, it’s just hit or miss when you ask everyone you know about jobs. You can quickly burn up your network instead of cultivating it.
To avoid this random, billiard-ball-style networking, you need a written and researched plan of whom you want to talk to, how you can make or save them a bundle, what’s going on in their industry that you can key into, and a thought-out rationale and method to get in to see them face to face. You need a clear agenda for each meeting. You must know how to milk the meeting for further contacts by knowing-at least by key information point if not by name-who else you want to talk to.
Remember, your resume is not likely to entice anyone to see you. To generate networking interviews, you need good telephone techniques (including knowing the three ways to reach impossible-to-reach people), a brief and powerful personal profile to sell your future, and you’ll need to avoid the common mistakes that kill job campaigns. These include being “open” to any kind of job; an unplanned, unfocused search; and doing it alone. You’re going to need support and cheerleading from friends and family to get you through the discouraging times-and don’t be afraid to get professional help to assist you in getting beyond your limiting beliefs.
Poor networking is worse than no networking. Meeting people is one thing, making the correct impression is another. Just meeting a lot of people and talking with them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting closer to a new job. If people aren’t impressed, if they think you’re too arrogant, too pushy, too meek, too timid, too uninformed, not committed enough, too confused, too anything, all that a hundred networking contacts will do is generate a hundred poor impressions-you’ll burn bridges that you’ll have to rebuild later once you get your head on straight.
One client was very excited about how he “knew everybody” in his industry. When we did a candid reference check, we found out he was well known, all right. But he wasn’t famous, he was infamous! He had to shape up in a number of areas, including going back to everyone he knew and revising the impression he’d made.
In some cases, you may not be able to repair the damage. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Poorly conducted or ill-prepared networking will only make things worse every time.
David Hults, Executive Career Coach, Author, Speaker, Executive Director of Activ:8 Peak Performance Network, Advanced Certified Birkman Consultant and Former Career Columnist – St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Visit http://www.activ8careers.com ” Follow his blog at http://www.careerstr8talk.com