Published on: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Successful Executive Networking: It’s All About What You Say to People You Don’t Know
It is estimated that 75 to 80 percent of all jobs come from networking, and not from a published/posted job lead or a recruiter. Unfortunately, most executive job seekers do not have the skills to substantially expand their networks in order to find a new opportunity in a reasonable time frame. Most make fundamental networking mistakes. As a result, the job search takes longer and longer. In most cases, ineffective networking effectively is the primary reason that executives, particularly those over age 50 take well over a year or longer to find their next job.
How Not to Do It
During the 17 years we have coached senior level executive job seekers, we have observed the two biggest mistakes made by poor networkers.
First, they expect that networking with the people they know is the best way to get a job. Unfortunately, they quickly learn that most of the people they know do not have or are unaware of a job for them. We also have learned that over 80 percent of all jobs are gained via networking with someone not previously known when the job search began.
A second significant error is the way an executive conducts a networking meeting. Most individuals who have encountered poor job seeking networkers report that they make one of more of the following three mistakes:
- The job seeker was not clear about his job search objective "expecting me to figure it out."
- "He did not tell me specifically how I could be of help."
- "I felt that my address book was being raided."
These mistakes usually stop the networking process in its tracks.Doing it Right
In our job search coaching practice, we advise our clients how to conduct effective networking. First, we emphasize four basic principles:
- Have a focused, concise and well-articulated job search objective.
- Always ask for advice and perspective on your stated job search objective.
- Never pressure a networking contact by asking if he knows of or has a job for you.
- Move past the people you know to an ever-increasing network of new contacts you have never met — because inevitably that is where the jobs are.
Next, we advise our clients to use the following nine-step process to help them prepare for and conduct successful networking meetings:
Whether you are in a job search now or just want to be prepared, executive job search coaches Tucker Mays and Bob Sloane show you how to overcome some of the biggest barriers to success.
- Commit to a 30-minute meeting. You will get more new contact referrals if you keep the meeting short. This will also increase the level of quality of contacts provided.
- Start with your exit story. Explain why you are looking. If you are in transition, try to cite a reason that relates to the company's situation and not your performance.
- Express your clear job search objective. It is human nature to want to be open to many kinds of opportunities, particularly if you are in transition. Unfortunately, expressing too many options will confuse your networking contacts, making it more difficult for them to help you.
- Never ask for a job. If you do, you will be putting undue pressure on your contact. And that will suggest you will do the same thing with others to whom they might refer you — so you will get fewer contacts, and not their "A level" contacts.
- Present a target contact list. The better you are organized, the better impression you will make, demonstrating that you have done the research to identify these targets.
- Lead with your bio, not your résumé. Never use your résumé as a "lead" marketing tool. Too often it will reveal far too many details — including the number of companies where you have worked (could be too few or too many) the job duration (may be too many short hops), or your age. In networking, always ask your contact to send your bio, not your résumé. It is always advisable for you to send the résumé yourself to a new contact just prior to a confirmed, scheduled networking meeting.
- Focus primarily on people you have never met before. Given today's social/business networking techniques, we have found that you are rarely more than "four degrees of separation" from meeting someone who has or knows of a job for you.
- Make 75 to 80 new contacts per month until you land. This is the true "gold standard" that will result in a shorter job search. In fact, the best networkers often exceed these targets, using technologies such as LinkedIn to rapidly expand their contact base.
- Keep your network updated regularly. Job search networking is more of a marathon than a sprint. It is important to stay "top of mind" with your growing network so that they will think of you for new opportunities or contacts who will be relevant to your search.