Most advice you read for a job search says to call and network with as many people as you can. That’s fine...but what do you say? What’s the objective of the call? How do you attract your contacts rather than repel them? Here are some ideas to make those calls effective!
First...Why are you calling? What is your objective for the call? Most people get a networking contact, tell them about their background, and ask if they know of anyone hiring. 99% of the time the answer is ‘No’, the call is over, and they conclude networking doesn’t really work.
For most people...here’s news: The primary objective when calling someone to network is not to ask if they know of a job! The primary objective is to obtain more people with whom you can network.
When you give them your ‘Elevator Speech’ they know you’re looking for a job, and that job leads would be valuable to you. If you put them on the spot and ask them, chances are nothing will come to mind, and instead of taking time to think about it right then, they will just say ‘No’. If, however, you ask leading questions that help them think of other people that might be of help to you, they are likely to be very willing to help in that way. So what do you ask?
“If you were in my situation, who are the first couple of people you would call?”
“Do you know of anyone else with a background similar to mine?”
“Who do you know at XYZ Company, or ABC Corporation?”
“Is there anyone you know from your (church / golf league / professional association / health club / etc.) who seems to be well networked also?”
“Who do you know that seems to know everyone?”
Tell them: “For my search, my job is to follow a trail of breadcrumbs, from one person to another until I find the right position. I’m primarily interested in talking to as many people as I can, especially people that are well networked. Who would be 2 or 3 other people you might suggest I connect with?”
What NOT to say:
“Do you know anyone hiring someone in my field?”
“What kind of jobs do you think I should be looking at?”
“My last job was a big mistake, I have to find a better one this time.”
“I’m sure glad to be out of that place, they were slave drivers.”
“With the problems I’ve had, I’m having trouble getting another job. Who can you refer?”
These may sound contrived, but are common in one form or another. When networking with someone, think of the conversation as a job interview. People are much more willing to refer you to someone they know if they view you as professional, concise, sharp, polite, and unassuming. If you don’t impress them, they are not going to be willing to refer you to their connections. If they feel like you’re pressing them too hard or make them uncomfortable, they are also not going to want to refer you to their friends.
I’ve seen people come to job networking groups that tell all the reasons they can’t get a job (age, poor job history, fired from last job, etc.) and then ask for referrals. I hear people ramble on and on about their background and the type of job they are seeking abusing the time they’ve been given and trying patience. I see people show up to a networking coffee with an acquaintance in jeans, tell them about all their problems and how bad their last boss was, and then ask for an introduction to their company. Even your best friend is not likely to be willing to introduce you to their best business contact if they don’t think you will represent them professionally and with a positive attitude!
Effective networking is presenting your value to someone succinctly, inspiring them to provide you more connections where you can repeat the process. The process repeated enough times will put you in front of someone that will have your next position in mind.
Spend time preparing yourself, your ‘Elevator Speech’, your list of questions, your list of contacts, and start calling. Be professional, be concise, be upbeat, and be ‘Pleasantly Persistent’. You’ll be on your way to your next career opportunity!