Networking is a fundamental marketing tactic used by independent professionals and small business owners. Job seekers can learn much from their entrepreneurial counterparts when it comes to applying networking to a successful job search campaign.
Networking is vital to career self management even when you are not actively looking for another job. The key is to establish contacts and develop relationships before you need them. Harvey McKay discusses this approach in his networking book, ‘Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty’.
The key to a successful job search today involves a much more proactive approach than it did a few years ago given the fierce competition for fewer jobs. Secondly, job seekers can no longer hide behind their laptops and hope to land a job by applying to job boards and other ‘published’ job openings. It is the ‘hidden job market’ that comprises 80% of jobs filled each year. One can tap into this ‘unpublished’ market by adapting networking skills used by successful entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurial Networking Tips:
1. Focus on how you can help others – Your focus should be how you can help others, not just how they can help you. Your initial conversation should be about understanding your prospective employer’s problems, needs and concerns. Even though you are also there to learn about their industry, this is also a great opportunity to sell what you can do for them by understanding what issues they are facing. Note, this is the same tactic you should use when interviewing for a job. Marketing Coach, Charlie Cook, refers to this approach as a ‘client problem centered networking strategy’. By building such relationships, you become known as a powerful resource for others. Remember, when networking, ‘it’s all about them’.
2. Make yourself approachable – In his book, ‘The Power of Approachability’, Scott Ginsberg talks about the importance of ‘approachability’ when networking. The next time you attend a professional association meeting or chamber of commerce mixer try to engage actively in conversation with others to discover what Ginsberg refers to as a’ Common Point of Interest’. Finding the CPI will enable others to connect with you; allow them to feel more comfortable talking to you; and will increase your approachability, which further enhances your networking efforts.
3. Build rapport – Another way to become approachable is to build rapport and trust with those you come in contact with. Debra Fine, author of ‘The Fine Art of Small Talk’ suggests one of the best ways to do this is to use ‘small talk’ to initiate self disclosure with others we meet. This opens up the door to building rapport and allows others to do the same with you. Try this the next time you are in an informational interview.
4. Provide multiple options for communication – People you network with will choose to communicate with you in different ways; whether it is email, phone, face to face, or a combination. Make all of these avenues of communication available. Include the following on your business cards: Email address; web site; phone numbers, both home and cell. After your initial contact, follow up with an email. Let them know if any of the referrals they gave you panned out. And remind them of what you are looking for.
Remember to think like an entrepreneur when you are in networking situations. Focus on the other person’s needs, establish a common point of interest and rapport, and be diligent about following up. Soon you will be networking like a pro! “Follow me on Twitter”