The word Networking is probably one of the top three words that people feel uncomfortable with. For many individuals, it is something they enjoy doing naturally while for others, the thought of it brings discomfort. Many people have tried to network one way or the other and the result seemed unpleasant, hence, they would rather avoid it.
Networking is not about pestering people for a job or something else to the point that people try to avoid you. It is not about embarrassing people so much that they feel morally obliged to help you.
Networking is the pro active process of maximizing the relationships you already have and using them to help you to identify work opportunities. It is about approaching people genuinely to ask for advice and ideas on how you can get your next job – you are not meeting them, calling them or writing to them for a job.
People’s egos are boosted when you ask them for advice and they will be willing to help. That is why you will not ask them for job when you meet them because you will only embarrass them. It is however okay to let them know you are job hunting.
Why is networking important to the hidden job market? It is simply for the same reason why you should embrace the hidden job market method – only about 30% of jobs are advertised, someone must know about the remaining 70%.
Let us do a simple calculation here to see how well networking can be a key success factor in your job search. Assuming you have 10 people in your network (you probably think you don’t), you contact these 10 and they give you names of two of their contact each, that is an added 20 people in your network, making you have 30 people. You speak to each of the 20 new contacts and you have two names each, that means you have 40 new contacts. That 40 new contacts produce two names each, making it 80 additional contacts. You are now up to 150 contacts helping you with information on your job search. Don’t get over excited yet, you will not always have it this way because there will be some people you will not be able to contact and you may not always get two people from each of your contacts. I just want to let you see how invaluable networking can be to your job search.
You are probably thinking, who are the 10 people I have in my network that can be of use? You actually do have them, perhaps even more but you just do not know. This is how you will find them.
Get a sheet of paper and draw a table with several boxes that can contain names. In each box, write down categories of your possible contacts such as Bankers, School colleagues, Relatives, Teachers, Work colleagues, Past employers, Neighbours, Friends, Club members, Customers, Suppliers, Doctors etc.
Go through your phone book, address book, business cards, online connections, list of church or mosque members, etc and brainstorm. Write down the names of everybody that comes to mind under each category. Those are your network.
It does not however end there; you need to identify who you should contact first from your network. They will be people you can contact relatively easily, people high in their organization, people who can potentially employ you, people who are players in your chosen industry etc.
Choose the top 10 names on your list and contact them. You must decide which approach will be best to do that. As a general principle, the first preferred choice is to see them in person, second is to call, third is to write a letter and the least favoured is to send an e-mail. The more personal your contact, the higher your chances of getting their attention.
When you make you contact, make sure you get to the point quickly so that you don’t waste the time of your network. Ultimately, your objectives of contacting them can be summarized as;
– To let them know you are looking for a job (remember, you are not asking them for a job) so that they can be attentive to opportunities that may come their ways
– Ask for their advice about opportunities they may have been privy to
– Ask them for names of two of their contacts who you might approach
When you establish contact with your contact, make sure you show your appreciation for the audience granted you and keep the person that referred you updated. Also remember to mention the name of the person that referred you during your introduction.
In the next article on this series, I will be showing you how to network without sounding phony.
Akindele Afolabi is a Career Management Consultant with Career Edge Limited. He helps organisations and individuals to take ownership of their career management initiatives.