This post is about Networking for job seekers: It’s All About Who You Don’t Know…Yet! written by a guest blogger Michael Schonfeld.
On the fourth day of Christmas; my true love gave to me….
We all seem to buy into the status quo of the current job market; apply on-line, give the prospective employer the desired information, wait a week or two and then follow-up with a live person if one was listed. You must realize by now if that strategy worked, you’d be gainfully employed. So don’t waste your time. The best opportunities are rarely advertised. Hiring for those positions is most often based upon reputation, the hiring manager’s familiarity with you, and the success of your personal brand in a particular market niche.
So, what is the best strategy for securing a new position in the current job market? Networking! Networking is the practice of engaging a person or an audience by maintaining contact, listening more than talking, and providing potential solutions and pursuing opportunities as a follow-up action. The objective of networking is to make yourself memorable, if not unforgettable, by your contacts and connections. The first step in networking is to prepare a short, pointed introduction of about 30 seconds length followed by these quick questions: What do you do and how can my skills be applied to add value to your efforts? Go silent, then really listen, and learn where there could be a potential fit for you in the future. Once your contact is done speaking, thank the person for his or her time, exchange business cards or contact information, and conclude the conversation with, “I look forward to contacting you again soon. Feel free to reach out to me anytime.” After your conversation, write keywords on the back of the business card and move on to your next introduction.
Now, the above leaves one with the distinct impression networking is only done in person. While in-person networking is important, it is only part of an effective networking strategy. Use on-line networking, e-mail, phone calls, and hand-written notes and cards sent via postal service in conjunction with in-person networking to establish a truly effective networking plan.
LinkedIn is unilaterally recognized as the on-line service for posting your qualifications in the form of an on-line resume. This is a typical under-utilization of LinkedIn’s features and benefits. Focus upon joining LinkedIn groups, up to 55 groups can be joined, and review the group member list. Identify group members who are potential decision makers and to whom you wish to introduce yourself. As a group member, you are permitted to send other group members messages to introduce yourself and highlight your professional interests. It’s a wonderful networking tool.
LinkedIn Events can provide you with local opportunities to meet and familiarize yourself with local members having common interests and goals.
LinkedIn has a networking-friendly feature, “Who’s Viewed Your Profile?” that affords you a great opportunity to send a detailed “Thank you for viewing my profile” message informing others of your business, professional, and community activities as well as your career interests. If you check the box to allow recipients to view each other’s e-mail address and check the box to send a copy to yourself, you now have that contact’s e-mail address for future follow-up efforts outside of the LinkedIn site. If you’d like an example of this note that has proven to be quite effective, send in a quick note or post a comment, and I will arrange to forward one or more examples to you.
LinkedIn connections can be invaluable for introductions, but few people interact effectively with new connections. Each time you add a valuable connection to your professional network, plan on sending an e-mail thanking that person for connecting with you on LinkedIn. Research your new connection’s professional and personal interests using Google and FaceBook to identify one or more areas of common interest. In your e-mail should be the basic conveyance of your appreciation, mention of common interests, and an offer to meet and collaborate with your new connection to achieve his or her goals & objectives. Then ask for more contacts with similar professional interests that you can connect with to further build your professional network.
After you send that first e-mail, add each new contact to your Address Book and make a point to fill in as much personal data and add your own notes regarding each contact. If a birthday is included in the profile, enter the birthday into your address book and schedule a reminder. But don’t just send a quick e-mail to recognize a birthday, send an e-card with an image reflecting your contact’s personal interests and then reinforce that by attaching a free e-book as a birthday gift. Follow up with a phone call for an added personal touch. Be creative, personable, and make it memorable! And ask for other contacts who might know of an exciting position where you could be a good fit. Keep repeating this effort with every communication, and your efforts will pay remarkable dividends.
Several free tools exist that make networking and contact management much easier than it initially seems. These are a few of the products I rely upon. They’ve proven to be invaluable.
G-mail is so feature reach with available add-ons and extensions, it is a perfect tool for on-line networking. G-mail allows you to add a signature block that can reference all of your social networking accounts so your connections and followers don’t have to expend too much effort to connect through multiple on-line social networking channels. Rapportive replaces the advertising that appears in G-mail’s right-hand window pane with a useful summary about the person who is sending or replying to your e-mail. This summary draws account information from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other accounts that will prove to be invaluable in completing each contact’s profile. You can use the summary from Rapportive to collect information for completing each contact’s profile. Visit www.rapportive.com to learn more about this G-mail add-on.
LinkedIn offers the free on-line contact management service, Connected, to aggregate your contacts from multiple on-line e-mail and networking services into one collective contact management service. Connected will notify you of birthdays, job changes, promotions, and other events in a daily brief appropriately called “Connected Daily.” Visit www.connectedhq.com to learn more about Connected.
If you use an iPhone or iPod Touch, CardMunch is a business card transcription App from LinkedIn that allows you to scan a business card using the camera included with your iPhone. CardMunch includes a utility that allows you to send invitations directly from within the App ensuring the recipient will remember you from your recent in-person introduction. CardMunch also shows you LinkedIn profile information and common connections. Visit http://www.cardmunch.com/ using your iPhone or iPod Touch to download the App for free.
Klout measures influence through on-line social engagement. But most people don’t fully realize how useful Klout can be for professional networking. Use it to identify influential subject matter experts in your field of interest and reach out to them by commenting on their blog articles and by giving frequent and repetitive gifts of +K to recognize knowledge and expertise. You’ll get attention doing this; you’ll also promote your personal brand, and this effort will open doors you never thought existed.
EssentialPIM Free is a PC-based integrated personal information manager that I’ve used for a couple of years now. There’s a desktop version and a portable version that can be carried with you on a USB stick. I use the outstanding free desktop version and I understand the Pro (paid) version is even better as it features direct synchronization with on-line services including LinkedIn, Google, and Yahoo among others. It has too many features to list here, so check it out at http://www.essentialpim.com and download it for free.
Make frequent telephone calls to your contacts. Notice the word, telephone, not cell phone. A telephone is normally situated in a quiet home office where one is insulated from environmental distractions such as beeping horns, traffic noise, public announcements, and others speaking on their cell phone. Just devote 15 minutes each day to make networking calls between 9:30 and 10:00 in the morning. This time slot seems to be when most people are available, situated, and relaxed with a cup of coffee in hand. Use the five-minute rule that places a known time constraint upon you to make and complete each call. This will allow you to connect with three people everyday who can provide you with leads for finding a new job, meeting new subject matter experts, and possibly break into a new career field. While most networking by phone is done during the regular work week, don’t rule out making phone calls on Saturday and during holiday weeks as these are prime quiet times when busy people are most open to spending a few minutes for a quick chat with you. And what to do if you connect with voice mail? Don’t hang up! Be prepared to leave a 30-second message that conveys the purpose of your call.
How do you prepare for that voice mail message? Have you ever heard of an elevator speech? It’s a prepared and well-rehearsed 30-second message of who you are, why you’re making contact, and what you can offer to enhance the success of those who keep company with you. In your elevator speech, mention both common and complementary interests that will spark thoughts of future collaboration. If you’re successful, you’ll receive that return call in due time and continue to build upon a meaningful professional relationship that will grow in the future.
What about sending traditional mail through the Postal Service? Nobody does that anymore, right? That’s exactly why you should. Send a handwritten card or a note on custom stationery with a token gift to show your appreciation to those who reply to your e-mails and those who accept your telephone calls even when swamped with work. There is absolutely nothing like a personal touch to solidify and strengthen a professional relationship.
Networking is such a critical skill, it’s amazing so few people actually know how to do it effectively. The time to begin networking is now, before you’re in need of a new job. The good news is that you’ll be quite surprised how quickly effective networking can deliver real results.
Remember and burn the following words into your brain. “If you’re not actively engaging your network, you don’t have one yet.” Use this holiday season to begin meeting, greeting, and networking with real people that can make a difference for you instead of just collecting on-line profiles.
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