Being Laid Off Part VII: Better Networking

I have talked to several people about the job hunt, and they all recommend networking as one (if not the only) approach that really works. My own experience validates this: I have worked for just three different companies in my life, and two of those jobs came through networking: people knew me and also thought of me when they saw an opportunity.

Here is a brief article on networking. Several books on the subject (including two good ones below) promise numerous personal and professional benefits. (Indeed, I put matchmakers and investment bankers in the category of networkers who provide a valuable service to society by connecting individuals and companies, respectively.)

 

I consider myself fortunate to have a large circle of brilliant friends and talented professional contacts, but I consider my networking skills to be below average for two reasons. I plan to eliminate these in order to get better at networking…

  1. I am utterly mortified over the prospect of wasting anyone's time (including my own). This seems to hinder continued growth of my network.
  2. Considering the number and talent of people in my network, I am disappointed by the small number of truly productive introductions I have made. (As measured by the number of people who said, "Thanks for introducing me to so-and-so. Such-and-such productive outcome resulted from our meeting.")

I plan to eliminate reason #1 by approaching people as a networking resource. My approach must not be, “Can you hire me?” but instead, “I am networking a lot anyway. How might my activities benefit you?” My plan to eliminate reason #2 is to make as many potentially productive introductions as possible, to follow up with people who make introductions for me, and to thank them for anything useful that might have arisen. This should encourage people to continue making potentially productive introductions.

Networking Plan

Here’s how I want to do things. You can try it, too…

  1. Acquisition of contact information. At minimum, record the person's name, e-mail address, who referred the person to you, why, and under what circumstances
  2. Establishment of relationship. Have the referrer introduce you to the person OR make initial contact with the person (by e-mail or phone), mentioning common acquaintances or interests. Offer to buy the person lunch or coffee, or request half an hour of the person's time on the phone.
  3. Meeting or phone call. Go to the meeting prepared with useful information or referral (book, web site, article, etc.) The goal of the meeting is to find out three things:
    1. What this person needs. What problems are they or their company facing? How has the economy affected them adversely? What liabilities does their company have, and what expenses are hurting them most? (NOTE: I think in terms of "problems" and "solutions," but have found that people commonly hate to reveal problems they see or face. If everything seems to be going hunky-dory, the "problem" may be how to do even better, how to define or achieve the next goal.)
    2. What this person offers. What problems are they able to solve? What are they exceptionally good or talented at? What do they do naturally and without necessarily expecting compensation? What assets do they control? How does their company make money?
    3. Who this person knows. What communities, clubs, or organizations are they involved in? Which of their colleagues would they be willing to introduce you to?
  4. Follow-Up. This is where most of your effort will go.
    1. Thank the person for meeting you, and fulfill any commitments you made during Step 3. A helpful and polite reminder for them to follow up may also be in order.
    2. Thank the person who referred you, and describe any productive outcomes from the meeting.
    3. Match solutions to problems. There might be some one else in your network who solves the kind of problem this person faces. (Maybe it's you.) Or there might be some one else who has a problem this person solves. Or both. If so, clarify your understanding of problems and solutions and offer to make an introduction.
    4. For each of the people this person is willing to introduce you to, go to Step 1.

The goal is for networking to be a productive use of everyone’s valuable time.

Tags: Business

Updated at: 26 January 2009 11:01 AM

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