Job networking is all about making connections with people. And.... the most effective connections you can make are those where you are interacting with others - face to face.
Many people carrying out job search networking take the easy, and perhaps less scary option
They'll make contact by email or phone. Unfortunately these two avenues of approach to your network contacts are far too easily ignored by the people you contact.
If you are unable to successfully contact people in relation to your job search, then you have virtually no hope of accessing the hidden jobs market.
Therefore one of the key skills in job networking is the ability to ask for and obtain an information interview.
Note: Using social media sites such as LinkedIn to network is another effective option which we will cover elsewhere.
A key principle on job networking is to ask from your contacts things that they are able to provide.
Therefore when approaching your contacts this should be along the lines asking for assistance with your career research.
Make it clear that you don't want or expect your contacts to find work for you.
Why is meeting face to face with network contacts and referrals the most effective networking strategy?
The likelihood of you getting a job offer along the way is far, far greater.
The reasons for this include:
You begin by making a list of people you know. This link job search networking explains in detail how to prepare a contact list of at least 100 people.
These will be people that you already know, so contacting them to set up an informational interview should be an easy thing for you to do.
To set up your meeting you need to:
Let's look at each of these steps in more detail
You obviously want people to say "YES" to your request for a meeting - that's what job networking is all about.
Therefore what you ask people when setting up your meeting for in terms of your meeting request is extremely important.
You also need to come to the point quickly - this is especially the case if you are making contact by phone in order to set up your meeting.
If you indicate that you want to meet because you want their help in finding a job you will often get a "NO, sorry can't help". Or....you'll get engaged in a messy conversation where your contact will want to know all the "where and why fors" behind the meeting.
You don't want this happening at the contact stage - your objective is to meet with your contact so that you have the opportunity to ask them questions on your terms.
Make your request along the lines of you are seeking information and guidance from them because:
You'll find that this approach generally works because people are usually flattered to be asked for their opinion. Haven't you found that people just love to give advice, sometimes even when you don't ask for it?
The easiest way to ensure your request goes smoothly is to have a script.
Your script is simply a way to plan ahead what you want to say to your contact.
Your request to meet should take no longer than 20-30 seconds.
A way to ensure this happens is to stay focused on your objective - this is - to ask for, and get a face to face meeting with them.
You will have one of two possible objectives when you are approaching people on your list - either to have a meeting with them......or to get a referral to someone in their network. It works this way:
If you are making contact by phone, an effective networking strategy that almost always works is to say something like:
"Hi, it's (your name) how have you been? (or other suitable filler to get started).
The reason for my call is that I'm considering a career change (or "I'm doing a review of my career and identifying some future directions"), and I'd like your advice about a few thing.
There's a range of questions I'd like to ask you. Are you open to the idea of getting together for 15 or 20 minutes for a chat and a coffee."
Then set up the a time and location for the meeting.
Make sure the meeting time and place is at a time convenient for your contact - after all they are doing you a service in agreeing to meet with them.
When you are approaching people already on your contacts list there are several possible ways of approaching them.
Your script will need to be adapted accordingly as follows:
A version of these scripts can be adapted when you bump into, or meet face to face with people you already know, and you want to get their assistance with your job search networking.
When job search networking, if you tell people that you want their assistance, rather than guidance or advice, you'll find that they will be guarded or suspicious.
Why? Because they are assuming that you're asking them to help you change career or find a job.
People will also be suspicious if you haven't been in contact with them for a long time.
You have no doubt had the same experience when you receive a phone call from an old contact. While they are breaking the ice, and are asking how you have been, you're wondering what do they really want!
To overcome this defensiveness or suspicion, add another line to your script. Something like:
"I want to emphasise that I don't want or expect you to help me find a job. I would really appreciate your advice or guidance though.
I think your knowledge and experience in this field will really help me with my career research (or career decision making).
So, would you be open to the idea of meeting with me for 15-20 minutes, I have a number of questions I'd like to ask you."
Some people when seeking advice about how to network ask..."If your real reason for networking is to ask for help in making a career or job change, why don't you just ask your contacts for this sort of help?"
The reason is many of your contacts won't be able to actively help you to find a job - so you'll probably get a "No, sorry can't help you" when you make contact.
But by asking for their advice or guidance, they may be able to refer you to someone in their network who is in a position to make a job offer.
Before you get to this stage though, you at least need a chance to tell your story.
By asking for a meeting (an information interview) you'll get the chance to explain what you are looking for in a way that is non threatening to your contact.
Sure...your real agenda is to find opportunities to advance your career or change jobs, but in this type of referral based job search networking you are playing a role.
The role you are playing is someone seeking advice or guidance.
Making a telephone approach to a referral, that is, someone you don't know personally requires some slightly different tactics.
In this situation you are approaching someone you don't know for a meeting. This link how to network covers how to do this in detail.
Why ask for meeting of only 15-20 minutes?
A short meeting is one way of showing respect for the time of the people whose help you are seeking.
It also follows the principle of asking people for assistance in a way that makes it easy for them to do this.
People are busy today, but most would be able to find time a 15-20 minute meeting. Ask for 30 minutes to an hour and you'll probably find it much harder to get your meeting.
Again the rule for effective networking here is to go with your contact's preferences for the time and place of the meeting. Meet them at their convenience!
Now what? - Well, now that you've got a meeting to go to at some point in the future, you'll need to prepare for it. This link which covers informational interviews explains how and what to prepare for your meeting
Most people will not have any difficulty approaching people on their contacts list for career research information and guidance.
Contacting people that you don't know - people that you have been referred to can be a slightly more challenging task. This link which covers how to network that will help you to make a highly professional contact with a referral and ask them for a meeting.