You may have already heard or read that the vast majority of job seekers find their jobs through networking. This is very true, but don’t panic because networking is not calling people you know and asking for a job. It’s asking people whom you know to HELP you find a job! Think of it as building and army of eyes and ears on the street to alert you to as many opportunities as possible.
Before doing anything else, it is imperative that you set up a networking management system. As you build your contacts and start sending résumés and interviewing, you are going to need to maintain records or you will almost certainly get lost in the process. For instance, you may decide to send résumés that you have tweaked to specifically target a particular job. If 3 weeks later, the hiring manager asks for another copy of your résumé, you want to make sure you remember to send him an exact duplicate of the “tweaked” résumé – not your standard résumé that could confuse him and lose you the interview. You can maintain records by using a networking log that is an easy to modify MS Excel spreadsheet, a PDF, or you can set up your own index card system. (Click here for some examples of networking logs.) The important thing is that you track your contacts.
Your Networking Campaign
Write down all of the contacts you can think of. Check your address books, holiday card list, email lists, etc. Now separate your networking contacts into 3 separate categories:
- Level 1 contacts are people who know you best. These are most likely people you have worked with or for in the past. The higher up the food chain, the better – such as senior managers, executives, etc.
- Level 2 contacts are people you know on a more casual level, including church or civic organizations, clubs, school, etc.
- Level 3 contacts are mostly new people you run across in your search that you think might be able to help you. For instance, if one of your Level 1 contacts says that you should give his friend, Joe Smith, a call because Joe is a hiring manager for a large company, you should add Joe to your Level 3 list.
Level 1 Contacts: You should telephone or meet with these contacts in person. Tell them you are job searching and ask if they would help you. Do not ask them for a job. If they have one available, they certainly shouldn’t keep it a secret. If they agree, as most Level 1 people would, then ask if you can send them a copy of your résumé and a few networking business cards with your contact information. Send them a formal printed résumé along with a cover letter outlining the types of positions and or businesses in which you are interested. Your contacts will take you much more seriously if they see you’ve taken the time to send them a printed copy versus an e-mail. Besides, e-mails get easily lost or deleted. A printed copy is right there in front of them. You should follow up by calling them two to three weeks later to check that they received your résumé and ask them if they have any advice, recommendations, or referrals. Make it a point to log your calls and keep the dialog going by calling them every two to three weeks to update them on your progress and keep them thinking about you and your campaign.
Level 2 Contacts: You should always meet in person with as many contacts as possible. As with all sales related endeavors, face-to-face meetings make the best impressions. However, it is understandable that you may want to reach out to your Level 2 contacts by telephone or email. As with Level 1 contacts, send them your printed résumé after determining their willingness to help you with your search. Send your Level 2 contacts a follow-up email every few weeks to inquire if they’ve run across any leads for you.
Level 3 Contacts: A Level 3 contact can be a referral from a Level 1 or 2 contact, or can be someone new you meet during your search. If you think they would be a good networking contact for you, give them a few of your networking business cards so they will have your contact information available if they find an opportunity for you.
When you hear back from any specific networking contact, you should also send them a thank you card or note. You want to let them know you are appreciative of their efforts on your behalf, and you want to encourage them to continue working for you.
Remember, execute, manage, and document your networking activities. A well-managed campaign will lead to quicker and potentially better results.