Treat Networking Like a Numbers Game to Advance Your Career Search

Looking for your next career opportunity can be a full-time job. What if you had multiple people making referrals to you, or referring you to companies that are hiring and helping to get your resume in front of the right contacts? Networking is your best strategy for accelerating your search. Networking is like sales: It’s a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the sooner you get to the people who can help you.
Looking for your next career opportunity can be a full-time job. What if you had multiple people making referrals to you, or referring you to companies that are hiring and helping to get your resume in front of the right contacts? Networking is your best strategy for accelerating your search. Networking is like sales: It’s a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the sooner you get to the people who can help you.

Build Your Personal Marketing Plan 
The three purposes of networking are to:
  • Let people know you are searching for your next career opportunity. Do not use the word job in your vocabulary. You’re looking for a career, not a job.
  • Educate your contacts on your core competencies — what are you naturally good at, not necessarily your on-the-job skills and work experience. The idea is to land a career that leverages your natural strengths the majority of the time.
  • Request input from your network about the companies in which you’re interested. Be sure to ask if you’re missing companies from your list that you should target, if your contact knows anyone at the companies, and if there are any companies on your list that shouldn’t be there.

Components of Your Marketing Plan
When coming up with your marketing plan, it’s important to know your strengths. List your core competencies, which aren’t necessarily based work experience. You may want to categorize them. Under operations, for example, you might write, “Intuitive ability to identify root causes and design solutions.” If you’re writing about communications try, “Strong facilitator and ability to inspire cross-functional collaboration.” If marketing is your game, use, “Builds value-propositions from a customer’s perspective to influence purchasing.”

List the geographic areas that you would like to focus your search on. Are you willing to relocate? Where to? List the size of company you would be the best fit for. Small to medium? Large enterprise? Global scope? Do you prefer working in a high-rise or campus-based facility? Retail? Be as specific as you can.

Finally, you have to do your homework. Identify and list the companies you would like to work for. Now you’re ready to network.

Networking Steps
Make a list of the contacts you are going to meet with. Just like sales, you need to keep track of who you contacted, when will you meet and what is the outcome. This is your pipeline.

Invite someone to coffee — it’s a lot cheaper than lunch. Here is a suggested script for that conversation:  “Thank you for taking my call. I’m calling because I am actively engaged in searching for my next career opportunity. I’ve developed a marketing plan and would greatly appreciate your input. Would you have time for coffee Thursday at 3 p.m.?”

What to do when you meet for coffee: “Thank you for meeting me. As I mentioned, I am actively pursuing my next career opportunity, and I would like your input on my marketing plan. Since we don’t know each other [you may or may not] in a work environment, I’ve outlined some of my key competencies to give you an idea of my capabilities.” This is not your resume. Reserve your resume for when you are actually interviewing. Give your guest a few moments to look over your capabilities. They may ask you questions, and certainly some of your strengths may surprise them.

Continue the conversation:

  • “As you can see, I’m interested in staying in the triangle area, and I believe I am a best fit for companies or business units that have not yet reached 1 billion in revenue.”
  • “In the next page, I’ve highlighted some of the companies I’m interested in. Would you mind taking a look at these companies?”
  • “Are there any companies that I may be missing?”

If your guest mentions one or two companies, say, “Thank you. I will add XYC company to my list. Tell me, would you have any contacts at this company?” If they do know contacts, “Would you mind making a warm introduction? If you could possibly make a call or send them an email and let them know that I’ll be calling, that would be most helpful.” If they say no, be respectful of their position and thank them for their time. Likewise, it will be beneficial to you if your contacts identify companies that should not be on your list. You may not necessarily take them off of your list, but you will at least be aware of any culture or business issues.

This is by far the most effective and efficient way of identifying your career opportunities. Not all positions are posted. It is helpful if you get warm introductions or have your resume forwarded by a mutual contact.

Nellie C. Scott is director, services sales support and enablement for Lenovo. 

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