Spruce up your networking and land a job
Today's column comes from David Bell, a successful job seeker who used networking to help land a new job in the current economy. I asked him to explain the secret to his success, and he distilled his experience into six key points that can help you build a better network:
1. Always remember that you're asking people for information, not a job.
Networking often goes bad because job seekers try to ask friends and strangers about specific job openings. This puts people in an awkward position – after all, if they don't know you, they'll naturally hesitate to recommend you for a job. When you make people uncomfortable by being too pushy online, you destroy any opportunity you might get to meet face-to-face, or find out about new jobs openings in the future.
2. Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature.
It's important to practice on your friend before moving on to people they suggest. Using a referral's name when you contact someone you don't know can be very helpful in breaking the ice.
But you shouldn't avoid networking with strangers just because you have no automatic "in" with them. As David Bell points out, "Contact to everyone you can, whether it's by email, social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, or even over the phone. You never know who'll have the most useful information or take an interest in you. Aside from helping you find a job, it's a wonderful way to make new friends, especially if you've recently moved to a new city."
3. When you reach out to a contact, have in mind what you want to say, but don't obsess about it.
While the delay built in to most social network communication makes it easier to "think before you speak," some contacts you meet will prefer the immediacy of phone calls or instant messaging. In these cases, be prepared to give the name of your referral (if you have one), state why you're contact them (for information not a job) and ask a short list of questions about your contact's area of expertise. Putting these thoughts together ahead of time can save you the embarrassment of now knowing what to say.
However, be careful not to over-prepare, since this can easily turn into an excuse for putting off your first contact. Or worse, you can get so married to a specific script that you blank when a conversation strays to another subject. It's the same as reciting a memorized poem back in English class – if you're too rigid, any distraction will cause you to lose your place and screw up.
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