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The Art of Networking

The Art of Networking

The job application processes can take a variable length of time to be successful, from starting out with your search to securing interviews and landing a role, there’s no set time period and it’s different for everyone. I hear so often from people that they have had no success in their job search despite sending out many, many applications, but research shows that on average you need to make contact 16 times before achieving your goal. The time taken to achieve success in job hunting is less about elapsed time of search in terms of days, weeks and months, it’s more about the number of times we approach companies.

Plan how you will target each employer or ‘buyer’ – through face-to-face networking events, letters, phone calls, job applications for specific jobs, Twitter and LinkedIn approaches or a referral from someone who works there. Ultimately you are selling yourself and if you want someone to buy into you by offering you a job, the search and application process is about showcasing yourself in the best possible light.

Getting yourself out there and meeting people will invariably help the process. Face-to-face at networking events are probably the most daunting, but the benefits of attending these are so significant that it really is highly recommended. You will be ‘seen’ by people in the industry, it gives you practice at delivering your “elevator pitch”, you discover the sort of questions you will be asked in interviews and it will pull you out of your comfort zone. It’s an unusual and brave thing to do – most people will be impressed to find that you are doing this off your own bat and that you are proactive in getting your career off the ground. Events that relate to your chosen industry take anywhere and everywhere. There will be conferences, awards, networking events, speeches, industry exhibitions etc. and very often these will be free.

Request a list of attendees and anything else that is available such as an agenda, as the aim of attending the event is to learn more about the industry and who operates within it, to meet as many of those people as possible and to collect their cards, to obtain as many referrals as possible and to connect with all the attendees afterwards to add to your list.

Approach people who are on their own or in twos rather than groups as this is easier. Introduce yourself and explain that you are here to find out more about the industry and to meet people who might be able to help you start a career in it. They’ll give you some advice and once they have done so, ask for their card. Sometimes you might be really lucky and they’ll tell you they are looking for someone!

Before you move on to speaking to the next person, look at the cards or numbers you have been given and write on the back a few words so you remember who the person was and what they do so you remember. Networking takes a lot of courage and nerve but it will impress people and so is worth the effort.

Once you have obtained all your cards, get home and write it all up that same day. Do not take the easy route and just hand out all your cards to everyone. If you return from one of these events and have collected no cards, you will have nothing to follow up – you won’t remember who you have met and you won’t be able contact them.

Connect with those you have met on LinkedIn (that same day if possible, when you are fresh in their mind) and write a short note thanking them for their time and advice, asking them to bear you in mind for any suitable positions that might come up.

Follow them on Twitter if applicable, and when you have done, put a tweet up about how interesting you found the event and that it was great to meet them and mention their Twitter handle in your tweet. Hopefully as a result of this they will follow you back!

Twitter is becoming more prolific in business and is a great way of selling yourself. Once you have followed relevant people, mention them in a tweet – say things like; “It was great to attend xxx event and to meet @xxx today”. If they follow you, you can message them privately via Twitter asking if it is OK to contact them via email, which they will then expect.

LinkedIn has over 300 million users and is a great way of contacting your target market. You can email them using InMail if you have it or you can ask to be connected if you have a mutual contact, and it’s a very professional way of making an approach.

Volunteering to help out with a department or with a new project is a great way of obtaining work experience. This may not be an option financially but if there is any way you can make this work then it is well worth making the sacrifice. If you can include in your communications that you are very happy to volunteer your services in order to learn and to demonstrate your worth, it could really help swing your application and will make your letters and emails that much more powerful.

So there we have it – a cycle of activities to lead you to the interview where you will close the ‘sale’. IT is then a simple task of applying the cycle of activities to each name on your list. Leave no more than one week between each activity, as this means that your contacts will all receive weekly communications from you until you either get a result. Searching for a new job is a huge task – a full time job in itself – but this cycle of contact will get you results.

It’s imperative that you do your follow-ups every week otherwise the value of your previous contact is reduced considerably. There really is no point in calling someone once or emailing them once if you are not going to follow up; they are no doubt very busy people and probably receive a lot of communications. Unless you contact them a number of times and consistently they will very quickly forget about you and your applications will be lost among all the others.

I would suggest that part of your day every day is to research new job opportunities and the other part is carrying out these activities. Researching new job opportunities can be aided considerably by having job board ‘watchdogs’ set up. Go on to a job board, complete the form stating what you are looking for, and click the options asking for new jobs that fit those criteria to be sent to you as soon as they are posted. Do this across as many relevant job boards as possible and you will find a multitude of new jobs come into your inbox every day. You can also carry out a Twitter, Google and LinkedIn search every day too. These combined with the watchdogs will give you a strong list of jobs every day to apply for and you will find that your applications skills improve vastly.

In my experience, no one can expect to achieve great results from less effort than I have described. The more you do, the quicker you will achieve your great result – it is the law of averages! Work ethic is sometimes a lost value yet in my experience it is probably the most distinguishing factor between those who do really well and those who do not.