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Networking: Easier Than You Think!

An odd thing about networking is that we do it all the time. We ask “Who is the best pediatrician?” or, “Can you recommend a good PC shop?” But we freeze up when it comes to job search networking. The reasons for this vary but our reluctance to networking is due in good part to a misunderstanding of what job search networking is all about.

One of the biggest misperceptions about networking is that it is about asking unknown business managers for a job. Talk about putting pressure on yourself. You call a stranger and then, if you can you get past their voice mail, you say, “Oh, by the way, I happen to be looking for an office manager position. Would you have an opening in your department?” Few people will have the nerve for that kind of networking.

Another myth about networking is that it is really a back door way of getting an interview. In effect, you misrepresent yourself and say “I’m seeking career advice.” and then, once in a meeting, you confront the employer with your real agenda - asking for a job. If networking were simply these two approaches only the most aggressive people would network.

Networking is actually a lot easier and straightforward.

· It is a process where you begin with people you know and gradually reach out to people you want to know, especially employers.
· As a rule it is always better to have a referral name when contacting a potential employer.
· A prerequisite for a networking meeting is to have an agenda of what you want to accomplish including questions to ask. Research on the target employer is absolutely necessary.
· It is important to be honest with your contact. You might say that “I’m in career transition,” [no misrepresenting yourself] and then add a disclaimer. “but I do not expect you to have a position for me.” This takes pressure off the hiring manager and off you. Your networking meeting can then be a relaxed encounter rather than a tense interview.

Networking meetings will revolve around four main agendas:

1. Seeking career advice (e.g., “What are the basic qualifications normally required for employment in this type of position?);
2. Seeking specific company and industry information: e.g., “Jim, as an officer of the Mass Software Coalition, you must have a unique understanding of what’s happening in the industry. I am curious about what current industry trends you see and how they might impact my job search.”
3. Acquiring information about job-hunting strategies and techniques for your job search: e.g., “Carolyn, I am calling you at the suggestion of Wilma Davidson. Wilma and I were classmates at Boston University and have stayed in touch. In view of your employment experience in the Biotech industry, she seems to feel you would be an excellent person for me to talk to about how to break into this industry. Is this a convenient time to talk?”
4. Or, a combination of the above: e.g.. “Jane, Mike Taylor suggested that I give you a call. Mike is a neighbor of mine and he was telling me that you are active in the Boston area branch of the American Marketing Association. Since I am currently seeking a position in marketing management, Mike believes that you would be an excellent source for helping me understand how Internet marketing is affecting our profession. I would really value your input. Would it be possible for us to get together in next two weeks?”)

Networking also has four commandments:

Commandment #1: Always plan ahead about what you want to gain from a meeting, and what points you want to make about yourself. You want your contact to remember what work you have done and what job you want.
Commandment #2: Always ask for additional contacts when networking. “Janet, do you know anyone at Bank North that works in the auditing department?”
Commandments: #3: Always send a thank you letter within 24 hours.
Commandment #4: When possible, give value in return. Share information you have gathered that could be of help to your contact.

When you follow these procedures networking becomes easier, occasionally fun and at times tremendously exhilarating. Networking IS work but its results are worth it. In fact, networking produces the majority of hires.

Networking helps you penetrate the “hidden job market”. It opens doors to positions and it creates allies to help you land a new position. The last reservation people have about networking is, “What do I say?” The template below will help you answer that question. When you complete it you will have a short 30-second “infomercial” you can use when networking.

My Networking Infomercial

Hello, my name is ______________________________

I am an experienced _____________________________________________________
(name your ideal job title or profession skill set)

My areas of expertise are: _____________________________________________________
(name two or three of your general skill areas, e.g., marketing, accounting, etc)

Two things I do particularly well are _____________________________ ________
(name two specific applications of your general skill sets)

I can especially help a company / agency ___________________________________
(the kinds of problems you can solve)

I am a ______(1)_____________________(2)__________________(3)____________________
(name three personal qualities that describe you, e.g., team player, honest, reliable, etc.)

You could help me by __(contacts, advise, industry info, etc)_____________________________

Finally: Networking is not about getting someone else to do what you want. Its purpose is to allow you to use the vast resources around you to further your goals. It’s an exciting process. Good luck!

About the Author: Larry Elle joined the Resource Partnership as an Employment Specialist in March 2005. Larry holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Psychology from the State University College in Buffalo, N.Y. He is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and a published author of the Community Connections: Resources for Massachusetts Unemployed (1994 and 1998). Being located at the Cole Center on the grounds of the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Larry assists clients with psychiatric disabilities to prepare for, find and retain employment suited to their strength and capabilities.

Resource Partnership is a non-profit organization that assists individuals with varying abilities and disabilities find and experience success at all levels of employment and in a wide range of industries and occupations. To contact Resource Partnership for more information, please call toll-free at 1-877-937-9675.

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