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My Career Crossroads

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Simply put, networking is all about developing contacts that can be used in your job search.

Effective networking can help you to develop the ‘hidden job market' which can account for 60-75% of the available jobs in the market.

During these tough economic times, businesses are doing all that they can to reduce expenditure and for those essential to fill roles, this can also mean trying to minimise the costs incurred in advertising and using recruitment agencies.

This is great news for the active job seeker who, through networking activity, can often be in the ‘right place at the right time' . Provided your skills and experience matches what the company is looking for, you may be offered the role without it ever being advertised or becoming a competitive application process.

Handy Hint
Have some inexpensive business cards printed with your name and contact details. These are always useful for giving to your network contacts and for leaving behind after your networking meeting. It looks professional, shows your contact that you are serious about networking for job search and is a discreet way to leave your contact details for future reference.

So how should I network?

Networking is far more than asking a good friend to keep an eye open for any job opportunities. In fact, networking isn't about asking for a job. It's about carrying out a ‘fact and find mission' by talking to as many people as you can and asking for the names of people that could be useful to you in your job search.

The first step is to develop a list of all the people that you know and don't neglect those people who you might think will be of no help to you at all. Many a job has been secured as a result of a casual conversation with a neighbor or when dropping off a child at school.
When you develop your list of contacts, think of everyone you come into contact with - family, friends, neighbours, ex colleagues, your health professionals, financial advisor, therapist, college alumni, people in associations and interests groups that you belong to including online professional and social networks such as Facebook, Linked in, Twitter and others ...the list goes on and on.

The second step after having developed your network list, is to write a script of what you intend to say to each person. This formalizes the networking activity, rather than it being a casual conversation that has the potential to lead nowhere.

The third step is to phone, e mail or connect online with each person and ask for leads to help you in your job search. You might like to try something along these lines...
As you probably know, I am currently researching potential job opportunities in (name the industry and / or role). Are you aware of anyone that you think I should be talking to?
When the person provides you a lead, ask permission to mention their name as the referral source.

The fourth step involves you making an approach to the lead you have been given. This is often a difficult step for the job seeker to take as it involves moving on from having discussions with your own personal contacts and initiating a conversation with someone who you don't know.

Having a prepared script of what you might say will help to ease the nerves. A typical script might include...
Your name was passed on to me by ..........
She mentioned that you may be able to provide me with information about the manufacturing industry. I am currently researching job opportunities in the industry and would really appreciate your advice. Would you be able to give me 20 minutes of your time for me to come and meet with you and to gather information as to how I might tap into job leads within the industry at Operational Management level.
If the lead declines the opportunity to meet, then thank them for their time and ALWAYS ask if they know of anyone that you should be talking to. This is the key to networking as with each conversation you have, your intent is to grow your network list.

The fifth step involves arranging a suitable time and going to the meeting prepared with a list of questions that you can ask about the industry, job openings and market trends.

Sample questions include:
  • What are some of the recent market trends in the industry?
  • What are the skills and experience that manufacturing employers look for?
  • What are the desired qualifications?
  • How should I target my CV and cover letter when applying for roles in the manufacturing industry? Are there any key words or phrases that are helpful to use?
  • How would you describe a typical day in the life of an Operations Manager in the Manufacturing industry?
  • Are there any similar roles in the industry that you think I could be considering?
  • What opportunities for development exist at Operational Management level?
  • What is the salary range that I could expect to earn as an Operational Manager?
  • What do you like best and least about your role as an Operations Manager?
  • What do you think are the measures of success for a person in this role?
  • Are there any publications that advertise industry openings?
  • Do you know of anyone else within your firm or within the industry who you think could be helpful to me in my research?

Take notes as required. Dress as if you were attending an interview - business attire is appropriate. As always, ask for names of contacts that could be useful to you and add to your networking list.

Do NOT take your Curriculum Vitae / Resume to the networking meeting. This is a mistake that many job seekers make. Remember networking is not asking for the job - it's about developing contacts. If the contact you are talking to has an opportunity for you to consider, then your should be forwarded a few days later when you can attach a targeted CV and a cover letter.

If your networking contact asks you to forward your CV so they can send on to another contact they have, where possible, respectfully decline. You should never leave your CV with another person who has offered to job search on your behalf. Always stay in control of your own job search and if a lead is mentioned, then suggest that you follow up directly with that person, using their name as the referral source.

The sixth step includes sending your contact a thank you letter with your business card attached. The letter simply thanks the person for their time and for the information that they shared with you, including the names of any contacts that were given to you. The business card is attached for their reference should they wish to make contact with you in the future with any further information or leads that they might consider useful to you. Avoid sending an e mail that, along with your contact details, can be easily deleted.

Effective networking can take several hours a day and you may also end up with a sizeable list of contacts, leads and referral sources. You may find it helpful to develop a template document on which you can record relevant information such as the names of contacts, and dates that meetings were held and follow up letters were sent.