Knowing what kind of opportunity you would like to pursue next, you can wait for the perfect role to show up online or… you could actively work through your network to get further!
Think about this:
- The high level of competition for the role if you apply for a role online! Your experience and education and the design of your CV/Resume would have to be better than all other applicants to get through to the end of the recruitment process!
- They estimate that 70% of roles are not advertised, but instead are sourced through networks! This means you could be invited for a discussion or interview just based on the fact that someone recommended you or introduced you to a decision-maker!
- Every person you know from past roles, from school or college days, people you met and talked to at conferences, family, friends – could possibly know someone who is connected to a role that would be great for you!
Getting more contacts and making a positive impression on those you meet is important. It is not about pretending or lying, it is more about showing respect and genuine interest in those you meet. When people like the encounters they have with you, they want good things to happen for you and they might be keen to ask people they know to meet you or have a discussion with you. And this is all you need in many cases to get to the next step – a consulting project or a new job!
What does your network look like?
If you take a blank sheet of paper and you try to draw out this graphic below, perhaps you will be able to jot down people’s names for each of the circles and be able to create your starter list. This means the list of people whom you will start with – making contact with them.
The groups of people you know the best are most likely:
Friends, Family members, Classmates (now or from years before), ex-colleagues or trusted current colleagues, neighbors (now or from an earlier address where you lived at one point).
The next level of people you may want to contact include:
People you have met or interacted with on a sports team, or a social organization you joined, or a hobby class you took at some point, people you met and spoke to at a conference.
Looking through the names of people you listed in the worksheet (download available below), who might know people at the companies you are hoping to work for? Who knows about the kind of work you are good at and want to do? Who has the knowledge or experience to help you in your search? Who am I most comfortable talking to? (start there!)
How can your network help you?
What do you tell them ?
- When you talk to someone who already knows you, you do not need to introduce yourself. When talking to a contact of someone you know, introduce yourself.
- Make sure your message is complete: why are you talking to him/her? What exactly do you hope to get out of the conversation?
- Be specific about what you are looking for – i.e. role in sales, working on electric installation projects, etc.
- What are your training, certifications, experience, and skills to explain how you plan to successfully deliver in the role mentioned above? (the short version – only mention the most important ones!)
- Have your questions ready and be ready to rephrase any questions that are not easily understood by the person you are talking to.
- Give the other person time to think about their answers by being quiet after you asked.
- Show genuine interest in their advice or suggestions.
Questions to ask
The questions below can be used as a guide as you create your own list of questions to ask your contacts. Do consider how strong your history and relationship is with each person you talk to before you ask any of the questions. Rephrase any questions to allow for cultural differences and preferences and also to match the formality required for your conversation.
Depending on the role of the person or his or her expertise/experience, you may choose different questions for each conversation. Note the specific questions you want to ask each person before you contact him/her. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of questions – something you can fit into a 30-minute call would be best when you talk to someone whom you have not met yet and who is giving you some of his/her precious time for this conversation.
- Are you aware of any job vacancies which would fit my skills/experience?
- Would you help me by looking out for opportunities you might become aware of and which might be useful to me?
- Do you know anyone who might be planning to change jobs where I might be a possible role replacement candidate?
- Do you know any companies where my skills and experience may be sought-after?
- Are you aware of any new companies moving into the area and/or whom I might be able to contact about a role there?
- Would you be willing to help me get an appointment for a discussion with a recruiter at your company?
- May I ask for your help in preparing for an interview (given your contacts/knowledge etc)?
- Would you be able to help me with more information about a company I would like to target for an unsolicited application?
- How would you advise me to proceed with my interest in THIS role or getting a role at Company X?
- Would you be willing to be a reference for me?
- Would you be willing to review my resume/CV and give me any tips or improvement suggestions?
How do you plan your approach?
Using the attached workbook below, start filling in the names on a sheet
Note contact details you might have or if you are connected with any of them through social media
Start with the people you know the best and explain what kind of opportunity you are looking for and listen to their advice or ideas of who they might know and would connect you with.
After the discussion, capture their suggestions in the worksheet in the “Advice/Next step?” column.
Follow-up on these, contact the person they suggested or introduced you to and ask for a meeting to discuss your interest in the company, work they do, etc.
DOWNLOAD file for this exercise:
Each of the tabs in this worksheet (see file above) contains a table for you to capture the names of people you thought of while looking at the groups of people you are connected to. Complete the table for each of the groups you have considered as far as you can. (see example below for someone who identified 3 friends, but has not yet contacted them).
To keep your momentum, monitor your follow-up actions which could range from contacting a suggested person or calling someone another time as agreed during the previous conversation you had with him or her. Set targets for yourself per day and per week to avoid procrastination or letting a contact “go cold”. This could happen if you call too long after the initial call and the person you are contacting may have forgotten that your mutual contact had introduced you to each other.!
Networks of contacts and human connections can be a fragile environment and it is important that though your need for them to act on your behalf is high, you need to also maintain a good relationship throughout and continue to be someone whom they would like to help. Very few people HAVE to help you, they will because they want to. Your attitude and way of talking to them will determine how much they will be willing to help you.
- Be firm and confident, but not pushy. Sometimes there is a very thin line between those two. And the difference is often the strength of the history of your relationship with that person. If you know him or her for a long time and you have spent a lot of time together, you may be able to be a little pushier to get him or her to introduce you to someone else. When you have had only one or two conversations with someone at a conference, you would not likely have a strong enough relationship to be overly familiar or strong in your approach.
- Always be thankful. Even if you have known someone for a long time, if they introduce you to someone or give you a handy tip that leads to a conversation, do let them know how thankful you are for their help.. Also thank people for taking the time to talk to you regardless of the outcome.
- Only contact people from a conference or a class you took in the past if you actually spoke to them. It would be quite unusual to simply use a conference or class attendance list and email or contact each person on it regardless of whether you actually spoke to them at the time. Most people might disregard requests for calls or discussions in such cases.
- Do not expect your contacts to call you back when they have more information for you. Ask if it would be alright for you to call back within a week or two.
- When you had a great conversation with someone, why not add him or her to your list of future contacts? You never know when you may be able to introduce them to a new client or opportunity that fits into their business model!