Networking is one of the most effective job-search tools around. Here’s how to rekindle contact if you’ve let the ball drop
Networking may not always be the most comfortable of job strategies, but it’s an incredibly effective way of finding opportunities.
But it’s not a once-only process that you undertake when you’re looking for a job and then forget about. In fact, if the only time you get in touch with your contacts is when you need something from them, then you’re not networking effectively. That said, most of us aren’t very good at keeping in touch with our contacts, until something happens to make us realise we need them.
So, here we are in summer, and you may suspect that come September the job market will really start to pick up. You know you need to network but you haven’t kept in touch with the majority of your contacts and you’ve run out of options. What do you do?
You need to revive your contact list, even if it feels awkward. Don’t ask your contacts for their help finding a job – you should never do that because it puts them in a position where they may have to say no, and nobody likes that. Instead, if you can, go to your contacts with something to offer them. Doing so will increase your chances of hearing something from them which may benefit you.
Think about each contact individually. Find some information that might be useful to them. It might be about a job opening somewhere, a sales opportunity or a technical development in their field. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it’s of some value to them, it will give you an opportunity to begin or re-open your conversation.
Alternatively you may feel that introducing two of your contacts would be beneficial for them. Contact each of them individually and explain why you think it’s a good idea for them to meet. By bringing them together, you begin conversations with both of them.
Another way of establishing contact with people is to ask if they’re attending a forthcoming event or conference. You might suggest you travel there together or offer to report back if they’re unable to attend.
In the course of your conversations, you’ll find useful nuggets of information. You’re actively exploring the job market while they are more focused on their job so there’s a good chance you’ll hear things that they don’t.
But what if you can’t find something to offer your contacts? While it’s best not to ask directly for help in finding a job, you can ask for their advice or opinion. It’s not as good as offering them something, but it’s better than nothing.
Typical questions you might ask are:
• “I’m looking at a job in a your industry and I’d like to be more informed about what’s going on, could we have a chat?”
• “My career path to date has been quite similar to yours and I’m thinking about my next step, can I talk to you about your experiences?”
The beauty of questions like these is that they aren’t threatening, they don’t put your contact on the spot, and they flatter them to some degree because you are treating them as an expert.
It’s important to treat networking as a two-way process: you and your contacts are each helping each other, even though your needs may differ. If you look at networking in this way – working though your contact list and asking yourself for each one what you can tell or offer them – it should be easier for you to find reasons for getting in touch. You will also find that your contacts will start to think of you as someone worth knowing and will be more likely to put you in touch with other people.
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