A client I’ll call Jim Jones, dreaded having to network in his job search campaign. He knew the statistics (that vary only slightly): 70-80% of those who find jobs, do so through networking! I shared with him one of my favorite quotes from career expert, Susan Whitcomb, “The Choice: It’s Either NETwork or NOTwork!” “That’s all well and good,” Jim said. “But how do I begin? The thought of it makes me sick to my stomach!”
So, our work together was to first dig deep and find out why Jim was not networking; and then help him push through what was holding him back to move forward.
Through the coaching process, Jim discovered three main factors holding him back. He also learned to use some powerful yet simple questioning to move past these roadblocks.
- Obstacle #1: Fear of rejection and failure.
Jim’s Self-Talk: “What if they do say no? What’s the worst that can happen? “I can only control my own actions and responses, and not those of others. With that in mind, how would I describe my success in networking relevant to what I can control?”
- Obstacle #2: Fear of appearing “needy”.
Jim’s Self-Talk: “I will concentrate on positioning myself to the 180º opposite of being needy, to being prepared with success stories and great marketing tools off and online. I will remember people whom I respected. They asked for what they needed in a professional manner. What were their actions that I can learn from and imitate?”
- Obstacle #3: Frustration from feeling overwhelmed.
Jim’s Self-Talk: “How do I get the right people to talk to me? Who do I want to specifically target? How can I break this down into smaller, more manageable steps?”
Once Jim became more comfortable with focusing on the fact that not networking was preventing his success far more than any potential outcome of networking; and on what he could control, it became much easier to get started.
Here’s what Jim did to jumpstart networking that felt natural to him:
- He made a list of people he wanted to know. His target market was operations management in a retail distribution setting. He took his list of 25 targeted companies. He researched people who worked there by titles (Director to CEO) through company websites, LinkedIn, etc. For example, he came up with the name of a VP of Operations at ABC Company). He kept adding to this list.
- He made a list of people he already knew. He included names, phone numbers, email addresses, LinkedIn addresses if applicable, and a contact date/time. He thought of people he knew in related roles or at companies in line with his target market. He was surprised to find that there were seven with whom he had a trusted relationship. He met with some for coffee and others for lunch throughout a three-week period. He asked them for feedback on his background, his messaging and his brand. He took the list of those he wanted to know to these meetings. He would ask, for example, “Do you happen to know John Doe, the VP of Operations at ABC Company?” Through this method, he got three “yeses”.
- He picked up the phone and then asked for face-to-face meetings. One of those conversations was to John Doe, the VP of Operations at ABC Company (remember; they had never met). It went something like this:
- “Hi, John; my name is Jim Jones. Jane Smith suggested I give you a call. I am on the hunt for a mid-level operations position in retail distribution. Jane thought you would be a good person for me to network with. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
- He sent emails with his résumé and marketing plans to networking contacts. They went something like this:
- “Hi, Beth. I wanted to touch base with you, since it’s been awhile since we met at _____ [or talked on date]. I am still on the hunt for a new job opportunity, and want to know whether you have any ideas for me.I’ve attached my résumé and marketing plan to give you an update on what I’m looking for. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee or lunch and reconnect. Do you have some time next week?Jim Jones
- He followed up immediately on leads and referrals. One of Jim’s strengths was in follow-through; and he used this to his advantage in his networking. He impressed people with his immediate and enthusiastic responses. He said it took no more than a few minutes to do so—a small investment for the return in having people remember him in a positive light.
- He never asked contacts for a job. He was specific in what he wanted from these contacts, and it was always around seeking advice or information—never a job in itself. He made it his goal to leave every networking conversation with one or more of the following:
- Advice and information to help him conduct a more efficient, focused campaign
- An introduction to someone who knew of an existing opening
- The name of a recruiter, company or organization potentially seeking someone with his skills and qualifications
- Referrals to people who would perhaps know other people who could help him identify and secure opportunities
- A follow-up meeting or phone conversation with a contact, providing additional leads or information after that contact had time to go through his/her list of contacts.
- He made sure that his networking relationships were give and not all take. With each contact Jim asked himself, “How can I help this person?” He took it a step further, and asked his contacts, “How can I help you?” He cultivated the habit of being interested in the needs of others who were willing to help him in any way they could. His paying forward ranged from sending new golf balls to a golf enthusiast, to introducing a contact to a person who could help that contact’s business development efforts, to simply sending website links on a topic of great interest to a contact.
Within just over a month, Jim had achieved great strides in having his network WORK for him! He had a good handle on 1) who he knew; 2) who knew him; and 3) the know-how to tell others what he needed so they could help him. He diligently kept adding to his lists and making connections. Within three months, he landed a new opportunity as Director of Operations with one of his 25 target companies. This position was never advertised. It would have slipped through Jim’s fingers if he had not tackled his fears and embraced natural networking.
Is networking working for you? If not, why? What’s getting in the way? What action steps can you take today to lead you to a “yes” answer for this question?