Employment Networking Objectives
Most people dread the thought of networking when they are looking for a new job or want to make a career change. This is usually because they do not understand that employment networking objectives are very different from business networking objectives. It is also because they do not understand how to network for employment or they have seen others inappropriately approach employment networking as if they were business networking.
In 12 Steps to a New Career, I devote a whole chapter to employment networking so I won’t repeat it all here. First, I’ll summarize the three objectives you want to accomplish when you are networking for employment. Second, Ill talk about how best to approach employment networking under different scenarios. Third, I’ll suggest places where you can network.
1. Employment networking objectives
I use the acronym IOU to help people remember the three objectives of networking, which are:
I – Initiate
O – Obtain
U – Use
I – Initiate.
Your first objective when you meet someone is to initiate a relationship with them. This is similar to social networking. You start by finding something you and the other person have in common to see if there is any chemistry. You are friends with others because you did something to create some chemistry. It may be different with each of your friends but you still had to take the time to find what it was you both had in common.
If you are successful at initiating a relationship with someone at your first meeting, you have an opportunity to ask if you can get together again for a one-on-one conversation. It’s then OK to mention that you are in transition and you would like their advice or help on something specific. If you’ve created a relationship and if your request sounds logical and a legitimate request for help, you will likely get that meeting.
O – Obtain.
Your second objective is to get some help, in the form of advice, suggestions, or referrals. When you meet with the person, you want to continue developing the relationship before you get to your request. Without wasting the other person’s time, quickly bring them up to speed about your background and briefly explain the position you are seeking. This is critical. You must be very clear about the position you’re seeking, what you bring to the table, and what help or viewpoint you need. Is it about a referral to a specific company? Is it about transferring your skills from one industry to another. Be specific, yet be sure the questions you ask are ones that you think the other person can answer.
If you are successful at this stage, you will have obtained some answers or other valuable input to your search. You might even agree that you’ll revise your verbal message and/or your resume and set a time to meet again. You might not get a referral after a first meeting but may need to build on the relationship before the other person feels comfortable risking their reputation by giving you a referral.
U – Use.
The third objective is to use what you’ve obtained. If you’ve successfully initiated a relationship and built on it so that the other person likes you and feels comfortable with your skills and experience, you will be able to use what you gained from this person to revise your message or your resume or to obtain a referral to someone else who may have the ability to consider you for employment.
Most people err when networking because they think networking is all about the Use phase and they can get to the Use objective right away.
2. How to approach networking for employment
Everyone you meet in one-on-one situations is a candidate for using the IOU approach outlined above. If you attend an event that is not wholly about job search, use the IOU approach. Don’t focus on collecting as many business cards as you can because those people will not help you without your having initiated a relationship first. Focus instead on meeting a few people who will agree to meet with you again. If you are trying to initiate a relationship and the other person is distracted, they are not interested in you and you need to excuse yourself and move on to someone else.
Those people you meet and with whom you do develop a relationship will refer you to others when they get to know you better. If you take your time to develop and build relationships with others, your network will work for you.
There are times when you attend a networking event that is targeted specifically at people in transition. At these events, you won’t have time to build relationships since there may be time limits imposed to keep people from taking too much time with one person. At these events, you need to have your verbal business card down pat, the proverbial “elevator pitch.” At these events you need to tell others the specific position you are seeking and what skills and experience you bring to that position that another company needs. End with what would you like from them, such as a referral, a meeting to discuss in more detail, or to get some help on some aspect of your search. Be specific.
3. Where to network for employment
Finding an effective local networking group that can help you in your job search can be a challenge. Networking groups are often narrowly focused, requiring their members to fit a specific profile. Consequently, if you are well known in an industry, you will need to be careful what you say so that you don’t compromise your current job. And, if you are looking to change industries, you will need to find networking opportunities that attract people from that industry. Clink on the links below to open lists for the different types of organizations:
If you don’t find an organization listed in the above sections that is right for you, you can search the Internet. Unfortunately, entering Events and Networking on Google results in over 508 million matches. Adding Atlanta to that search results in 24 million! Finding the right venue for you will take some time but it is something that is a must for you. Keep in mind that over 85% of people in mid-career find their next opportunity through someone they know. Networking is an indispensable part of your search strategy but it will only be effective if you do it correctly.
My book, 12 Steps to a New Career, will take you through the entire process of getting clear about what you want and how to get it, including what to say and how to say it so that others will want to help you get what you want.