You’ve probably heard that networking is the best way to make a career change. That is true if you recognize that employment networking is very different from business networking and you understand how to be most effective at employment networking.
Let’s take a look at the differences:
You do business networking when you are trying to sell your or your employer’s products or services. Your goal is to connect with as many people as possible because you know many of them may use or need to use the products or services you are selling. You also do the following:
- Give them your business card and, if you have one, a brochure that highlights the capabilities of your or your employer’s business.
- Pursue questions to determine if they use your products or services and, if so, could you schedule a meeting.
- If they are not agreeable to meeting, encourage them to keep your information and to contact you when they might need your or your employer’s products or services in the future.
- Ask for their business card and ask if you could add them to your contact list so you can keep in touch.
You do employment networking when you are exploring whether to make a career change or are actively looking for new employment. Using an approach that is similar to business networking will make it obvious that you are looking for a new job and you are really just looking for referrals. The people you meet will quickly see through what you want and will try to avoid you at all cost. This is particularly true if you bring copies of your resume to give out.
In employment networking, your goal should be to get people to want to help you. If you focus on trying to build relationships with others, people will be receptive to you and will usually be more willing to give you help. To get the help you need, I suggest using a three-phase process that has been very effective for my clients in transition. The intent is to develop a relationship with others so they will become valuable contacts and will want to help you. I use the simple acronym IOU to help you to stay focused on your objectives at each stage of the process. The three phases of IOU are:
- I – Initiate. Start by initiating a relationship. This is similar to making social connections. You meet someone and strike up a conversation so you can get to know them better. If you feel you’ve made a connection, mention that you are in transition and would like to talk to them more if they would be willing to meet. If they think you are genuinely interested in them and their opinions and you are not just trying to use them to find a job, they will generally agree to meet.
- O – Obtain. When you meet, you are looking to understand them better and their background so you know how they might be able to help you. It might be advice on how to connect with a particular company or transfer your skills from your industry to another one. It might be a referral to someone else they might know who made a similar transition as you are attempting or any other objective you need to accomplish. You may think you don’t need this information but the purpose is to develop a relationship where they feel they have made a positive impact on your search strategy.
- U – Use. When you’ve developed a relationship, met to learn more about them and successfully been able to get them to help, you can now use the information, referrals, or new knowledge to make decisions about a career path or to connect with someone who has the ability to hire you.
If you follow the three-phase IOU process, you will be able to expand your network with people who will become your sponsors and be willing and able to refer you to others. You will also begin to know them well enough to determine whether you really want their referrals.
Some recruiting firms and other organizations often organize networking events for people in transition. If you attend these events, you will find their structure will probably be controlled by them.
A typical style is to have round tables seating six. Each person at a table introduces themselves, describes what they do, and who they want to connect with. The other people at the table suggest what that person should do or they recommend a contact. Another technique is to have people stand up and tell the entire group who they are and the position they are seeking.
If you attend one of these events and you are not be able to use the three-phase employment networking approach described above, focus on what you want a take-away to be when you leave the event. Even if you made only one contact who agreed to meet you later, you successfully achieved the goal of initiating a relationship with someone. That is much better than a pocket full of business cards.
The acronym IOU will help to remind you to thank all those who helped you through your career transition.
If you want more help on employment networking, click here for more information on how and where to network.