Networking is an excellent tool for making a smooth career transition. It is a technique for meeting people, finding new career opportunities and discovering what you would really like to do next.
The key to success in networking is to ask questions, to show interest in other people, what they are doing, how they have succeeded thus far and what it takes to succeed in their jobs. Showing interest in others makes them warm to you and helps you gain more information and new contacts.
Asking people questions about working in their industry, what companies are growing, how people with your background contribute, who they know who can answer more of your questions. Who has moved recently? Where? It's not asking if they know of a job.
- Why will anyone agree to talk to you?
- Disarm them: you are looking for information at this stage, not a job
- A lot of employers are window shoppers and will meet you just to have a look.
- They may prefer to keep you in the dark at first, so they will appreciate not being put on the spot about a possible job until they have had a chance to get to know you first.
- Two purposes served by networking
- Helping you to decide what you might like to do and what skills are required.
- Enabling you to locate possible jobs before they are advertised.
The real meaning of networking
When you network, you are on an exploratory journey where you don't fully know the outcome. It is very much like house hunting. When you decide to move to a new house, you can state a few criteria regarding what you want in a new house but once you start looking at houses you may significantly revise your criteria. People often say that, after looking at several houses, that they didn't like any of them but they now have a much better idea of what they are really looking for. This shows the power of discovery and the impotence of rational thought independent of exploratory, trial and error learning. Apply this thinking to your career planning. Don't expect to know what you want to do next until you have explored a range of options in your network.
First purpose: deciding what to do next
- Use networking as a market research tool.
- Tell contacts that you are researching different markets to identify industries where there might be a match between your interests and their needs. Always, always and repeatedly use the disclaimer: "I do not expect you or your contacts to have or know of a job for me at this stage. I want to keep my options open until I have completed my research."
Second purpose: Finding that elusive job-in-the-haystack
- Networking meetings set up for the purpose of gathering information often turn into interviews. You may be hired simply because you seem to fit and there is no competition because the job has not been advertised yet.
- Keeping it going by always asking any contact for further names.
- Start with contacts you feel comfortable speaking to on this basis.
- Set weekly targets: at least one meeting a week and up to three.
- Write, rather than phone, contacts you have never met.
- Ensure that you get at least 2 names from every contact.
- Make a list of specific questions that each contact can answer.
- Keep key contacts advised of your progress. They may think of further leads.
Career Management Tips
- What is an effective résumé?
- How should you approach the job market, formal or informal?
- Here are some interview tips and some for situational interviews.
- What is you need to be assessed for a job? How can you succeed in an assessment center?
- What are reasoning tests?
- How to network for career success.
- How to sell yourself to an employer.