Network. Network. Network. It’s the name of the game. Chances are you’ve heard about the importance and power of networking.
The numbers don’t lie… 80% of jobs are filled either internal or through recommendation. 80%! In another context eight out of ten jobs actually are never listed. This stat speaks volumes and validates any time spent on networking.
Most, if not all people will advise a job seeker to network, but how? The stratagems to networking are rarely spoken and often left for the individual to figure out. Going to a networking group or a convention is a common response. But is that really networking?? Or is it starting a five-minute conversation with the convoluted notion of self-interest while you intermittently glance around the room for the next person to “connect” with. Think about it. There are better ways to efficiently network. By networking, I’m referring to actually building real relationships and creating value for other people.
I am going to break it down step by step on how I built real relationships during my transition. These include professionals from J&J, PG, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, ESPN, Morgan Stanley, and AT&T.
Step One: Find resources such as LinkedIn and Veterati from which you can easily make connections. Create profiles complete with compelling information on your background and interests moving forward. Make it professional and appealing.
Step Two: Message anyone and everyone that is affiliated with the industry or company that interests you. Reach out to as many professionals as possible. Believe it or not, most people want to help! Think about a situation in which someone approached and asked for your help showing curiosity and interest in your work. Of course, you would like to talk and share! It’s no different here. Many corporate professionals genuinely want to assist service members in their transition. More than likely you will get a response rate of about 10-20%. This can be due to variety of factors to include: inactive profiles, spam filter, or lack of time.
Your message should be crafted to display curiosity and willingness to learn. You are not messaging for a job! Instead send a message asking to learn a new perspective or ask a specific question related to the industry or company. The end goal is to build a relationship and create value for each other in the future. Here is an example:
First and foremost thank you for volunteering time to help transitioning veterans. This is my first time on the site and I can see tremendous benefits and advantages for all parties involved.
I feel that my strengths and personality traits would best fit in operations but having no experience in the civilian world it’s difficult to say for certain. I have interests in lean and six sigma within operations. I have found the best way to really learn is to reach out to those with experience such as yourself. Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
All the Best,
Short, sweet, and to the point. You’re simply expressing interest and willingness to learn.
Step Three: Follow up with any and all responses. Often, you will get short answers to questions. Others will offer to schedule a call to talk it over. Bingo! This is the best way to build a professional relationship. Email traffic is great, but it is difficult to build a relationship without the human interaction. If no call is mentioned, suggest it! Simply respond saying that you would like to follow up and talk more in depth about a certain subject. Remember, your number one goal is to establish a connection not land a job. If you prove good intentions, doors will open and your professional connections will become real relationships.
Step Four: Use the telephone. Call from a landline; it’s hard to cultivate warmth if it sounds like you’re calling from the Moon. Inquire about their experience. Ask for suggestions or recommendations. Show curiosity, intellect, and interest about that person and their company through your questions. Be genuinely authentic and show appreciation for their time. Smile during the call. It is an interview, in its own way. Treat it as such.
Step Five: Follow up the phone call with a short email. Thank the person for taking time out of their schedule to talk with you. Mention an insight gained from the conversation and how you are going to apply it to your own situation immediately. Articulate what you gained out of the conversation. Everyone wants to know that their time is worthwhile.
Step Six: Reach out within two-to-three months with an email explaining the effect the conversation had on your transition and life. Share your transition progress and potential interviews/offers looming. Be genuine and authentic. Ask for advice.
Step Seven: Create value! Find a way to create value for that relationship. Connect them with another contact. Email a great article about a hobby or passion. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary. It’s the thought that counts. Keep your contacts and their own personal goals in mind when opportunities arise.
Continue to repeat step seven with all professional contacts. Consider creating a calendar reminder to email contacts. Use tools such as Evernote to create a database that will help you track each contacts’ interests, locations, and personal goals. I highly recommend you explore the numerous opportunities that lay before you and what better way to do that than contacting industry professionals. Find creative methods to build your network. Create good habits to stay in touch with contacts. Your professional career depends on it.
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