Real World Networking – Increasing Your “Findability”
Please understand this up front–headhunters are not great sources for a new job. That’s because we get paid to find candidates for our clients, not jobs for candidates. While I frequently can’t be of direct assistance to a job seeker, I still want to help and I feel compelled to provide some advice based on 15 years experience and thousands of conversations with candidates.
Change how you look at networking. You don’t network to get a job. You network to increase your “findability” so that folks looking for someone like you can find you. If it’s an activity that makes you feel good but doesn’t increase your findability, then it’s therapy, not networking (the flaw, in my opinion, with “job clubs” comprised of out-of-work executives, meeting to commiserate). The idea is to build an infrastructure that pops your head up above the crowd.
By the way, this paper assumes you’ve already constructed a good resume. If you need help with that, visit my website at www.thehowardgroup.com and check out the “Advice” section (one tip: generate a generic resume that you can modify depending on the nature of a given opportunity).
The Three Rules
- Get really, really organized-use a spreadsheet to track your efforts and results. Otherwise, you’re just firing into the forest hoping you hit a squirrel.
- Don’t ask a contact for a job. That puts enormous pressure on the contact, it’s awkward, and it’s mildly off-putting. Instead, ask for help. If that contact knows of a job and thinks you’re a possible candidate for it, he’ll bring it up.
- When you get an offer, if it meets your pre-determined criteria for pay, function, etc., then accept it and be done. Offers are perishable like produce. It’s normal human behavior to try and get a better deal, but the one in your back pocket will rot while you’re out there looking for the perfect opportunity.
How To Do It
Step One-Active Networking
In the field of anthropology there is something called the Dunbar number, a theoretical limit named after British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. Based on extrapolation of studies done on non-human primates (apes dude!), Dunbar theorized that
“this [numerical] limit is a direct function of relative neo-cortex size, … this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply based on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained”
That number, for humans, is about 150. In English, this means a person has only about 150 truly strong acquaintances that they could call up and ask to lunch. So, the maximum size of your immediate network won’t be more than 150 people, and maybe only around half of those are the professional, business-based acquaintances useful to you for job networking. Generate a list of all your professional “lunch-buddy” contacts and get them on the spreadsheet, organized by name, company, contact info, date of contact, and result of contact. Shoot for a list of 75 names-it’ll be harder than you think. Leave out purely social contacts unless you perceive them to be solid business leaders, e.g. the guy you know socially who runs a large corporation goes on the list.
Put those contacts into the spreadsheet. IMPORTANT!!! Finish the spreadsheet before you move on. Otherwise, you’re working piecemeal and it won’t be as effective.
Now, send an email to each of those contacts with your resume attached as a Word document so they’ll have no trouble opening it. Tell them you are in the market for a new position, ask that they keep their eyes open for you, and give them carte blanche authority to do with your resume whatever they believe is appropriate. Specifically tell them they do NOT need to check back with you before they forward it to someone. This is key-if they can’t react in the moment, it will prove fleeting and the moment (with your potential lead) will pass and the press of their own priorities will take over. Also tell that contact to tell any headhunters or corporate recruiters who call them to reach out to you too.
Track who responds and who doesn’t on the spreadsheet-you’ll find out who your friends are. Follow up in a couple of weeks with the contacts who do respond, but don’t hound them. Maybe take those folks to lunch, i.e. a thank you in advance. One or two follow-ups in a month’s time are enough.
If you are currently employed and don’t want your boss to find out about this, you can limit yourself primarily to the techniques outlined below, because these “active” techniques could blow your cover unless you’re careful. But, you probably have a feel for the 12-15 contacts on your spreadsheet who will keep their mouths shut. So still call them, tell them you’re sending over your resume, ask them if they are comfortable being discrete. In this situation, you do want them to call you back first before forwarding the resume. It’s not nearly as effective, but you’re still getting your stuff out there.
Step Two-Passive Networking
Use one or more of the professional online networking/directory sites. These are exploding right now and highly utilized by people looking to fill positions. Professional networking sites include www.linkedin.com (my favorite) and www.plaxo.com. (Leave Facebook and MySpace to the kids-those are social networking sites.) On these sites, you can set up a profile, usually something less than a full resume, but hitting the highlights. Unlike posting your resume on Monster or CareerBuilder, these sites offer deniability for the still-employed jobseeker, because they are “networking” sites, not job boards.
Make sure you provide a functional title for your job reflective of the type of position you seek, rather than your formal job title. For example, a formal title of “account executive” is worthless because it’s too generic. Call yourself a sales person, client manager, lead engineer-whatever, just as long as it’s truly descriptive. Usually the next step is to go out and invite several of your professional (not social) contacts to join your network. The more contacts you have in your network, the more you increase your “findability.” Also, once you join LinkedIn, take the further step of joining “groups” in your chosen industry. There is even a specialized group called “Star: Candidates.” This group directly connects recruiters, HR folks, and potential candidates. The link is http://www.linkedin.comlgroups?gid=1967292.
Related directory-style sites include www.spoke.com and www.zoominfo.com. If you’ve been mentioned anywhere on the internet in a professional context, these sites will pick it up. Check-you may already be on there. However, you can also create a profile for yourself following the same guidelines mentioned above.
Step Three-Job Boards
If you’re unemployed or discretion and confidentiality don’t matter, bring out the big guns, but be ready for collateral damage. A few wise words:
- Create a new email address on Googlemail or Yahoo mail. Get as much of your name in there as possible-nothing cute. Use this email in aU of your postings, because you will be deluged with spam coming back into your inbox, and you don’t want to choke your personal email address.
- Don’t screw down your preferences too tight when you post-you want to cast a wide net and you can sort out the good stuff later. The two big categories to which this advice applies are compensation and relocation/geography.
- Sure, post on Monster and Careerbuilder-HR folks always look there. But try to find either industry specific sites or use slightly more elite job boards such as www.theladders.com, www.bluesteps.com, and www.6figurejobs.com (these are usually geared to higher paid or officer level positions, and may require you to pay a fee). For a good list of industry-specific sites, visit www.job-hunt.org. (I work in the insurance industry, and my three favorite sites are www.ihireinsurance.com, www.insurancejobs.com, and www.greatinsurancejobs.com.
- A couple of great sites that you can program for email alerts fitting your qualifications: www.simplyhired.com, and www.indeed.com. Those sites scour other internet job boards for opportunities fitting the parameters you’ve programmed. Again, don’t screw down your search parameters too tightly-usually limit it to just industry and geography and accept that you’ll net some dolphins with the tuna. Besides, sorting the results gives you something to do instead of watching Oprah.
First, remember you are essentially building an infrastructure, setting up little remotes and trip-wires allover the countryside that ‘will trigger if something makes contact-and it will. However, you must assemble the parts correctly-one short and the whole circuit will fail.
Second, if you are recently unemployed, resist the natural human tendency to catch your breath or take a little time offto “decide what you want to do next.” Each day you wait your blade becomes a little duller, and it’s another day of unemployment and another chance that the person looking for you cannot find you and hires someone else for the job you want. Bust a gut right now. Get the network in place and activated and then take a break.
Finally, one of the finest resources anywhere for job hunting advice can be found on the blog of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a leading outplacement organization. Peruse the topic list at http://challengeratworkblog.blogspot.com/.
Pete Travis, JD is Director, Group Life and Health at The Howard Group. He can be reached at ptravis at thehowardgroup.com or 913 663 2323 or via linkedin at http://linkedin.com/in/petertravis.