Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Know More than 9 People! . . . or, Your Network is Wider than You Think

Your network is wider than you think.   You know more than 9 people!
When I sit down to begin work with a new client, one of the things we always discuss right up front is networking.  This critical skill is at the core of finding new positions, since the majority of jobs come through networking. 

I ask clients to create a networking plan, which begins with them identifying people in their network. I ask them to  make a list of their contacts.  Recently I asked a client to produce such a list and he was done so quickly that I was curious to see his list.

"All done?"  I asked.

"Yup,"  he said.

I took a look.

"Nine people?  You only know 9 people?" I asked, incredulously. 

"Yup,"  he said. 

"Hmmm,"  I said.  "Let's try this from another angle."

And we did.  As we discussed it, this client's list of network contacts grew from 9 to 39 folks.  In his first attempt at drafting a list of his network contacts, he had done what so many  job seekers do - he'd sold himself short.

Job seekers sell themselves short 
Overlook No one!
Job seekers sell themselves short when it comes to identifying all the people they can reach out to.
Because they limit their thinking.  They stop short of listing all the people they know --- outside of their professional realm.

Sure, your set of professional colleagues is the place you will probably start.  List all your professional contacts and connections.  But remember, your professional network is only one set of people you know within your network.  

Think of people you know from the other walks of your life. You know and interact with people whose paths cross yours in any number of ways:  hobbies, volunteering, service providers, groups you belong to, exercise classes, etc.  List these members of your network too.  Here's how to build your network plan:

Step 1:  Chart your network 
Create a chart to list the members of your network.  

Chart your Network!  ID people from all walks of your life!
Identify network categories, such as professional contacts, service provider contacts, volunteer contacts, hobbies such as sports teams you're on, fellow pet owners in the dog park,  . . . . you get the idea.  Think about ALL the people you interact with day by day.  These are your network contacts too.  

For example, take service providersService provider's jobs put them in contact with hundreds of people as they perform their service of hair styling, plumbing, auto repair, dry cleaning, landscaping, etc. 

What do customers do while their hair is being cut, or their plumbing plumbed?  They talk about what they do -- their work!  Chances are the Rolodex of service providers is pretty big.  They know people who work in a wide variety of professions - one of those could be yours - and they can put you in contact with their contact.  Who knows . . . it could lead to an opportunity.

Or think of baristas at your local coffee shop.  They talk with lots of people.  Telling your story to your favorite barista could lead to a connection with another of their coffee-drinking customers.  And the connection could lead to a conversation that leads to leads to your next opportunity.

The take away is this:  OVERLOOK NO ONE!  Include people from all walks of your life  –  all the subsets of your network.  You never know which one will provide the lead that leads you to your new opportunity.

        ■    Task:  Identify and Manage Your Network Exercise:  List the groups or subset groups in your network.

Step 2:  List your network contacts
Think about all the people you interact with day by day.  List your network contacts per category or group.  Include contact information so you have all the information in one place.  It will save you time in the long run. 

        ■    Task:  List the members of each network group you can think of in the appropriate category of group of your overall network.

Step 3:  Schedule your networking
Now use your list of network contacts to schedule networking meetings.  

These can be by phone, but in-person is preferable; you gain more information with a face-to-face meeting.  Plan to reach out to at least 6 people per day.  This is a great way to generate quality activity as you begin your search.  You can choose to begin with one category, or select a couple of candidates from multiple categories.

        ■    Task:  Contact the members of your immediate network by phone or e-mail to set up and schedule initial networking meetings.
        1.    Phone is preferable since you can tell your story of why you are on the job market, gauge their reaction, and set a networking meeting on the spot. 

        2.    However, e-mail will work too; it'll just take a little longer. 
Dream Job . . . This Way!
Sometimes, too, e-mail offers the advantage of preparing your contact for your call.  Be sure to mention when you will call the time and date you will call; or ask what would be the best time for you to call. By preparing your contact for you call, it speeds your conversation and may allow you to schedule a meeting with ease. 

BUT – and it’s a giant BUT  - if you both agree to a time that you will call, DO IT!  To fail to do so damages your credibility and intent in the eyes of your contact.

        3.    Either way, by phone or e-mail, your goal is to schedule 1 - 2 networking meetings a day, at least 5 days a week.

Remember, over 80% of jobs, and it's probably higher, come via networking.  So, don't sell yourself short. 

The magic of networking is that as you reach out to the myriad of folks you know from many walks of life: Everyone knows someone . . . . who knows someone . . . . . who . . . . . . 
And that "someone" may be just the one who provides the link and the lead to your next opportunity.

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
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