While it would make the introverts, the meek, the shy, and the
novices awfully happy if the newspaper classifieds contained all job
openings, that's simply not the case. In fact, some of the best jobs
aren't listed anywhere except in the mental catalogues of CEOs and
So how do you apply for jobs that aren't advertised anywhere, that
exist only in the seemingly inaccessible minds of working America's
movers and shakers? You meet people who might have insight into your job
search. You talk to people who know people who could help you out. You
chat it up with strangers at parties. You cold-call people you've read
about in the newspaper. You write cordial letters to prominent community
leaders. You cultivate an arsenal of contacts. In short, you network.
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Think about networking as a game, as a sport, as a personal challenge.
Below are some strategies for success.
1. Brainstorm for Contacts.
Think of everyone who could possibly serve as a
contact. Don't limit yourself to people who
could clearly help you out - friendly,
accessible people in unrelated fields often have
contacts they would be happy to share with you.
Also, people who, through either work or
volunteer activities, have contact with a
diverse crowd can be extremely helpful. To get
you started with your list, here are some
- Family friends Local politicians
- Relatives Journalists
- Neighbors Business executives
- Professors Non-profit directors
- Alumni Your physician
- Former employees Your hair dresser
- Former co-workers Prominent community members
- Public relations officials Members of professional organizations
- Religious leaders
2. Where the Contacts Are - Tried and True Places to Network
- Local alumni association Conventions
- Class reunions Club meetings
- Cocktail parties Internet list-servs
- Fundraisers Volunteer opportunities
- Business conferences Continuing education classes
3. Be Prepared
Networking is a little like planning a political campaign. While it's
essential that you are honest and relaxed, you should not wing it. Just
as politicians think about what they tactically need to accomplish,
convey, and gain when they make an appearance or give a speech, you
should approach networking opportunities with a game plan. Before you
confidently and charmingly sashay into a business conference room, a
dinner party, or group event, do your homework. Find out who will be
there, or do your best to list who you think will probably be present.
Then decide who you would most like to meet. When you have your list of
potential contacts, thoroughly research their work and their backgrounds
and then make up some questions and conversational statements that
reflect your research. And finally, think critically about what your
goals are for your networking function. What information do you want to
walk away with? What do you want to convey to the people you meet? But,
as is always true, it's important to be flexible and to perceive
opportunities you didn't plan to confront.
4. Networking Knows No Boundaries
Business conferences, informational interviews, college reunions, and
cocktail parties are obvious networking opportunities - you expect to
walk away with a few business cards and some recommendations for
potential rolodex entries. But the reality is that invaluable contacts
and enviable opportunities often surprise us. Good networkers are
flexible people who approach connection-making as a fluid enterprise
that extends far beyond hotel conference room walls. You never know who
will step onto the adjacent elliptical trainer at the gym; who will be
parked behind you in an interminable grocery store line; who will sit
next to you on an airplane; or who will be under the hair dryer next to
you at the beauty salon. Don't let these opportunities pass you by.
While it may have been sheer luck that you bumped into an affable CEO,
your savvy approach to networking can turn a banal exchange into a
pivotal moment in your career path. Always be ready to make a contact
and exchange business cards. And remember, don't hesitate to network
someone who has no obvious connection to your ambitions: Your new
contact may be able to give you relevant names of his or her friends and
5. Follow Up
After you meet with a contact, it is absolutely essential to write a
thank you note. Tell your contact how much he or she helped you, and
refer to particularly helpful, specific advice. Everyone - even the most
high-level executive - likes to feel appreciated. In addition to
immediate follow-up after a meeting or conversation, keep in touch with
your contacts. This way, they may think of you if an opportunity comes
up, and they will also be forthcoming with new advice. It's important to
stay on their radar screens without being imposing or invasive. And, of
course, if you get that new job, be sure to tell them and thank them
again for their help.
6. What Goes Around Comes Around
If you want to be treated with respect, treat others with respect. If
you want your phone calls and email missives returned, call and write
back to the people who contact you. If you want big-wigs to make time
for you, make yourself available to others whom you might be able to
help out. It's that simple
The higher up you climb in the professional world, the more you'll find
that everyone knows everyone else. Thus, if you're impolite, curt,
condescending, or disposed to burning bridges, you'll cultivate a
reputation that will serve as a constant obstacle. Remember - the people
who seem little now will one day be running companies and making
decisions. If you treated them with kindness and respect when they were
green, they'll remember and return the favor later.
7. Make It Easy For Your Contacts
When you call, meet with, or write to a potential contact, make it as
easy as possible for them to help you. Explain what you specifically
want, and ask detail-oriented questions.
For example, "I'm looking for jobs in arts administration. Do you know
anyone who works at the Arts Council? May I have their names and phone
numbers? May I use your name when I introduce myself to them?" Another
entrée into a productive conversation is to solicit career tips and
advice from your contact. Most people love to talk about themselves. By
asking for your contact to offer valuable insight from his or her
personal experiences and successes, he or she will feel important and
respected. Who doesn't like to feel like an expert?
Be sure to avoid making general demands, such as, "Do you know of any
jobs that would be good for me?" This sort of question is overwhelming
and it puts an undue burden on your contact.
8. Stay Organized
Keep a record of your networking. Whether you do this in a Rolodex, in a
notebook, or in a database file on your computer, it's important to keep
track of your contacts. Make sure your system has plenty of room for
contacts' names, addresses, phone numbers, companies, job titles, how
you met them, and subsequent conversations you've had with them.
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