What’s at the top of your list of worst fears. Death? Yes. That one is right at the top of my personal list. Public speaking? Not a concern for me. Don’t get between me and a microphone if you don’t want to get hurt! Networking? Not a problem. For me, meeting new people is one of the great joys in life.
If you talk to enough job seekers, you might discover that networking is a lot higher on their fear list. The thought of contacting a stranger to talk about work and career is the equivalent of listening to your own eulogy. That’s a problem because networking is the key to finding your next job in today’s economy. According to the US Department of Labor, 80% of all positions filled in the US annually are never advertised.
The most effective way to tap into this hidden job market is to build and nurture an effective professional network. So, better than some anti-anxiety medication, I have assembled a list of helpful resources to get your networking game on track.
My favorite book on networking is The 20-Minute Networking Meeting – Professional Edition by Nathan Perez. Referred to me by a friend, this 180-page book is a quick read but full of value for your job search. The book details why most networking meetings are complete failures because of lack of preparation, structure, and execution. Then the book details for you exactly how to conduct effective networking meetings in a socially acceptable 20-minute time frame. Master this process and you will be adding meaningful contacts to your network in short order.
Some job seekers struggle with networking because they don’t know how to start the conversation, reach out to a stranger and request an exploratory meeting. This excellent article from The Muse, 4 Email Templates to Make Networking Way Less Awkward, provides email examples that you can use in a wide variety of situations to request a meeting.
Networking events where you have a large social gathering purpose-built for making connections can be a viable strategy to identify potential network contacts. If you don’t do well in large groups, you may come up with any number of reasons to pass on these networking events. This article from Entrepreneur Magazine, Even Introverts Can Excel at Networking by Following These Steps, provides a solid rationale for why you should attend networking events in your area. Learn to master the three C technique of Conversation, Connection, and Collaboration to expand your professional network.
With a nod toward professional and personal bias, I recommend one of my own articles, Networking? It’s not a One-Way Street, from the AdvantEdge Careers blog. To build an active professional network for your job search, you need to give as much as you get. That means you need to nurture each network connection. And since you are already up on my blog site, take another two minutes to read a quick article, Who are you? I Really Wanna Know, about how best to identify yourself when sending a LinkedIn connection request.
What’s the return on investment for all this reading? I view the job search process as a sales process. That means that you must build a networking funnel for your job search. Do the research and identify 300+ potential network contacts in your targeted positions, companies and industries. My personal rule of human nature is that close to 50% of the people in this world and inherently good, friendly and willing to help. Reach out and attempt to meet with the contacts in your funnel. You will connect with 100 to 150 of these individuals. With a viable network of 100-150 professionals that you nurture, you will land on average ten interviews. With ten interviews, assuming proper interview skills, you will secure at least one job offer.
Read these books and articles, and you will be off to a great start in mastering the art of professional networking. The key is to put your wetsuit on and dive into the networking pool. The water’s warm. The people are friendly. And you can take networking off your list of all-time fears!
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.