First of all, congratulations on your new job. I hope it is even better than you expected.
There are many ideas about networking, and most of the good teachers in this area, agree on most of them. The ones that I am going to write about that seem to contradict some other suggestions are my opinion but are based on personal experience and talking to some of the most accomplished networkers I know.
This next thing I am throwing in as a freebie. I have talked about it before but I think is well worth repeating. In a job search mode you should devote time to activities based on the percentages. People actually secure jobs through direct application on the Internet 6-8% of the time. (This does not include research, locating companies to talk with, etc. In many cases such as this the Internet is usually the most effective way to do it.) Jobs secured through recruiters equal between 10 and 15%. (The tighter the candidate market, the higher the percentage for recruiter.) Using the liberal sides of the numbers you still have 75-80% left. There are some other ways people find jobs but the consensus of people knowledgeable in this area put the number of jobs found through networking at about 70%. This seems to remain consistent, no matter what the condition of the job market. Those are the percentages you should use in allocating your time in a job search. That is a bit off subject but still valuable enough to include.
Should you continue to network and how much? Yes and yes. I would suggest you get and read a few books on the subject such as ''Endless Referrals”, ''Never Eat Alone…..” and ''Power Netweaving…” This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the better ones I have read. You will obviously get a lot more information by reading two or three books on the subject than I could ever produce in a column. Many of these authors do speaking engagements. You can check their web sites, keep an eye on the local newspapers or even book them as part of a group. Some, like Bob Burg, won’t charge you up front but split the gate and give you a percentage of the material sales. They will even walk you through the promotion piece. I am not very big on motivational speakers, but content speakers such as these are worth the time and money investment. If you happen to book Bob Burg tell them I sent you.
As far as time involved I would say as much as possible, which is a pretty generic answer. But there is no set amount. This will vary according to your profession. Obviously sales people are going to spend a lot more time at it than corporate finance people. But everyone should spend some time at it every week. It is critical you keep up your networks, whether in a job search mode or not. They are just as valuable either place. There is certainly no excuse not to, especially with sites like LinkedIn, My Space available. I have talked about this in the past. I would suggest a minimum of five hours per week if you are currently employed. There are many activities you wouldn’t consider networking but they are. Some surprising ones will come up a little later. The only wrong amount of networking is not doing it at all.
I want to provide some of the networking ideas I have found very useful
Have a purpose for going, especially to networking events: This is much more than the generic ''to network”. Are you, looking for business leads, to just make some additional contacts, etc. This is critical because you go at different times for different reasons. Again, have a specific purpose, not a generic one. If he said it twice this must be very important.
Know who the attendees are, both generically and specifically. Many times you can get a list of attendees up front, especially if you are a member. It is important you know this. If you are someone who specializes in very large data networks chances are good an event filled with real estate and mortgage brokers is not a great target. Also don’t automatically assume a networking event you have attended in the past is going to be the same mix. Focuses of specific events can sometimes change as well as organization focuses. Finally if you have attended the same event 2 or 3 times in a row without any results why would you go again, unless you also believe in the tooth fairy?
Identify 3-5 people you want to meet, either from a list or once you get there. This is pretty self-explanatory but in a 90 minute to 2-hour event you will get maximum effectiveness out of this method. You will meet other people because you are typically not going to spend 20-30 minutes with your targets. But this tells you where to place your focus. I am not generally big on power networking events where you move to 3-4 tables and get a 2-minute pitch at each. I find these a lot less effective. This does not include groups like BNI or PRE or some of the professional search groups like Gray Hair Management of ExecuNet nor professional groups like FENG, MENG, TENG, etc. Those 30 second to 2 minute elevator speeches are just part of this meeting, if they are even included.
Spend 80% of your time listening and asking questions. This can be a little difficult if both parties are doing this. Someone has o go first. I would suggest it is the one who makes the initial approach. After all you are the one who has shown the interest. Have you ever been at an event where someone who talked non-stop, without taking a breath, for five minutes, approached you? (How the heck do they do that anyway?) Of course you have. Don’t be that person. Also leave the canned speech at the door. This is more informal. It might be uncomfortable but you will get much greater results. You certainly can keep that speech in mind. The other person is typically going to ask what you do. You don’t want to stumble all over yourself or deliver the first act of Hamlet.
Do have an elevator speech!! I am not suggesting you don’t. There will be times you need one. It should be 30-45 seconds in length. If you have never been in a place where everyone was told they have 30-45 seconds and a couple people drown on for 4 minutes consider yourself lucky. Some people thin k they are ''getting over” by doing this. But they are actually hurting themselves. Don’t you just want to yell at that person to shut up? If you are at a job-networking event where they are doing pitches, it still shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes. Anything longer in either of these situations and you are not really prepared. Two golden rules; remember there are others who have to do their 30 seconds and try not to be robotic. I am a member of one organization. As many times as I have heard one person’s pitch I can’t wait to hear it again. She is always creative, funny and no two are the same. To me, that shows she is doing more than going through the motions.
Hang out at the food table. Everyone gets there sooner or later, right? And it is typically a much more relaxed atmosphere.
Every event or meeting is a networking opportunity. Grocery store, doctor’s office, PTA meeting, Scouts, wedding, etc. Just be curious.
Here’s Wishing You Terrific Hunting,
About the Author
Bill Gaffney has had 17 years of experience as an executive recruiter and a career coach. He can be reached at 937-567-5267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.