Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Get your networking right!

"It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” Any job seeker would know that! Networking remains the most effective job-search and self-marketing tool. The US Department of Labour states that only 5 percent of people find jobs through the open job market, while 48 percent, nearly half of all job seekers obtain jobs through referrals. Yet, many approach networking ineptly ruining their chances of being recruited.
“Networking is making links from people we know to people they know, in an organised way, for a specific purpose.” says Donna Fisher. Networking involves making connections, establishing relationships, obtaining referrals and building a support structure for personal and professional success.

Establishing a support network however can be a daunting task and most job seekers falter here. Of late, the process of networking is being packaged as an impersonal and manipulative technique leaving a bad taste with professional recruiters. Consequently, most them have stopped entertaining job seekers.

The problem begins
“Interpersonal relationships are today’s business currency.” Most jobs seekers fail to respond to the opportunity of building relationships. From then on begins the journey downhill! The basic principle of networking is respecting people you would like to network with. Understanding and appreciating the subtle nuances of relationships with regard to different people and the level of familiarity with them comes next.

Such an understanding can be got if the networker observes and understands a few basic networking rules. Networking isn’t a sales transaction, it is a way of building trust in individuals, gaining better visibility about the job market through interactions, gathering information about job vacancies and creating a favourable impression in the mind’s of potential recruiters.

While networking, a jobseeker should make the ‘contacts’ feel they are being heard and respected and that interacting with them is a value addition. Cavette Roberts, founder of the National Speakers Association rightly says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
In the process of networking, communication should be open and informal. Job seekers often commit the mistake of not giving others an opportunity to share their inputs. Talking too much or too little could be disadvantageous. A networker needs to remember that the networking meeting is a favour and he must make the most of it using the best of his interpersonal skills.

What not to do—The great agenda switch approach

Notice how a networker makes a sudden switch in his agenda.

Mehta, a networker requests for a low-stakes meeting over the phone stating that all he wants to do is exchange a few ideas. Once face-to-face with the contact, Mehta throws him off guard by badgering him for employment. Not only does Mehta lose face with the contact but the contact defames him, ruining further employment opportunities.

What to do--The direct approach

When a job seeker disguises the purpose of a meeting, the contact feels manipulated and avoids associating with such jobseekers. Asking a potential employer about a job directly either in writing or verbally is the most appropriate job-search tactic.

A savvy networker uses this approach while dealing with a contact:
“Mr.Tata, several people mention that the start-up of your new division might create a need for someone who can manage a full set of financial and accounting controls. If that’s true, I’d like to express my interest. If my friends have got it wrong and there is no employment prospect, we could informally network to talk about the market for controllers and CFO’s in your region.”

Clarity of purpose

A contact is naturally concerned about why the networker called, how he heard of him, the agenda of the meeting, and whether there are any associated risks. Failing to give contacts a frame of reference that explicitly defines his role is another common mistake networkers make. Networkers should remember to follow up on the contact.
A college student initiated contact with a guest speaker (a professional in the pharmaceutical industry). They kept in touch through the final semester. Even before she graduated she had a high paying job lined up.

Since networking is about people, it is but obvious that the best networking leads will come from people on the field. Networkers though have to be careful about providing authentic referrals and checking the referral’s accuracy. Often networkers use the clout of referrals (“Your friend

Mr. Tata asked me to give you a call.”) to fix meetings. The contact may oblige as a favour to the friend only to realise that the referral provided wrong or inaccurate information.

A networker can shape his presentation by testing a contact’s level of knowledge before or during a meeting. He must provide a clear profile and his objectives.

Clarity of message

What a networker says is as important as how he says it. Hard and soft self-sell techniques that sales personnel use to overcome defenses and objections should be avoided. Over-rehearsing a presentation robs it of its spontaneity giving the impression of made up conversation. A good networker formats his presentation on the three C’s-concise, casual and conversational.

A contact should be allotted ‘talk time’. It is important to be both interested and interesting. Actively listening to the contact gives the networker an insight into his calibre. Body language is vital here. A good networker demonstrates enthusiasm and professionalism at all times.

Networking niceties

A networker should pay attention to the amount of time he requests for the meeting. The meeting should be scheduled to allow sufficient time for covering the agenda without appearing to be rushed or lengthy. A good networker is discreet about his referrals. He doesn’t attribute information to a contact incase disclosure affects the person.

By conveying appreciation and gratitude, a networker leaves a lasting impression with contacts. Thoughtful and considerate networkers gain by creating inexhaustive sources of information, friendly ties and support that help them secure more than just employment.

With communication growing globally, a person’s career network can include people across geographical areas. Also the Internet offers tremendous opportunity for networking. Observing these niceties while networking will help a savvy job seeker.

Ref: TheManageMentor

1 comment:

Donna Fisher said...

I just came across your article and really like the way you talk about the "switch approach" versus the "direct approach". Very good advice. Thanks for including my networking definition in your article.
My best,
Donna Fisher