As an entrepreneur and owner of several businesses, I frequently receive calls from individuals looking to network into their next job. Of course, lately there’s no recession in job seekers and, as a Connector (if you’ve read The Tipping Point), I’ve been pretty busy trying to help those that I can. While I’m no expert in job placement, I can suggest some tips from being on the other side of the networking equation. If you’re beginning to network for your next job, don’t make that call, just yet. There are few things you should do first to help you get to your next gig more quickly:
- Relax. The most important first thing you can do is to become fearless. Whether you are interviewing for a job or just networking to find an opening, the confidence you portray about yourself and your future speaks volumes. I look for three ingredients in those that I want to work with or that I refer to my network: character, competency, and confidence. It’s amazing how many people of noble character and high competence lack the confidence they need to make a positive impression. So, relax. Breathe in. Breathe out. And repeat. Any fear you may have of the future is not your friend. Remember, your Best Friend says, “Fear not, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)
- Think & Pray. These are combined because prayerful and thoughtful consideration of your competencies, temperament and interests is a holy endeavor. God made you for a purpose and the pause between occupations is a gift to be received thoughtfully and prayerfully. When I’m asked if I might know of an opening in some area, I always ask, “What are you looking for?” It’s a simple question that usually evokes a recitation of past positions along with the summation, “I can pretty much do anything.” Score points for confidence, lose points for thoughtless consideration. They’re not ready to even network, much less to interview. If that’s you, here’s what I suggest:
- Read the book I Can Do Anything, If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher. It won’t give you the answers, but it may help you find the right questions to work on.
- Evaluate the things you’ve done that have energized you — the hobbies, jobs, and people interactions you’ve experienced that made you come alive. Write these down as your personal interest inventory.
- Visit your local bookstore and/or library. The bigger the better. Scan the magazine rack and the book shelves. Pull the magazines and books that are appealing to you. As you look through them, add to your list the things that excite you in some way. Pay particular attention to the advertising section at back of many magazines because they list businesses, jobs or services offered that may hold additional clues about your wiring.
- Pray over the interest list you’ve compiled. Which ones stand out as most appealing? Revise your list based on the counsel you received from those closest enough to intimately know your wiring. Let the list germinate for a while until you are either confident of a direction or need more information to decide.
- Now create your list of networking contacts. Who do you know that either works in a related field or has a high likelihood of knowing someone who does? Write down as many names as possible. They are your new network targets.
- Probe. Now you’re ready to network. Purposefully. Contact the people on your list. Start with those you know best but don’t ask about open jobs. Keep your focus on a different goal: to learn everything you can about working in your identified areas of interest. You’ll be amazed at how many occupations exist that could be a fit to your skills, interests and aptitudes. When you hear one that sounds appealing, ask specifically to be connected with the person in that role. Your next job may very well be in their network.
I love to network and I get excited when I meet someone who’s done their homework and can be very specific about the kind of people they would like to meet. I’m eager to open my network to them, particularly when I know their primary motivation is to discover their fit and calling rather than mere employment. And I have the confidence that those in my network, who respond to inquiries from those I refer to them, will take their calls. They know that their time and their network will also be respected because the caller can clearly articulate where they are looking to go and what kind of help they need.
Share your ideas, suggestions and networking successes with others by commenting on this post.