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Are You an Expert at Networking?

If not, read on for these eight valuable tips.

May 1, 2008
by Debra Feldman

Few executives have enough experience to call themselves job search experts. Many have been lucky enough to move from one challenge to the next without having to master job-hunting skills. In an ideal world, when an individual decides he or she wants change, a new, appropriate opportunity miraculously present itself complete with conveniently acceptable terms. Snap out of it … that was just a dream. Only a strategic and proactive job search effort will land you that great new job.

What can you do to avoid the shock of suddenly being forced into the job market? Start job searching strategically before you need a new career opportunity. Planning ahead offers you more control over the timing and specific details of your next career move. It will also allow you to prepare and develop the most effective approach for securing a good match meeting your selection criteria.

Eight Tips You Can't Do Without

Here’s how you can prepare in today's highly competitive and complex environment.

  1. Identify yourself as the expert go-to resource. You have one chance to present your qualifications. A recruiter or HR manager must conclude from your introduction that you are someone they need to know better. Keep your message simple; what’s in it for them (WIFM).
  2. Identify employers who will appreciate your background. To stand out in a very competitive industry, choose a niche and present your credentials to a chosen few. Focusing on the specific needs of a limited group of employers and commanding their attention produces better results.
  3. Define your goals. Focus your search. Name specific companies that have outstanding reputations, or select potential employers whose mission, products, services, alliances and attributes jive with yours. You can expand your list to include companies chosen for characteristics such as location, industry sector, size, ownership status and more. Limit your project scope to a manageable number of employers with whom you can Network Purposefully™.
  4. Create your value proposition to attract interest. Don’t try to adapt yourself to suit every possible opening in order to get a job. However you should customize your personal career presentation. Clearly communicate the value proposition you bring by addressing the specific needs of each target company and communicating that you are the perfect solution for their needs.
  5. Monetize your value. What is your specialty? What do you do better than others with similar credentials? What can employers expect from you to improve their bottom-line, manage customer relationships better, increase sales volume or reduce expenses while cutting costs?
  6. Connect with the hiring authority. Stay on the decision-maker’s radar. Be remarkable and memorable. The best way to source a new job is from a personal referral, a friendly recommendation, a confidential inside lead — all of which depend on establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships (i.e. networking). Spend your job search time working contacts.
  7. Meet hiring managers personally. Follow up relentlessly. Make sure the proper hiring manager at each of your target companies knows who you are and understands your potential value contribution. Keep networking. Ask for referrals. Follow up on every lead on a regular basis and keep your network alive even after you start your new job so that you are in the loop for future positions.
  8. Network Purposefully™. What’s the best way to penetrate an organization? Connections! Find a mutual contact that you share with your target contact and have this third-party arrange an introduction for a more welcoming reception. Write out bullet points to help them present you, with examples showing what you will do for their success and why you chose this organization. When you don’t have a contact, make cold calls and enlist the help of a junior associate. Stress your interest in sharing ideas and be sure to convey that you have something to offer in return for their time and generosity.

Do you hesitate to make that call or ask for introductions? The business world operates on the principle of reciprocity. Anyone who fails to appreciate the value of exchanging information and ideas, i.e. networking, doesn’t understand how business gets done and the world progresses.

It is not just what you know, but who knows you. If you don’t let people know what your job search goal is, you are leaving your future to fate. Network with a purpose and connect with individuals who can introduce you to new opportunities.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job searches into mere weeks. In addition to writing columns and conducting workshops for several revered professional associations, Debra provides career guidance to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.jobwhiz.com to expedite your executive ascent.

© Debra Feldman, 2008