Somewhere in the job-search universe, the various numbers being thrown out there tend to agree that 70% of all jobs are found through networking and from people within your sphere of influence. Simply put, humans like to do business with who we know. And if you are unemployed right now or facing employment, it is only reasonable to assume that to advance your job search efforts, these statistics means you have to get out of the house to network… a lot! For the shrinking violets or very shy people, this can be something akin to a nightmare scenario… actually having to go out and TALK to NEW people! Yikes!
The good news is that you can tackle this task with a positive attitude, and realize that you can learn something while developing your interaction skills at the same time. Sure, it is easy to sit back and ride the emotional unemployment rollercoaster passively – you get laid off, you sit at home watching CNN, launch a few job applications here and there, get an interview once in a while, and feel good temporarily… but pretty soon, you’ll start to feel pretty isolated, depressed and completely unemployable. Why isn’t anyone calling you? This is not a happy place to be emotionally.
So take charge of your destiny in the best way you can, and get yourself out there. A good way to think about it is that the ocean is full of sharks (job seekers) right now, circling their job target prey (available jobs), and your goal is to become a bigger shark. The sharks are the ones who are fully engaged in networking and leveraging the power of their Rolodexes and business network contacts to their fullest abilities. Your job is to market yourself right now… so you need to be RELENTLESS AND FEARLESS. The others are doing exactly that, so here’s how you can jump into the sea and compete with the other sharks:
1) Don’t be shy. As much as you may hate meeting new people and don’t feel that you have much to talk about when meeting others, you are going to have to push these feelings aside and stick out your hand to introduce yourself. If you can train yourself to do this, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to engage others. An old networking trick is to ask someone a question about themselves- “What do you do?” – Most people love to talk about themselves, so by asking one simple question, you’ve broken the ice and begun the networking process. Eventually, the conversation will turn back to you and that’s your opening to introduce yourself.
2) Develop your ‘elevator speech’. How are you going to communicate what it is that you do and what you are looking for? But more importantly, what value do you offer a prospective employer? Let’s say that you meet the hiring manager of your dream job at a networking event. What are you going to say to them that builds a compelling case as to why they should hire you? Have a concise, clear articulation of your value proposition ready to go.
3) Become educated. Read business articles online, newspapers, business journals, and make yourself as educated in your field as possible. Then, when you do enter into a networking conversation, you’ll have a veritable library of facts and knowledge to pull from and talk about!
4) Get networking. Here are some suggestions of where to network, gain information and knowledge and to build your contact base:
a. Business groups
b. Trade association meetings
c. Volunteering at industry events or functions
d. Classes (in your field)
e. Job fairs
f. Informational interviews
g. Job support groups
k. Industry colleagues
l. Alma mater (alumni network)
m. LinkedIn.com and other online business networking groups
Your goal in becoming a ‘shark’ is to meet as many people, introduce yourself, find out ‘nuggets’ of information, acknowledge and thank those that do help you, and create your own web of contacts. That way, when something does come along, you are not only well-regarded as a known quantity, but also immediately identified as an excellent candidate for that position.
Remember, this is what everyone else is doing out there- so you have to make yourself as competitive a candidate as possible too! Be RELENTLESS AND FEARLESS!