Many job seekers are apprehensive about job networking. It’s understandable. After all, you have to ask other people, sometimes even complete strangers, to help you find employment. Some of us would rather have a trip to the dentist.
As a result, majority of people looking for work prefer to do it the customary way by sending out their resumes. Needless to say they are missing on excellent opportunities to land a good job.
It’s OK if you are doubtful or even scared about job networking because we are about to discuss how to do it step by step.
1. Define your expectations
You may be surprised by the first step, but the only logical way to start your networking efforts is to set your standards in terms of jobs you would be willing to accept and your salary expectations.
You don’t want to find yourself in a situation when you turn down a job offer simply because of a failure to discuss your anticipations beforehand. In this scenario, you would be wasting someone’s time and good will.
2. Easy way to start
Who are the people you are most comfortable with? Probably they include your family, friends, good acquaintances, neighbors and recent co-workers.
So when you compile an initial list of people who can help in your job search efforts, you should concentrate on individuals that you maintain regular contact with. It’s easier from a psychological standpoint and also these are people who are most likely to be receptive to your requests.
3. Lost acquaintances
Next group of people you should seek are your college friends, former colleagues and other professional acquaintances that you’ve lost contact with. Of course, first task would be to locate them by searching through mutual friends, social networks and phone books.
Once you have done that, it’s time to reintroduce yourself. You should take time for a small chat before bringing up your employment situation, but not too long time. In other words you don’t want to start a conversation with an immediate request because it sounds rude, but a person might feel misled if you talk to him for about 10 minutes or more about casual matters before coming up with a real reason for your call.
4. Complete strangers
I won’t make any revelations when I am going to tell that you will probably feel awkward when contacting people you don’t know. However it may be necessary in some cases.
Suppose that your initial contact doesn’t know about current job openings but can introduce you to another professional in your field. Let’s say that you have an opportunity to talk to a manager or another decision maker working for a company in your industry. Chances like that don’t come by every day and you should take them.
Most people you will contact are going to be polite and sympathetic to your situation. Some of them have been in the same boat themselves.
However, you must be prepared for all kinds of reactions and remain mentally strong. Let’s suppose that your old college body wasn’t too happy to hear from you or someone hung up on you, ignored your message or even responded in a rude fashion. Sometimes even people you consider close might disappoint you.
Things like that happen and you can’t let them affect you. You should treat these situations as a learning experience. In reality you lost nothing, but found something important about certain people.
Some of your contacts won’t be able to help you. Others might say something like “I’ll see what I can do” or ask you to send a resume. If you are fortunate, you’ll find a third and much less sizable group of people who either know about job openings or can put a good word for you with decision makers.
My advice is to expect nothing before you are actually invited for an interview. Keep in mind that some people overstate their ability to help. You don’t want to go through a roller coaster of heightened expectations and disappointments.
7. Checking back
It would probably be a waste of time to call back people who asked for your resume or expressed an intention to think what they could do for you. It’s a 50/50 situation at best right from the beginning. Some of them just tried to be polite. Others might actually pass your resume to HR or their superiors. In this case you would probably hear from them or their employers.
As far as people who mentioned job openings or promised to speak about you with their managers, you should give it at least a few weeks before checking back unless you agreed on some earlier date.
8. Managing your personal feelings
We often hear “Don’t take it personal” advice. It’s a great advice that is hard to follow sometimes, especially in critical situations like a job search. After all you’re asking people for help at a difficult time for you and probably hoping for some effort on your behalf.
My take on it is very simple. Unless a person was rude or outright indifferent to your request, you shouldn’t make any negative judgment whatsoever. You don’t know anyone else’s situation. Some of the people you contacted may be on the verge of losing their jobs themselves, don’t have enough standing with their management or have a negative experience while recommending another person.
So the best attitude is to be thankful to everyone who took time to talk to you. Of course you should be especially grateful to those who actually walked an extra mile for you.
You must be getting tired of my job networking advices by now. So this is the very last one. Something is better than nothing. If you can’t force yourself to contact people you don’t know, then concentrate on those you are acquainted with. In case you feel comfortable asking for help only from your family or friends, you should do at least that.
Job networking is one of the most effective and often ignored tools one can use when looking for work and you must definitely take an advantage of it.