As President of ADVISA, I’ve always viewed my highest point of contribution as building and optimizing a team of sharp, caring people who share a passion for leadership development and employee engagement. As a result, I take a fair amount of meetings with folks who reach out to me about joining our team and leaders who are in career transition. I recently had one such meeting and afterwards shared some advice with this individual about how to successfully network in pursuit of landing a new job. I’m sharing that advice here with the hope that others might find it timely and helpful in their professional journey.
Your personal presentation and affect:
- Be sharp and put together, but don’t take yourself too seriously. People typically edge toward dressing and acting uber-formal in these situations. I think comfortable and pleasant (as in be sure to smile and make eye contact) is what you want to shoot for. If your outfit is appropriate and you’re comfortable, you will come off far more genuine and authentic. Authenticity draws people in. Formality puts people off. Which kind of impression do you want to make?
- Don’t talk too much and speak with clarity. When networking and meeting with total strangers to get leads on jobs, you should be super clear about who you are, what you want, and how the other person can help. For instance, “Heather, thanks for meeting me today. I’m grateful SoAndSo connected us, as I’m actively looking for a new career opportunity, I’d love to learn about your business and your clients and see if my background might align in any way.”
- Demonstrate emotional intelligence. Don’t launch into a long, complicated explanation of your entire career history, highlighting notable accomplishments. Instead, focus on the person you’re sitting across from and weave in your “wonderfulness” as natural points of connection throughout the conversation. For example, “So, Heather, SoAndSo tells me you started out as a teacher. How did you make the jump into business?” Then when I mention how my time in education informed my beliefs about leadership development, you could connect by sharing how you grew and developed several teams over your career and took a very collaborative approach.”
Your job hunt:
In real estate they say, location, location, location. In job hunting these days, it’s networking, networking, networking. It can be extremely frustrating and time consuming to send resumes and cover letters with very little response. That’s like cold calling in sales. Can it work? Yes, but it’s not the best nor most effective approach. Here are my tips.
- Clean up and tune up your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIN is your professional storefront where people come to window-shop, browse and hopefully buy. Gather feedback from people you trust about how you have represented yourself on LinkedIN – picture, description, overall impression.
- Nail down a simple, clear headline that captures your career history and current aspirations for when you meet new people. If others have to work hard to understand your background and current goals, that’s a fail. For instance, “I have a diverse background in manufacturing and health care, having held operational, sales and executive leadership positions. At this stage I’m seeking an executive leadership position where I can leverage my experience to help a growing company get to the next level.”
- Consider setting a goal to have at least 3 in-person meetings a week and to connect with each person after the meeting on LinkedIn. In each meeting the objective should be to 1) get to know that person, 2) connect both personally and professionally so that other person walks away saying, “I liked that guy and I think he should meet so-and-so,” and 3) come away with a referral to another person.
- Follow up periodically with each person you meet with.
- First touch – Thanks for meeting …
- Second touch – I wanted to track back around and let you know I’ve applied for the following positions … Do you have any connections to these companies?
- Third touch – Perhaps make a referral – My friend runs a company that could really use your services. I’m going to do an e-intro and connect you …
- Fourth touch – I’ve landed at ABC company in XYZ role. Really appreciate your help in this process and I look forward to staying connected.
- The “close” or “win” you should be seeking in each networking meeting is not an offer to interview for a job with that person, it’s an introduction to someone new – either a new networking contact or someone who may potentially have a job opening for which you’re qualified.
- Think about companies you like and respect and that employ people you like and respect. Keep an eye on when they’re hiring and apply online as soon as jobs are posted. Complete application activities right away as opposed to delaying.
I know it can be difficult to look for, secure, and transition to a new job – especially if it’s later in your career. I hope that what I’ve shared will help you to create a game plan for yourself and your search. Good luck out there!