The #1 maxim of the job search is this: people get people jobs. But you've got to be smart about how you go about your networking or you'll be wasting valuable time, energy and personal resources.
Studies show that a minimum of 75 percent of new positions are obtained by way of referral and that figure raises exponentially the tighter the job market and the older you are. Consequently, as a jobseeker of maturity, you'll want to plan your time accordingly and devote a minimum of 80 percent of your job search hours reaching out to others. But all of your efforts will be wasted and you'll actually be doing yourself more harm than good if you aren't going about your networking in the right way.
No one wants to feel used, so there is a real art to fostering the kinds of connections that will move your search forward. Your goal, therefore, is to get your point across and to forge mutually beneficial relationships in the process. For more information on how to do this, you'll want to read Paul Bernard's article for Huff/Post 50 entitled "6 Tips for Networking Success."
And, in addition to the basics of how best to interact with others, there are three powerful phrases you'll want to incorporate into your job search vocabulary. By using these key expressions on a regular basis, you'll ensure that you're working your network successfully.
#1 And I'm looking for...
Start out your networking campaign by preparing a branding statement/elevator pitch. Make it a concise, compelling verbal message that highlights your strengths and engages your listeners. Be certain to finish your pitch with the phrase "and I'm looking for..." and then list a few companies that hold interest for you.
Ask for either information on these organizations or the names of contacts who might be willing to meet with you. Done correctly, this can be a potent technique because it gets you on the inside track to places where you'd like to work. (For the steps to create your own compelling elevator pitch, take a look at "4 Surefire Steps to Power-Up Your Branding Statement.")
#2 Do you know anyone at...?
This question is akin to phrase #1, but you'll want to use it in a different context. To be effective in today's market, you'll need to focus your time and energies on being proactive rather than reactive. So, in addition to your verbal elevator pitch, you'll want to actively target companies where you'd like to work by spreading the word among your contacts via E-mail and/or text.
Begin by creating a list of 15 to 20 companies. Then go through your list of contacts and determine which people in your network might have ties to employees within the organizations you're targeting. (You'll only want to give each of your contacts three or four company names so that they won't feel overwhelmed and will, therefore, be more likely to help you.)
Write a brief E-mail/text and say something along the lines of "Right now I'm targeting companies X, Y and Z. If you know someone at any of these firms who might be willing to give me a few minutes of their time, I'd appreciate a referral." Getting these types of warm leads will give you the opportunity to conduct informational interviews and open the door to networking within your companies of interest.
One critical point: If you do get a name, be sure to follow up! Many times your contacts will alert their friends that you'll be reaching out to them. If you fail to follow through, this will make your own networking contact far less likely to want to help you in the future. And it will give their contact the impression that you are a candidate who's unprofessional and disorganized--two adjectives you want to avoid at all costs.
#3 I'll keep you apprised of my search...
You already know that your goal is to create mutually beneficial relationships, but you'll want these connections to be ongoing as well. One way to ensure that your new contact will remain on your networking list is to let them know that you'll keep them updated regarding your search. There are 4 main ways to do this:
- Thank them for any suggestions or contacts they've given you and let them know how you've followed through. "I met with Sam and he not only gave me some valuable information, he suggested I contact three other people in the firm." Or "I read the article you suggested and found it to be extremely helpful by providing me with the statistics I needed to make my points."
- Check in from time to time and let them know how things are going. "I've followed up on the names you gave me and, per their suggestions, have added a few new companies to my target list. I'm feeling good about my progress but, if you know anyone at one of these firms or have any further ideas, I'd appreciate you letting me know."
- Provide them with information that might be helpful to their own goals. "While researching company X, I came across an article I think would interest you because it addresses issues similar to the ones you're facing at your organization."
- Let them know when you've landed and thank them for their help and support. This is not only courteous, it ensures that they'll know where to find you and you'll be able to keep the relationship ongoing.
So network smart and use these three powerful phrases to build and maintain your list of contacts. People do get people jobs and, with the right referrals, you just might land one before you know it. After all, securing a new position is the very best way to work your network!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in February 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!