Effective Networking to Improve Your Job Search Results

Job Searching: You know that networking as part of your job search is a wise way to tap into hidden employment opportunities. But what does that mean, exactly? Once you find someone to network with, then what will you talk about to help your job search move forward, helping you to uncover interesting hidden employment opportunities?

Following is a tried-and-true agenda, one that I call, “You, Me, We” for job search networking, that works like a charm in job search and finding hidden employment jobs. To show you how it works, imagine that you (we’ll call you Chris for this example) have arranged to meet Kendra (someone you met at a professional association meeting) for coffee. Your conversation will follow this three part outline:

Learn the “You” part of the job search networking agenda

The purpose of the “You” segment in the agenda is to connect with your contact in a meaningful way, and to get the job search networking conversation off to a good start. By focusing first on Kendra, you show her that she’s important to you, and you increase your chances of her supporting you later in the conversation. My favorite “You” focus strategy is the F.O.R.D. technique, an acronym standing for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. Asking questions about these topics allows you to focus successfully on your contact. Here are some examples:

Family: “Where are you from originally? Do you have family in this area?”
Occupation: “Tell me how things are going for you in your work. What aspects of your job are particularly exciting or challenging for you right now?”
Recreation: “What do you do for fun? Been on any interesting trips or vacations recently?”
Dreams: “Where do you hope to take things in the future? Any exciting projects or developments that you’re aiming for?”

Feel free to modify the F.O.R.D. questions to come up with some that feel comfortable to you. And realize that you don’t need to ask your contact about every topic within the F.O.R.D. acronym–it’s just a handy memory technique to help you keep the conversation going smoothly. After you’ve spent 5 – 10 minutes learning about Kendra and what’s going on in her life, you’ll then need to move into the “Me” part of the conversation. A good way to segue this transition is to look at your timepiece (your watch, your cell phone, the clock on the wall…) and say,

“Kendra, I want to make good use of your time, so I’m going to now tell you a little bit about what’s going on with me…”

This is a very handy statement to master, because otherwise you may end up spending the entire conversation on the “You” part of the agenda, and never get to the “Me” or “We” segments—making it difficult for you to achieve your job search networking goals.

Learn the “Me” part of the job search networking conversation:

So you’ve just spent the last 5-10 minutes catching up on Kendra’s life. Now it’s time to move into the “Me” part of the agenda, to bring Kendra up to speed on what’s going on with you and your job search activities. In the “Me” part of your conversation, you want to aim to cover these three points:

Clearly state your job search goal, as in “I’m job searching for a position as a branch manager with a bank.”

Briefly share your resume, and point out a few highlights of your background related to your job search goal. For instance, “Kendra, here’s a copy of my resume for you to have for your records. As you can see, in my last position, I managed the Greenwood branch for First Money Keepers. I was successful in that position, and grew the bank by 75% within two years…” Your goal with this activity is to paint a picture for Kendra about what you’re great at, and what you want to do more of in the future, using one to two specific examples from your past.

Ask Kendra to keep you in mind of she learns of any job opportunities that match your job search goals.

That’s it! Once you cover these 3 “Me” pieces in your job search networking, then you can transition to the last part of the conversation…the “We”. A smooth way to move into this portion of the job search networking agenda is to say,

“Now that you know a little about what I’m job searching for, I’d love to brainstorm some next steps with you…”

Learn the ‘We’ part of the job search networking conversation:

You’re in the home stretch now! Now you just need to wrap up your conversation with a successful “We” discussion. Here’s how this part of the conversation goes:

Pull out 2 copies of a list of prospective companies that you’re researching in your job search. You should aim to have between 25 – 100 companies on your job search target list.

Ask, “What do you know about any of these companies—pros and cons, updates about what’s happening with them, people I should talk to, and so on?”

Listen and make notes as Kendra offers some thoughts about your job search target lists. For instance, she may say, “Well, XYZ Bank just upgraded their Information Technology capabilities. I have a friend, Bob, who is a friend of the bank’s president, and he worked with them on setting up their new system. Oh, and ABC Savings is supposedly going to open a new branch soon. My girlfriend Maya is an architect and is working with them on the building design. But stay away from LMNOP Trust Bank. I hear the company’s owner is a bear to work under.” As she’s talking, show interest, and resist the urge to, “Yeah, but…” her ideas, as in “Yeah, but I’m not interested in ABC Savings because…” If you “Yeah, but…” Kendra’s ideas, she’ll want to stop offering them.

Ask for clarification and confirm next steps. For instance, “Kendra, you mentioned that XYZ Bank just upgraded their IT capability. Do you know what system they chose?” And, “You said that your friends Bob and Maya know about what’s happening with some of the banks in the area. I’d love to talk with them and learn more about the organizations I’m researching. Would it be okay if I contacted them, and mentioned that I talked with you?”

Thank her for her time, and provide her a calling card.

Follow up with a written (email or hardcopy) thank you note within 48 hours.

That’s it! Not too terrible, is it? And now that you know how these, “You, Me, We” job search networking conversations work, find out how you can keep your job search connections moving forward successfully.

Follow Up to Maximize Your Opportunities

As demonstrated in the “You, Me, We” job search networking conversation with Kendra, it’s very likely that once you begin to connect with people in your job search, your list of job search networking contacts will begin to grow. For example, Kendra would have been able to introduce you to Bob and Maya, allowing you to set up and conduct “You, Me, We” job search networking conversations with each of them. And they can connect you to others, and so on. Within just a few weeks, the people you know connected to your job search target companies could be much bigger! To set up your next round of job search networking meetings, use this script, mentioning the person who referred you:

“Hello, Bob. I was referred to you by Kendra. She mentioned that you have some knowledge of the local banking industry, and I’m hoping that we can meet to brainstorm some ideas with you about a job search I’m conducting. Would you be willing to meet me for coffee sometime in the next few weeks?”

Follow the, “You, Me, We” job search networking process with your these new contacts, and your group of job search supporters—as well as the job opportunities you’ll learn about—will continue to grow.

Excerpted and adapted from “Career Coward’s Guide to Job Searching” by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed.