Wednesday, February 9, 2011

10 Ways To Put the WORK Into Your Network!

In my last post, I noted some optimism in corporate hiring as determined by the recent Manpower Employment Outlook survey.  This survey always has great insights for job seekers and employers alike; I strongly encourage you to check it out.  You can sort the data most relevant to you by geographical region, sector and other categories.  Here is a link:  Okay, enough free advertising for my competition, here is today’s post…

One of the more interesting tidbits I gleaned from the most recent survey suggests that 84% of U.S. workers plan to look for a new position in 2011.  Wow, right?  While this number sounds intuitively high to me and we could debate the difference between “those who plan to look” and “those who will actually look”, I think its undeniable that 2011 will be an active market, both in terms of hires made by U.S. employers, and by the overall volume of job search activity we see. Competition in the job search market will definitely be high!  This is particularly true for executive-level roles, high paying technology jobs, and managerial positions where some statistics indicate that as many as 90% of the openings are never advertised and are filled by referrals and networking.  What does this mean for you?  You better get out there and WORK that network if you want to land a plum job in the near future!  Here are some 21st century tips for putting the WORK into your network.  You don’t need to embrace them all immediately, but take steps every week to expand your network, visibility, and access to opportunity. 

1)     Link In.  If you are not on Linked In, you should be.  It is an invaluable tool for researching who you already know at firms that may be of interest to you and reconnecting with past colleagues.  It’s a great place to build your online professional reputation and define your personal brand.  Create a compelling profile and provide regular (but not constant) status updates, reminding your network that you are on the job market (if you are currently unemployed).  If you need to be a bit more stealth about your job search, promote yourself as an expert in your field by sharing articles and informative content relevant to your audience. Join some groups to further expand your network and learn about unlisted job opportunities.  Here is a link to a blogger I really respect who offers several great tips for how to make Linked In work for you.  It is geared primarily at Sales professionals, but you are selling yourself online, so start thinking like a salesperson!

2)     Friend someone.  If you’re comfortable with Facebook as a platform, get on there and use it to your advantage.  Make sure your profile has up to date professional information and add some of your close professional colleagues, work friends and past colleagues as friends.  Try to update your status and join the conversation, on at least a weekly basis, to stay relevant.  Be sure to “Like” the pages of prospective employers and/or recruiting firms that could help you.   If you’re actively and not confidentially looking for a job, make it known!  Idea: let’s say you have an interview coming up at Pfizer and you do not need not keep it confidential, update your status and let people know.  Ask your friends if they now anyone who works there.  You can even sort your friends into groups and update only the appropriate ones if you prefer.

3)     Branch Out.   Facebook has a professional networking app called Branch Out that you can launch and use to connect with your Facebook friends.  You can download your Linked In profile, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or spend a lot of time creating your online brand here. If you’re like me, your Facebook friends circle is not the same as your Linked In network, and learning more about where your friends work or have worked before can be a very helpful tool in you job search.

4)     Meet Up.  If you don’t know about this site, check it out:  Meet up allows you to search out informal get-togethers and networking opportunities in your geographic area.  You could get together with other job seekers to share leads, or with individuals in your industry to share information about professional topics of interest.  You could even get together with fellow badminton aficionados, aspiring sommeliers, or iguana enthusiasts.  It does not have to be strictly work-related; the idea is to bond with new people you’ll have an affinity with and share your interest in finding a new opportunity.  You never know where it will come from! You can also use the “events” app on Linked In to find relevant networking opportunities, seminars and professional enrichment forums. Especially if you’re not working, it is a great time to do volunteer work, and attend charity functions.  This may give you a chance to keep your key skills in use while making new contacts and uncovering potential opportunities. You can still go old school here - get involved in professional networking and/or local Chamber of Commerce events and really dive in.  Volunteer to share your talents on a committee or speak on a panel.  This way, you’ll get great exposure, help others, and enhance your credibility as an expert – all great ways to find a new job!     

5)     Treat someone.  Ask someone in your network out for lunch or coffee or a drink.  Offer to treat!  Use the opportunity to pointedly discuss your career goals and how they could help you. Great choices would be a former co-worker, former manager, mentor or former subordinate.  Maybe you have a friend who worked 5 years ago at a company you’d like to know more about.  Find out what they are up to and offer ways you could possibly help them as well with introductions, information, or whatever you may have at your disposal.  Help others and they’ll help you back! 

6)     Befriend a Recruiter.  Good recruiters are experts at getting people hired, at reviewing resumes and at offering career advice.  Seek out and invest in building relationships with a couple in your geographic area, who focus on your chosen field.  Make yourself a valuable resource to them, by referring other job seeker/candidates to them, and/or letting them know about openings that aren’t right for you, but that they could potentially fill.  Most will be delighted to network with you – that’s a key component of their success.  They’ll be especially happy to help you if you help them by expanding their network too.

7)      Practice Your Sales Pitch.  I know, you may not think of yourself as a salesperson and you may feel odd touting your accomplishments, but you need to craft a (30-second or less) pitch about yourself to use when you meet new people or reconnect with prior associates.  It just needs to be a couple of quick sentences about what you’re good at, what you’ve done, and what you’re looking to do next.  When people ask, “how are you doing?” or “what are you up to these days?” in social setting, haul it out!  People probably won’t look for opportunities for you if they don’t know what you do, what you want to do, and that you are potentially looking.  Write down a few options and try them on for size.  Practice in your car or in the shower – it’s okay – nobody will know!      

8)     Get Carded.  Make sure you have easy ways for all these new connections to find you.  Create business cards for yourself to distribute.  You can create your own in Word or go online and get free or very inexpensive ones made.  This site has some good options: sure to include a link to your Linked In profile, your phone numbers and a personal email address that’s work-friendly.  In other words, or just will not cut it.  Go ahead and create a free email account with your first and last name and use that for all your job search/professional correspondence.   If you have a smartphone, download apps that allow you to easily exchange contact information with new people you meet.  Linked In for iPhone is great for this, as is the Bump iPhone app.  Cam Card Lite is another app available for multiple smart phones that makes it very easy to share your contact info, and store the data for the new people you meet. 

9)     Go Mining.  Take some time and really dig into your social networking sites to mine great info on companies you are interested in.  If there is a job at AOL for an IT Project Manager that interests you, look on Linked In and Facebook / BranchOut to see who you know that works there.  Most companies have employee referral bonus programs so if you are qualified for the role, your contacts will often be more than happy to refer you in and get the cash.  Maybe you’re a marketing professional and have decided that you really want to work for Proctor & Gamble, even though you don’t know of any specific openings appropriate for you.  Mine your networks for connections that work there and ask to treat them to coffee for an informational interview. Share your passion for marketing and what your unique skills are and pick your contact’s brain about the culture, who the movers and shakers are in the company and which units are growing.  It’s invaluable information to get.  Then, follow up with promoting yourself and of course, always with tremendous gratitude to those who helped you.

10)   Be the Best Version of Yourself!    Try to stay positive and encouraged about what YOU bring to the party!  If you are passionate about your brand, others will be too!  While you’re promoting yourself, promote and help others. Share information and really engage people in conversation.  Most of the skills that make people great networkers are really not that different than the ones we learned in Kindergarten to make friends: be respectful, treat others how you want to be treated, be helpful, let people know what you want in a polite way, and play nice! You’ll be rewarded. Most importantly though, do be yourself.  Remember, if you act like someone else to get a job, you may end up in the wrong role.

Now get out there and increase your visibility, promote your expertise and help others so that you can build a fabulous network that you can really make WORK for you and succeed in the 21st century job market!   


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