People who’ve lost their jobs often feel uncomfortable about networking. You may have been content operating behind a brand name and networking in a business capacity, but networking on behalf of yourself is a different issue. Loss of a job can result in feelings of loss of identity. There is a tendency to shy away from what you may perceive as “self promotion”.
It’s worth remembering, however, that it’s estimated that up to 80% of people find their next role through networking. This is likely to be particularly true in current market conditions. Don’t underestimate the size and potential usefulness of your network in finding a role. Studies suggest a large proportion of the people who achieve new positions through networking find the opportunity via a weak tie (ie, someone they hardly know or have met via another contact).
Therefore, don’t limit yourself to the obvious networking candidates such as (ex-)colleagues and headhunters. Consider contacts through professional industry associations, alumni networks and social interactions.
Confidence and self-belief
If you want to be a successful networker, you will need to be confident and approachable and to have strong self-belief.
When meeting people for the first time, prepare ahead by thinking of various low-risk openers – for example, some personal information that is safe and impersonal but interesting and informative. You could start by saying something that relates to the common moment, the venue/event, the food, the host or how you are acquainted with a common contact eg, “Paul (the host) made a good choice of bar for his leaving drinks. My sister worked with him at ABC Bank for five years. Have you known him long?”
Show interest with empathy and alertness; ask open questions for clarification and encouragement. Once you have established a rapport, consider what is appropriate information to provide about yourself and your objective. Don’t be pushy but keep in mind what you want to get from the conversation, whether it is an e-mail address, a further meeting, or an introduction to another contact. For example, “Although my experience is in M&A, I am currently considering how I could translate a move into private equity. I would be really interested to hear your opinion/experience of how you have seen this work in the past?”
If you can find shared interests/common ground it will be a powerful springboard for future relationships.
Key networking tips:
· Understand how networking can be of value to you and others as a mutual support system.
· Develop your own style and approach – what works for you?
· Keep an open mind, look at every opportunity and realise that “today may never come again”.
· Be prepared, know what you want to say, and be precise. Your network of contacts can’t help you if they aren’t sure what you are looking for.
· Appreciate that effective networking is not a short-term solution to a problem: it is a key tool in building for your long-term career.
· Don’t get disheartened! For every person who doesn’t yield a result, there will be one willing to help.
Sarah Juillet is recruitment relationship manager at DBM Career Transition Consultants (Global Financial Services).