Medicen Speed Networking in 2011 at Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. (c) 2011 Daniel Rodet (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Networking for Jobs

E. Forrest Christian Careers, Networks Leave a Comment

The New York Times has a business article on networking in your job hunt. It’s a pretty decent article. I’m no networking maven but I regularly get things from folks in my network. There’s nothing stunning in the article’s advice, but it is worth looking at because you can forget this in your discouragement.

Some of it’s best advice is “do not set yourself up to fail.” I’ll come back to that point in this week’s newsletter article but the points the article covers are good ones: don’t overreach your network, don’t think you are going to start cold-calling when you have never done it, etc.

Of course, going bankrupt in a the West’s recessionary economy — today’s uptick notwithstanding — is a powerful motivator.

Here’s two other pieces of advice that I’ve actually seen work:

  • Always send handwritten notes thanking your contacts. Seems silly but who sends letters any more?
  • Have a CV that’s written for a human to skim quickly while talking to you. Most of the time, humans will never see your CV. It’s received electronically and sent into the giant computer. If you’re a hidden high potential, this is how you will never get a job because you don’t look like everyone else. Here you want to use the old style 1-page résumé.
  • Use an elevator pitch. This is a short, 1-minute (or less!) pitch that you can make to someone quickly. It needs to cover the benefits to you bring to a boss. Not a company but the manager to whom you report. Helping a company gets you to HR: making me look great gets me to offer you a job.
  • Don’t try to hit home runs but make solid progress. You are marketing yourself, so you need to think about it that way. Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing calls it “Marketing Ball”. It’s a simple guide that’s based on the American baseball metaphor, but understandable to anyone. I have broken this rule so many times it hurts.

Middleton nails a major point: you can’t go from “Who are you?” to a sale of yourself (hire) in one meeting. You have to go through a process of familiarizing a stranger to you, creating a relationship of some shared point. Knowing the same person can be a great place to start, but it’s just that: a place to start.

Let me stop here and say one more thing if you have unsuccessfully been searching for a job: Maybe you don’t want one. This isn’t “maybe you’re a lazy good for nothing” (although it might be true, for most of you it isn’t). It’s that perhaps you are meant to lead rather than follow, that who you now are can no longer fit into the organizational business life. Academics usually make poor business people for a reason: it’s a different domain of work. Regardless of what people try to tell you, it’s not the same.

If you speak the language of one of other work domains, you are not going to be successful getting a job in “normal” work organizations. If your language is not those of the normal old-economy business organizations, or even a discipline, you’re going to have problems networking because they will not be able to recognize what you have to bring.

Your language of work determines where you will be successful. Sorry: you can’t just be anything that you want. At least, you’re not going to continue being successful outside of your work language.

Image Credit: Medicen Speed Networking in 2011 at Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. (c) 2011 Daniel Rodet (“Copyleft”) (CC BY 3.0). Via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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