As I promised in yesterday’s post, I wanted to address a networking misconception. I ask students and alumni how their networking is going, and too often I hear the response, “Everyone I reach out to is tells me their company is not hiring.” After some additional questioning, more often than not, I discover the job seeker is sending an initial email to contacts introducing himself/herself and inquiring if they know if XYZ company is looking to hire or if they know of any job leads. If you network correctly, you should never set yourself up to hear that phrase because you will avoid the question.
Fundamentally, networking is about relationship building and sharing information and/or advice. Very few people will pass along a job lead or refer you to a hiring manager from just an email. I find it a better use of everyone’s time to reach out to professionals in my target industry and ask them for a 15 minute phone call to discuss one or two specific topics (note: the topic should not be: is their company is hiring?). Ask open ended questions that can be answered by the networking contact and that foster discussion. Allow the contact to get to know you a bit, follow up with the appropriate thank-you and then a week or two later, email the contact a very brief update email (what have you been doing since the conversation). This shows the contact you are serious about the relationship and the advice the contact shared – you are beginning to build a level of trust with that individual. Continue this follow-up every couple of weeks and the individual will begin to trust you enough to pass along a resume, refer you to a friend/contact/business associate, etc.
Initial networking outreach should not be about job solicitation – remember that you are an unknown to your networking contact, build the relationship and the rest will flow. These contacts are smart individuals, they understand that at the core of your outreach, you want a job. While the contact may not have a job lead today, by asking for advice and information, you create a scenario for a positive interaction that will allow for future interactions. The contact may learn of a job opening in a week or a month, and you want to have built the relationship to a point where the individual feels comfortable recommending you, or at least sharing the opportunity with you.
Finally, networking is least effective over email. Just as you would never be hired for a job by just sending an email, networking will never be effective unless you meet face-to-face or arrange for phone call meetings if distance/timing is an issue.
So how does one avoid hearing the “We are not hiring” answer? Don’t ask the question, get to know the person and let the person get to know you, one cannot rush networking. If you must ask, at least rephrase the question to allow for a positive response.
- What advice would you give someone looking to break into XYZ field?
- Are there companies in the XYZ industry that have experienced growth?
- Who are some of the organizations you would recommend I look into?