Now, more than ever, we need to get in the mindset of helping one another. We are in a situation where more and more people are looking for new opportunities. Many of them have no choice but to do so. It is for them, and the rest of us who may someday be in that spot that I share these guidelines on how to effectively network to find a job. Hopefully this information reaches you in time.
1. Be clear on what sort of position you want.
In an ideal world, people are going to ask you: "What sort of job are you seeking"? DO NOT blow this incredible opportunity by not having a well thought out, concise and specific answer. The answer "I am not sure" or "this is a great time to reinvent myself" will not help you find your dream job. If you have always wanted to work at a specific industry, type of position or even a specific company, let us know. It's amazing how connected many of us are. Unless you tell us specifically how we can help you, we can't.
2. Networking is as much about the other person as it is about you.
I'm a big proponent of the idea that "Networking has to start with an expressed need" and you needing a job is definitely a need. But, you need to consider that you are asking others for help. And while there will be many people who are ready, willing and hopefully able to help, you are better served to see how you may be able to help them. The big challenge in networking for a job is you are in "take" mode. Networking really is about giving. While you are giving people the opportunity to help, that is not a gift that you want to give too often.
3. Regardless of your employment situation you have value to offer.
Just because you no longer have a job doesn't mean you no longer have access to a lot of resources. Don't make the mistake of forgetting to stay in touch with the people in your lives. You never know when these folks may be able to serve as a reference or a connector for you. Think of all of the people in your life: Family, friends, Work colleagues, Schoolmates, the people you know from your religious group, the folks at the stores you frequent, the pta, team mates and the list goes on. All of these people can be a resource to others in your network.
4. Start with what you can do for them and let others ask what they can do for you.
When you ask how you may be able to help someone make their day great, they will likely ask how they can help you. Let them know that you are seeking a new opportunity and could use their help meeting X. If you are genuine, helpful and competent, they should be happy to make the introduction for you.
5. Use the online tools that are there to help you.
The web has made the job search way easier, but also more accessible to the masses. We used to live in a world that was based on "Who you know". Now we have to be on the lookout for "Who we can find". Sure there are tons of job boards out there, but those aren't the tools of which I speak (a special shout out to www.jibberjobber.com, you should use this to manage your search). The tools I suggest you use are of the social networking variety. Are you using Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter for your search? You should be. These tools can help you find the people with whom you need to connect and which of your connections are connected to them.
6. You need to leverage the relationships you have to create the relationships you need.
You know what you want and who you need to connect with to make it happen, right? Great. Now use those relationships you have to do so. Whether you use an online site, an e-mail or the telephone, ask these people to make an introduction for you. The most powerful type is when the three of you can get together for food, drink or chit chat. A second place strategy would be if they can set a meeting for you. Last, and certainly better than nothing, is if they will get permission from their contact for you to communicate with them. Any of these three are more powerful than "yeah, go ahead and use my name".
7. Now is the time when you really need to be ok asking for help.
This isn't the time to be shy. You can't afford it. Don't worry about seeming "weak" or less of a person because you need help. The reality is it's a really big world and you are but one person. You need all the help you can get and the best way to get it is to ask for it.
8. Have an electronic copy of your resume at the ready.
This is an entry from my friend Dean La Douceur. It's important to not only have your resume done, but done in a fashion that is easy to share. Sure it's great to be able to hand someone a copy, but it's even better to have it in a format that they can easily forward it along.
9. Build your network before you need your network.
"I need a job" isn't the first thing your network should be hearing from you. Ideally you will have been nurturing (read: giving to) your network long before you start asking for things from it. You already have a network in place whether you think it's formal or not (see point # 3). It is never too late to organize your network into a usable fashion.
10. Have a support group with whom you can share.
Find others who are in a similar boat and be there for each other. There are lots of great people who are also looking for work. Find those who are seeking similar types of opportunities and share the ones you come across. It may seem like you are creating competition, but you are also multiplying your efforts. These are the folks who know exactly what you're going through and can be there to support you as you support them.
11. Remember to say thanks.
This last piece should go without saying, but my friend Mike Ingberg said this is very important, and I agree. If someone takes the time to speak with you, you should take the time to thank them. Write (notice I didn't say type) a thank you note. Send it to them. This small act will go a long way as to showing what type of person you are.