Making the Most of a Networking Contact
By Marty Nemko
Every job seeker knows to tell everyone in their network they’re looking for a job. But many people try it and come up empty.
It’s not that the method is wrong, it’s that they implemented it poorly.
The wrong way: Calling your 10 best leads.
The right way: Calling your 100 best leads—including people in your yoga class, members of your alumni association, people you haven’t talked with for years, anyone who likes you. Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, talks of “the power of weak ties.” People who aren’t close to you are more likely to have ideas you never would have thought of. Yet, even if you barely know each other, if they have a lead to offer you, they usually will offer it…if you’ve pitched them the right way.
The wrong way to start your pitch: “Hi, David. This is Rebecca Rose. How are you? How are the kids?” That approach will likely arouse suspicion: “What does she really want?” And that suspicion will be confirmed when a few minutes later you hit up your contact for a job lead.
A better way to start your pitch: “Hi, David. This is Rebecca Rose. I’m probably the last person on earth you expected to hear from. (Wait for their response.) I’ll tell you why I’m calling. I was part of a downsizing, so I’m looking for work. They say the best way to land a job is to tell everyone you like that you’re looking.
The wrong way to continue your pitch: “So, might you know someone I should talk with? I’m open to just about anything.” That sounds desperate.
Another wrong way to continue your pitch: “So, might you know someone in an environmental nonprofit who needs a project manager?” That’s too specific. The odds are tiny that your contact will know someone who meets that narrow specification. Remember, you’re probably open to considering a wider range of jobs than project manager for an environmental nonprofit.
A better way to continue your pitch: “So, by any chance, do you know someone who might need a person with really good project management skills, technical or not?” That pitch hits the sweet spot: not too vague, not too specific.
The wrong way to end the call if your contact doesn’t give you a lead: “Thanks, anyway.”
A better way: “Would you mind keeping your ears open in case something comes up?” (The contact almost invariably says yes.) If your contact says yes, ask, “Would you like me to email you my resume?” and, “If I’m still looking in a month, would you mind if I phone to follow up?” If it feels appropriate, also ask, “Can you think of a meeting or conference I should attend, or something I should read?”
The wrong way to react if you’ve left your pitch on voice mail and the person hasn’t responded in three days: Feel rejected and depressed.
A better way to react: Realize that the reason may simply be that your contact is busy, doesn’t have any leads, or yes, he or she doesn’t really like you. In any case, it’s foolish to distress yourself thinking about it. Instead, call back and say something like this to the person or voice mail: “Hi David. Not having heard from you, I’m assuming you’re either overwhelmed or hate my guts. (Say the latter with a humorous tone.) But I know how things can fall between the cracks, so I’m taking the liberty of calling to follow-up. If you have any advice as to where I should turn, I’d love to hear from you.” Leave your phone number twice and the best times to reach you.
Advice I’d Give My Child
Realize that the odds are tiny of any one person having a lead for you. That’s why you’re calling 100 people, not 10. If you call 100, five or ten will offer a lead, at least one of which is likely to turn into a job offer. And they won’t feel you’re imposing or think your stupid. And if a few do, screw ‘em. Make the 100 calls and good things will happen. I’ll bet on it.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2017. Usage Rights