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MPN Guide to Networking

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Networking is the single most important component of your job search.  A recent report by a major job board found that:

  • 37% of jobs were found through networking 
  • 20% through a job board
  • 15%  through a company career site,
  • 15 % through a staffing agency
  • 13 % through a recruiter.

The page covers a lot of information about networking.  It provides a sample of the type and depth of information and skills development you gain by joining in MPN.  You will learn not only though table topics and workshops conducting by the facilitator, but also through the experiences and advice of other MPN members.  This page is divided into three sections:

Networking Etiquette a Few Simple Tips on How to do it Well

A few rules of the road that you may very well know, but will still serve to make your journey through your network a safer and swifter ride.

Question You Should be Prepared to Answer

 This section helps you prepare for the questions you are most likely to be asked and should be prepared to answer

How to Create a Networking Profile

A networking profile is a modified version of your resume that provides a  brief summary of skills, type of position you are looking for, companies you are targeting and  points of commonality you might share with the person you are networking with.

Networking Etiquette a Few Simple Tips on How to do it Well

A few rules of the road that you may very well know, but will still serve to make your journey through your network a safer and swifter ride.

Networking is NOT a one-way street. It’s not how much you get; how many business cards you can collect; or how many leads you can squeeze out of a person you just met. It’s about building solid, one-to-one relationships with a broad cross-section of people — your peers, former colleagues, fellow job seekers, and newfound friends. Networking, at its best, is a life-long pursuit. Or, as Harvey McKay put it, “Dig your well before you need it.”

The more you give, the more you will receive.

In networking groups, what happens when everyone is looking for leads and not giving any out? Exactly: nothing. It’s like a potluck dinner where no one brings any food. If you’re continually taking and not giving, you’ll become known as a mooch and will soon be shunned. Conversely, many have written of the universal laws of attraction; ‘what goes around, comes around”; and “pay it forward”.

If you say you’re going to contact someone, contact them.

Or you won’t get many more leads from the source that gave you the lead.

  • Listen closely to what your source has to say about the person.
  • Understand the relationship between the source and the contact. The depth of that relationship will determine… at least at the outset… how much help you are going to receive. If it’s slight, you’re on your own. If it’s long-standing, treat it with special respect.

Be patient—but persevering.

Connecting with new people takes time… a month isn’t bad. You’d be surprised at how many people are sick or traveling, sometimes for two or three weeks at a time.

  • Don’t pester. Set a limit of e-mails, letters, and phone calls. With the ubiquity of caller ID, just because a possible contact doesn’t answer the phone, doesn’t mean your call is going unnoticed. Some suggest a limit of three messages left on voicemail.
  • Know what you want, why you initiated the contact. Be ready to clearly and succinctly state the reason you want to talk with the person.
  • Develop a brand, a persona, a tagline that is memorable. It doesn’t have to be “snappy”, just something that sets you apart. And makes it easy for the contact to remember you when you get back to them… or, ideally, when they hear of something or someone you would be interested in.
  • Be sure to reference your source in the first few e-mails. Don’t expect the contact to remember too much. They’re busy, too, you know.
  • Make it a habit to leave your contact information — but not too much. One phone number if you leave a voice mail is enough. (And slowly, too, so they can write it down the first time.) A phone number and mailing address should be on all your e-mails. You can even add a tagline.

Be honest about your relationship with your referrer.

If it’s not that close, don’t pretend it is. If you just met him or her at a networking event, well, eventually that will come out. So don’t hide it.

  • Always be sensitive to your contact’s time constraints. On the phone, be sure to ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” (Or something like that.) And, in person, establish early on how much time your contact has.
  • Be prepared to treat if you go out for coffee or for a meal — but don’t insist on it too strongly. Who picks up the check can be tricky, and it can be even more complex if you’re with someone of the opposite sex. Who pays? As usual… it depends. Be ready… and be diplomatic.
  • Be ready to engage in some small talk to set the scene and the relationship.
  • Be ready to get down to business quickly — as soon as the contact is ready.

Be prepared!!!

Have your “elevator pitch” down. The elevator pitch got its name from the idea that you might enter an elevator one day and run into the CEO of a company you are interested in. (This actually happened to an MPNer.) It’s what you say when you introduce yourself to the CEO. And, like the ride on an elevator, it’s got to be short, sweet and to the point. Enough to generate some interest, but not so much that you bore the listener so they hop out at the next floor without nary a nod.

Like many things in life, the elevator pitch takes practice. So take every chance you can get to practice your pitch: who you are, what you do, where you worked, and what you’d like to do next. It’s a tall order; lots you can include, lots you’ll need to exclude until later; so listen to the feedback from others, and adjust accordingly.

What to give a new contact?

A business card, a resume, a profile sheet, or a sample… or all of the above? It all depends. (‘Natch!) Business cards are good to exchange. A resume is not so good, unless you are asked for it specifically. Some people use a one-page Networking Profile that highlights their experience and lists their target companies as a means of generating fruitful conversations and leads. Samples? Probably not on the first encounter. Favors, gifts, money — a job in the Mass. Probation Department — definitely not. Or at least not right away!

Know why you are going to meet with your next networking contact.

Be able to say clearly what it is they can do more you. Know their company, their industry, and something about their background. Rather than push for the standard two contacts, lay out where you want to go and let them figure out how they can help you get there.

You’ve got a lot more to give your contact than you think.

Don’t be fooled: you may feel like you’re the one who is begging for help or taking advantage of others. But you can give a lot in the process: it’s your job to find out exactly what. Industry info, respect and admiration, the chance to help someone else, a favor for another friend who is looking to hire someone like you… you never know. But it is a two-way street.

  • Listen closely to what your contact has to say.
  • Look for ways to get back to your contacts — articles, ideas, contacts, industry gossip, etc.
  • Respect the confidentiality of your sources and your contactsabsolutely.

Close the loop; complete the circle.

Once you’ve met or talked with the contact, get back to your source: Thank them, update them on the contact, and pass along any messages you were given.

Be sure to thank your source.

If your mother insisted you write a thank you note, thank her — she was right! Even if you get a job out of the lead, a gift isn’t necessary, but a later favor should be.

As Woody Allen said, 80 percent of life is showing up. To get the most out of your growing network, and MPN in particular, be sure to show up on a regular basis. Don’t expect to drop in from time to time and get the same kinds of contacts.

Finally, as you travel along the network, don’t forget to smell the flowers! Networking can be fascinating, many have said it is fun. Enjoy the journey.

Question You Need to be Ready to Answer to Get the Most Out of Your New Networking Contacts

When you call or visit a referral or network contact, here’s what they may be thinking…and the kinds of questions they have in mind…ones that you’ve got to be ready to answer—if not, you’re wasting your time and theirs.

“Who do you know?”

  • Who do you know who knows me? Or referred you to me?
  • Who else might we know in common?

“Why are you contacting me?”

  • Are you looking for a job at my company? (If so, see HR!)
  • Are you interested in learning about my industry? Or whom I know?
  • In short: “What can I do for you?”

“What do you do? And what are you looking for?”

  •  In brief — please be brief and succinct! —  what do you do?
  • Here’s where you should shorten your 30-second elevator pitch to the briefest of tag lines/descriptions. You can always expand upon it as the conversation progresses.

“Where did you do it?”

  • Give me two or three companies/firms that you worked for.
  • Try to do this in chronological order (past to present or vice versa), in a narrative form, so I can easily make sense of it.

“What would you like to do next?”

  • Again, be blessedly brief: What would you like to do next?
  • Where would you like to work if you had your druthers: geographical choice and target companies (3, 4, or 5 at the maximum)?

“Where do you come from?”

  • Just a slight whisper-thin of your background: education, hometown (now and once upon a time…), and interesting background details; spin it as you like.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being memorable!

“What’s in it for me?” (Usually unspoken.)

  • People are busy; yet they want to help. They are also looking for new sources of information and new contacts.
  • Listen to their questions and concerns and think of ways you can be of help to them: industry news, trends in the marketplace, gossip (!). Believe it or not, it makes some people feel good when they can give a hand to someone. So your gracious thanks means more than you think.

The MPN Networking Profile

Recently, many job seekers have been using a modified résumé as a means of communicating their goals and targeted companies to other networkers. Some have been better than others have. The idea is to provide a summary of your search and some points of commonality you might share with the person you are networking with. Here are a few tips on the organization, structure and style of the Networking Profile as MPNers see it.

These are guidelines. Ultimately, what you write should hang off of the objectives of your search like an expensive suit off a good hanger. If you feel you must have more information, follow your own preferences. It’s your search.

Header — Your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address.

Summary— A brief description of who you are and what your search is about. No more than three or four lines (and big type, too!). Don’t try to cram too much into this document, as it is more of a reminder of what you said than it is a standalone piece. Remember, brevity is the soul of wit.

Position Wanted — If you want, you could make a separate entry for the kind of job you are looking for. Or include it in the summary.

Skills and Accomplishments — (Or “Areas of Expertise”.) These should probably not be included unless you have some salient points you absolutely must get across. The Profile is more for reference than for reading.

Experience — List the key companies that you have worked for in the past 15–20 years. List all companies that have a recognized brand identity regardless of dates. List companies where you had formative experiences. Include your title(s), but, if you had more than one at a company, either list them on the same line or choose the most senior one.

Education — Education is important especially in Boston. If you took courses within your industry or obtained advanced certifications, list them.

Military Service — Consider including this if you feel it’s important to your search and who you are in the workplace.

Geography — If you have location preferences or limitations, note them.

Target Companies — These should be both companies you are intensely interested in right now and ones you have on your radar screen but have not yet gotten to. These aren’t written in stone; you can change them whenever you want. If you find your list runs beyond 10 or 15 companies, you might put the companies you’re most interested in bold type. If you are looking in different industries, you might break them out into subsections to make it easier for people to absorb them. See the attached profile.