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Say you’re ready to make a move from your current work.  How do you approach finding your next job? According to MSNBC, job seekers who use the want ads are successful only 5 percent of the time, while the success rate jumps to two-thirds for those who invest their time in networking. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 90 percent of people get new business and jobs by networking. Hiring managers also overwhelmingly prefer networking for recruiting new employees. In one study, almost half revealed they fill up to 25 percent of their openings before ever publicly advertising them, preferring to network within their companies as well as outside before resorting to the assistance of a search firm or a paid advertisement.

How can you make this work in your favor? Try following the example of my old friend Alfred. Alfred lost his job as vice president of a savings and loan company when it was sold. What he didn’t lose was his talent for making connections—and knowing what to do with them. Within three weeks he had gathered names of 134 people who might be able to help him in his job search; he had met with thirty-seven of them and received three job offers. And it all happened because he knew how to network.

Alfred’s plan had two steps. First, he tried to have a face-to-face meeting with whomever he could; second, he got two referrals from everyone he met with. Starting with his own contacts, he phoned and said, “I want to talk to you about something. I am looking for a job. I’m not calling to ask you for a job, but rather two names of people I can contact. As you know, I have . . . [here he lets slip his ten-second commercial, plus his credentials]. I’d like to be able to use your name as an introduction, not a reference. That’s all I want.” When he called the people he was referred to, he said, “I’ll do breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee at midnight— whatever it takes to meet you face-to-face.” The purpose of the call was to get them to say, “Yes, I’ll meet you.”

What Alfred was doing was getting himself out there. The call and the meetings were opportunities to showcase himself. Because all he asked for was referrals, there was little pressure to give him a job. Within five years, Alfred had made more than a comeback—he was chairman of a major national mortgage bank. And he’s still making new connections.

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