Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Year of Job Hunting, part 3

In part 1, I shared my thoughts on the frustrations and shortfalls of the online career-search process.
In part 2, I gave the basics for managing one's online brand.

3. Get Out There

How should you network effectively?

First, focus on other people instead of on your job search. Adopt the attitude of a learner. Ask questions that draw out the other person's stories and advice, e.g. "Where are you from?" "What do you do?" "What led you to get into that industry?" "What does your day-to-day look like in that job?" If you're truly focused on the other person, you may even be able to help them - connecting them to another person, organization, or resource.Your focus on their needs, story, and advice will be reciprocated as they find out what you're looking for, what you are lacking, and then they will offer what they can to help, both by giving you information and introducing you to their network.

Second, you have to go meet some new people. Whether you're extroverted or introverted, outgoing or shy, it can be difficult to figure out how to meet the right kind of people who can help you find a great new position. Here are my suggestions:

A. Volunteer: You create a win-win situation by volunteering at a non-profit organization. Most nonprofits could use more volunteers, even if it's only a couple hours a week. The benefit to you is that you get to exercise your professional skills and stay fresh, you get to strengthen your resume, and you get to meet other people with a common interest who may have a connection that will lead to a job opportunity.

B. Find organized networking for job-seekers: In St. Louis, I'm part of GO! Network, a nonprofit organization that provides training and networking opportunities for professionals in career transition. In most cities, there are also networking groups that host events with admission fees or membership fees; some of those allow you to come for free the first time. You have to determine your budget for networking and stick to it.

C. Join a professional organization: If you want a job in a specific field, join an organization that corresponds to that specialty. Toastmasters, The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), The International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators are examples of professional organizations that have local chapters you can join. There are organizations for just about every specialty you can think of. Their events usually have a structured program where you actually might learn something job-related, and you will get to interact with people in your field who may be able to recommend further resume-boosting trainings or people you should meet.

D. Treat every occasion like it could lead to a job: Running to the grocery store or coffee shop? Make sure your appearance doesn't detract from your credibility. You also need business cards with your name, contact information, your LinkedIn profile URL, and a few snippets about your expertise. Carry a few of these with you wherever you go just in case, but only give them to people who seem genuinely interested in getting in touch with you or passing along your information to one of their contacts.

Finally, follow-up. Successful networking is about getting input from a person, then following up on that input. If someone tells you they will make an introduction for you, then take advantage of that offer. If they invite you to come along to a conference or group meeting, then go. If they recommend a resource, then see if it's within your budget to do so. If they point you towards a training program or certification to pursue, then look seriously at that option. Even if you don't end up ultimately pursuing their advice, treat it with respect and show your gratitude for their investment of time and energy in meeting with you or responding to your inquiry.

What are your other ideas for networking successfully? How has networking worked for you?

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