Most experts agree that networking remains the absolutely best way for executives to make the right connection for their next gig. Statistically, networking can account for 70%, 80%, or even higher levels of job-search success for professionals. I’ve boiled down the keys to effective executive networking to 7 SUCCESS Strategies:
(S)trategically position yourself. Make sure your accomplishment-oriented resume is polished, action-powered, and ready to support your active job search and candidacy. Create a personal networking card (in addition to all contact information, include salient keywords) and a single-page networking (or abbreviated) resume—plus a single-page bio. These will serve you effectively in different scenarios.
(U)nlock the proverbial hidden job market. Effective networking taps into this and creates opportunities for employment that may only be on the preliminary drawing board. Consider using formal job-search networking groups to augment your 24/7 informal networking plans. Typically meetings are held weekly and opportunities are afforded for senior executives to network, share job leads, and develop friendships and contacts with peers in a given community.
A networking group provides a forum for regularly meeting with as many people as possible outside your known networking group. Invest your time in networking groups and reap the benefits of additional leads, opportunities to refine your networking message and interview skills, and the support of other executives. Contacts you make through these groups can very effectively complement the connections you’ll make through all other job-search efforts.
(C)reate interest and excitement; capture attention, referrals, and leads. Be sure to have a dynamic 60-second “elevator speech” ready to go that communicates in clear, memorable language who you are. Determine the best approach for you. For most, a brief phone call followed by an e-mailed resume (and possibly bio or abbreviated resume) works best—then a follow-up call to establish an in-person meeting.
(C)apitalize on each networked connection by providing half a dozen or so key "value-add" statements for what you offer and can deliver ... make it easy for someone to advance you as a candidate. The key question to answer: “Tell us a little about yourself.”
1. Who are you professionally?
2. What type of job are you seeking?
3. What is your current or past relevant work experience?
4. What one or two skills distinguish your performance?
Mention specific companies and industries/disciplines in which you’re interested … remember, the more specific you are about what you want, the more opportunity others have to help you. This means doing your homework before any planned networking opportunity and making a list of companies where you would like a contact.
(E)nergize the networking process by developing strategic search lists. Develop a contact list of at least 125 individuals to whom you’ll reach out. Focus first on your primary contacts (your “A” list)—people involved in the industries you’re interested in, key vendor/supplier relationships, trusted professionals (i.e., your financial planner, CPA, attorney). Then build a “B” list that expands beyond the initial sphere of professionals to include friends, alumni contacts, friends-of-friends, and the like. Your “C” list would include everyone else who comes to mind—people you don’t know as well (less-known parents of your kids’ friends, your mechanic, connections you make in the airport).
(S)ystematically target each and every contact, do appropriate follow-up, and manage the process methodically and tenaciously. An accelerated search means making at least 25 networking calls/appointments a week (hence five weeks to work through that initial list of 125 contacts).
Prepare a hit list of key questions to use in opening the networking door: What are the best professional associations you belong to? Who do you know in aerospace manufacturing in the Midatlantic region? Tell me a little about the business culture in San Diego. You have so many contacts in your industry—I’d value your suggestions about the best companies to approach. You’re respected in New York’s financial community—what are your thoughts about the proposed merger of A and B? Who do you know at DEF Manufacturing? Ask direct questions that will produce key information—not yes/no responses.
Remember the goal of networking: Generate hotter leads, inside information, and strategic contacts (not necessarily an actual opportunity). Conclude every meeting and phone appointment with an attempt to gain additional contacts and new introductions. If someone offers a direction or lead (even if it yields nothing immediately), write or e-mail a professional thank-you note. Report back to your referring contact with your success stories.
(S)ynchronize your efforts with diligent effort and keen attention to detail. Track all your data in an organized fashion. As the weeks unfold, it’s easy to forget who you were to follow up with without a system. Stay on top of your search and networking efforts by committing 40 hours a week (if unemployed). Make sure you’re not spending too much time in conducting due diligence (eight hours a day on your PC is not a productive use of your time: Making phone calls for four or five hours a day—and meeting with leads the balance of each day is!). Remember that the more contacts you make, the more quickly you’ll achieve the best results. My clients have proven to me that there’s a direct correlation between job-search success and executives who develop (and use!) strong networking skills. Prepare to be successful!
* * * * *
Jan Melnik has been an executive job search coach and C-level resume writer for more than 15 years and works individually with clients globally through her private practice. She has nearly 10 years' experience as the career expert on nationally syndicated Money Watch and Money Matters radio, is a featured resume and job search expert on NBC, and the author of several entrepreneurial books. Her newest title is "Executive's Pocket Guide to ROI Resumes and Job Search." She is a regular presenter and keynote speaker at industry conferences nationwide.