Undoubtedly, Aunt Susie and Uncle Robbie will corner you near the dessert table and ask you about your job search. How will you respond to these well meaning and loving family members?
Don’t feel obligated to educate anyone on the full scope of what you do each day as a job seeker. Nor should you try to justify or explain your unemployment or underemployment. Your job search is your private business and yours alone.
Do refocus or reshape these unwelcome and uncomfortable inquiries into networking conversations. Recognize that these awkward inquiries about your job search efforts are actually incredible opportunities to expand your network and build meaningful connections.
Networking is about building rapport, establishing relationships, and determining who can help you gain valuable information or connection. Meeting people and expanding your network is not just for job search, it is also for growing your career or business as you see fit. Your network should be in place before you begin looking for your next opportunity.
The main goals of networking are:
- Getting the word out – letting people in your industry or profession know that you are a valuable talent;
- Gathering information about the industry and potential employers;
- Meeting insiders at targeted organizations; and
- Meeting decision makers who may be interested in partnering with your or offering you a job.
Don’t exclude anyone from your network. A large number of job referrals and business connections are made through the friends of friends and family. You never know who might be a valuable networking contact, even if that person does not work directly in your field or industry.
When it comes to building your network, size does matter.
In a busy social setting you may only have a few moments to capture someone’s attention or make a good impression. Begin with your elevator pitch (your verbal calling card). You may recall from several earlier posts, an elevator pitch is a clear, concise, and specific statement that describes you and lists your unique strengths or skills in 30 to 60 seconds.
Your elevator pitch must be customized for each target audience. You would not give the same elevator pitch to Aunt Susie as you would to a person you meet at a networking or business function. Therefore, you will have several different versions of your elevator pitch; each with the same message of who you are, what sets you apart from others in your field or industry, and how you add value to your company or customers.
An example of a elevator pitch is:
I am a _________ professional with experience in _________, _________, and _________. Mostly recently, I worked at __________ and have also worked for __________. My unique strengths are in the areas of __________ for __________. I am now looking to talk with people that work in companies that do ___________ such as (list several companies by name).
You will not be able to read your elevator pitch so it must be memorized. Make sure that you rehearse it in front of a mirror and with friends or family so that it flows freely and does not sound mechanical or stiff.
If the listener has the name of a person he or she thinks you should talk to, you might want to approach that network contact as follows:
Good morning, my name is _________ and I received your name and contact information from _________. He said you would be a terrific person to talk with regarding (state industry or company name). I am a ________ professional with experience in ________ and I am looking to learn more about ________ or talk with you about __________. Quite possibly, could we meet for 20 minutes or so?
Networking is a two-way street. You shouldn’t monopolize the conversation by talking only about yourself. You will need to show an interest in what the other person.
- Ask the listener about his or her family and interests. You may uncover even more connections and shared interests if you talk less, ask questions, and listen more. [Note: It is never a good idea to talk about money, politics and religion.]
- Ask the listener purposeful questions like:
- How did you get started in your current career?
- What do you like most about your job/company/industry?
- What are the biggest challenges you face in your job/industry?
- Would you choose the same career path if you had it to do all over again?
You are not asking your networking contact for a job. You are asking for information, building rapport, and establishing a new relationship.
Project confidence and optimism. Keep your frustrations and negativity to yourself. You may be looking for information or job leads today but tomorrow a networking contact may email you for information about a job or industry or the name of a contact in your network.
Now, get to it . . .
This Blog/Web Site is made available by me, an attorney licensed to practice law in Connecticut, with extensive human resources experience. I am not a recruiter, hiring manager, or career agent. I am not an expert in any of the areas of job search. I am writing to share my job search experiences with you. This Blog/Web Site is designed to provide accurate information on the subjects covered but should not be considered professional or legal advice.