Put your drink in your left hand. The first piece of advice I received about networking. Moving past what that says about broader alcohol culture or my own habits, let’s talk about….
A dirty word in the mouths and minds of many. It can conjure visions of conversations that make you feel like a leech- sucking something from someone who doesn’t want to talk with you. Not a great feeling!
But here we are. On Linkedin, the home of networking. Where in Australia alone, I’m told by several page 1 websites that there are over 10 million active linkedin accounts. 10 million Australian “networkers”. What a salivating prospect.
Thinly veiled sarcasm aside, if you’re currently unemployed OR you are looking to take the next step in your career, you’ll need to get over your distaste and start "networking".
Given the bevy of available and willing applicants for each open role now, who you know has never been more important. Compounding this, the ongoing hiatus of the live events scene means you’ll need to make more direct, 1 to 1 efforts.
So- the below process is one way to get the most out of relationships you already have.
Make a list of the people you know:
· They must respect and trust you professionally (they think you're good at your job)
· They must have visibility on hiring at your level (usually more senior than you are)
· You must respect and trust them professionally
Please include people on this list even if they:
· Don’t work in your dream industry
· Don’t work in your dream company
· Don’t have an opening in their team that is perfect for you
· Wouldn’t be someone you’d socialise with (remember socialising? Good times)
Here’s some places that people on your list could come from
· A former boss
· A former boss’s boss
· A previous client (or their boss)
· A previous partner
· A previous supplier
· A family connection
· A social connection
Cast your net wide! (a metaphor) Don’t be afraid. (an inspirational instruction)
Now, reach out to each person on that list. If you’re not comfortable calling, start with an email or similar. Here’s my copy for the email:
How are you?
I’d like your opinion as I am currently considering my career options.
Specifically, I am looking for feedback on my experience and career to date, where you think the gaps in my skillset are and what opportunities you think would be good for someone like myself in the next 12-18 months.
Are you free for a coffee/beer/virtual beer/virtual coffee/zoom in the next fortnight?
Then, follow up with a call if you don’t hear back from them, to book your meeting.
Before each meeting, I’d research
· The person
· The company they work for
· The industry they operate in
I’d then put together some specific questions for them, based on the above research. I would also ensure I had some information of value to share with them- it can’t be all take take take.
My aim in the meeting overall would be as stated- I want their feedback, and to get their thoughts on what I could do in the future. A fresh perspective from someone you respect can be genuinely life changing.
I would also want them to walk away thinking “If we had the right opening, Ben would be an absolute asset to the business”.
The meeting naturally acts to keep you top of mind. Your contact will also have contacts in similar level positions, who you don’t know, in other companies, who will be hiring, that they can refer you to.
After your meeting, follow up! Send them information you discussed they found interesting. Ask them for advice if you’re interviewing with other companies. Congratulate them on their successes. Commiserate if appropriate. Make the effort to form a relationship.
Not every conversation will lead to a job offer or even any groundbreaking advice. That's ok! It's better to be having these conversations and watering your professional relationships (another metaphor) than not.
So… while holding your drink in your left hand to keep your right dry is genuinely sound advice in the handshake era, you’ll get more from doing the above in Era Corona.
In any case, I must take my leave, I'm off to network.