We talk a lot about networking, but if we are not using the networks we build effectively to find and seize opportunities, we are not realizing the benefits of our networks. Most people find their network most valuable to them when they face a job change.
Whether investigating other opportunities or being unemployed searching for a job, you should know how to effectively leverage all of the professional relationships you spend so much time building and maintaining. Here are some things to remember when it comes to utilizing the relationships in your network.
Make it easy for them to help you
Remember that those in your network, especially those in a position to help you out, are likely very busy with a number of their own concerns. They probably receive a lot of email. Many emails requesting help go unintentionally unanswered because it just takes time to read and analyze someone else’s situation, think about how you might be able to help them, and take the necessary actions.
Making your request as easy as possible for others to fulfill will help ensure that you receive the help you want.
If you are interested in their connections, don’t just ask them if they know anyone that might be good for you to meet. Instead, think about what you are looking for specifically (for example, Manager in Finance for an energy company), and then find the closest example of this on their LinkedIn network. Ask them to introduce you to that specific person telling them why. Either they will do it or come up with someone even better for you to meet with.
If you are trying to search out job opportunities, write a paragraph that your connection can forward on to others within their network. This means restating some of the things that your colleague likely already knows about you, but would be helpful to others. Highlight your strengths while describing what kind of job you are looking for. Here is an example of a paragraph I wrote about myself in a message to one of my contacts during my last job search.
I’m looking for a manager or director position in FP&A (financial planning and analysis), which means likely managing or leading budgeting, forecasting, and financial reporting. I will thrive in a position that calls for more than just an accounting background, because the technical side is my strongest selling point. I know two programming languages, and have about a dozen system implementations and conversions under my belt now. I’ve had IT staff reporting to me in the past and led IT steering committee. I am currently working on completing my 10th year of accounting/finance experience, which includes, insurance, banking and marketing, and logistics. I’m interested in any industry, but want to work for a company whose business is driven by data and analytics.
I tried to keep it casual and relevant. At the time I was really ramping up my job search as my company had just been bought out. I kept it slightly more about me than about what specific opportunity I was looking for in order to keep it very broad.
Know what you want and ask for it
When you are looking for help, don’t just pose your problems to others expecting them to be solved, instead try and develop your own solutions and think of specific ways others can help. Developing solutions not only demonstrates your willingness and motivation to take action, but it can also be the catalyst that generates ideas in others.
If you aren’t sure how to solve your problem and want ideas or strategic advice (ie, How do I increase my marketability, CPA or MBA?), make sure you specify that. Ask others how they would approach it. Give them adequate background of your situation with key facts (sometimes bullet points are good). If corresponding through email, remember to be concise giving them no more than a couple paragraphs to have to read through.
When making your request, especially in writing, try to be concise. This will increase the probability that others will read and respond to your request. Remember you do not always have to give 100% of the details regarding your background, instead be open to clarify based on follow-up questions.
Be confident and expect follow-through. If you stand by your network and take their requests seriously and follow through, why should you not expect the same from others? Have the confidence to ask them expecting their cooperation and help, yet remember to express your gratefulness.
Because you know that relationships in your network exist in order to help each other, follow-up when you have not received a response. How long to wait should be based on how well you know the individual. If you know them well, follow up more often; otherwise give them more space and time to get to your request.
If they give you advice and action steps, make sure to take necessary actions. Do this quickly. This will demonstrate that you re ready and willing to do what it takes to achieve the results you seek. There is nothing more difficult than helping those who don’t really want to be helped or want someone else to do the hard work for them. Focusing on taking action and being responsive will prevent this perception.
At some point you will reach your goal and achieve what you had set out to. This is the most important, yet most forgotten time to involve those in your network. Let them share in the good news and express your appreciation. Doing so will strengthen those relationships and give others the sense that their help (even minor) ultimately paid off.