In this series Dave Perlman, an executive recruiter and career coach, put together a Getting Started guide that is specifically targeted to seasoned workers.
Whether you’re feeling age-insecure at your current job, planning a reinvention or trying to get back into the workforce this guide should help.
The Art of Networking
Last week I wrote about getting started on your job hunt. This time I’ll start with a key component: getting good, actionable job leads.
Perhaps the biggest factor in finding a new job is deal flow.
It’s a numbers game. Many opportunities simply don’t develop, for dozens of reasons: fit, chemistry, background, personality, domain knowledge, whim, politics, confusion, bad hiring practices, poor interviewing skills (on both sides) and just bad luck.But if your flow of new opportunities is healthy and robust enough, eventually the right one will come into the corral and you’ll lasso it.
Without doubt the best avenue to discover new opportunities is through networking: using the people you know. But many folks don’t understand how to network effectively.
Good networking has a few very basic principles.
Networking, like friendship, is a two-way street. As that great American, Don Vito Corleone said, “I believe in friendship. And I am not afraid to show my friendship first.” Start out looking to help rather than to get and you will get in the end.
One tactic that works for me is to start a conversation – online or in Starbucks – with an interesting-looking stranger.
Step One – make a comment about something neutral.
Step Two – ask for their opinion or viewpoint.
Step Three – praise their contribution.
Step Four -reveal something about yourself and ask them something, ideally work-related. “I’m a CTO. What do you do ?”
Step Five – again express interest and approval, ask about the challenges they are facing, and ask how you can help .
Extending your network
What doesn’t grow shrinks. Networks atrophy as people move and change their interests. To keep yours growing try to set a quota for new members on a weekly basis. Don’t set the quality bar too high – very often an apparently boring or seeming minor-league person can introduce you to a real rainmaker.
Quality trumps quantity
While growing your network is a numbers game, benefitting from it is not. There are always going to be a few people who stand out: they have the best connections, they are the quickest to offer to help, and their help actually works. Since it’s never easy to identify these people in advance, treat everyone with equal respect. These connections, if nurtured, can make a difference for you.
Folks coming out of a long tenure at one company or in one narrow niche tend to have very tall and narrow networks. They know everyone in their own narrow silo, but virtually no one outside it. Make real efforts to broaden your network into new arenas. Go to meetups, take the meeting, book lunches, have a coffee with someone you barely know. Work at it. Systematically growing your network takes a lot of time but it can pay off bigtime.
Next week we’ll take a look at other approaches to finding opportunities. Networking is number one, and sometimes can be all you need. But for most of us, it needs to be supplemented with online research, by using recruiters selectively, and with other techniques.
Read Part 1: Getting Started
Photo credit: rawpixel.com
Dave Perlman has reinvented himself many times. He’s been a software developer, a motel desk clerk, a historian, a forklift driver, a CTO and a few other things.
Currently he runs his own high-performing executive recruiting firm, Grenadier Search, from his home outside Boston. He handles career coaching and resume polishing as adjuncts to that business.