While a headhunter is the best way to find a new job (at least for the headhunter), there are other ways. Having a solid network can be one but it can also be a powerful means to get business contacts, share knowledge and keep a competitive edge.
Here are 10 networking tips on how to establish and maintain strong connections that will help you in good and bad times:
You know more people than you think you do: brainstorm who you know or should know: what about your university, the job before last or the sister-in-law of your neighbor? What does your hairdresser or dentist hear today that might help you tomorrow? Or your Marketing department, who called them or who did they meet? Be curious, ask questions and develop reflexes to always hunt for new and interesting people you can learn from or you can help.
Quality matters, quantity does too: How to define quality? Is it only people you know personally? Only people you like? Only decision-makers? The more diverse your network is, the richer it can be. And the better it will resist to the next crisis by the way. Do not chase c-level only, don’t try to be friend with everyone on a party or invite/ accept invitations from all LIONs – LinkedIn Open Networkers – members but be open and do not offend people. You never know…
Let your network live: keep in touch, call, meet, offer your assistance with a skill you are an expert in, add value, send regular updates on how you are doing and what you are working on. Ask open questions to encourage responses, give feedback. If you feel like, start a blog or blog in discussion forums.
Give and take: most people do not dare to ask for a favor. Yet how do you feel if someone asks you for a favor? I usually feel flattered (when my grandpa asked me to mow the lawn, I did not…). Be generous and give when you are asked to help. Today, in my new job, I ask people a lot for favors because I am back in a new/ old market. And guess what: 70% respond “of course I will help you, Jorg, and present you to XYZ”. Give something in return and give feedback.
Do what you like: there are clubs or events for anyone. If you take a yoga course, go to a festival of mediaval rites or your national scrabble contest – you can meet interesting people everywhere (maybe people at the mediaval festival have weirder things to say than the ones at the scrabble contest). Choose something that fits you so you are authentic,credible and true.
Meet and talk to people. Do it over and over again: When I ask colleagues in my industry why they wanted to be a headhunter or a recruiter, the answer is always the same: “because I like to talk to people”. This is a good start and I encourage anyone who thinks that a network helps in life to do it as much as you can. I met CFOs in a taxi we had to share or a Harvard MBA on the neighbor table in a restaurant who was looking for a job. I even organized a client meeting in a supermarket as the person in front of me talked to the cashier about her challenges in finding adequate staff!
Use the social media: LinkedIn but also Facebook and Twitter are tools that will not build a powerful network on their own but which are an efficient means to keep in touch and to reach your network in real time. Email addresses, phone numbers and employers change – the LinkedIn profile with its hundredsomething contacts will in most cases be updated and maintained throughout an entire career.
Remember everything you always read and heard about communication: listen, ask questions, smile, be polite, show empathy, remember (the names of kids, hobbies etc), say the person’s name, do not interrupt. The other day, I was meeting a veeeery influential person but as she only talked about herself, I got bored very fast and the high expectations I had from this meeting gave place to a big annoyance. Treat people as you want be treated. Make them feel special if you want special attention.
Be organised: keep a record and follow-up. Usually, LinkedIn is a good tools to keep in touch (no, they do not pay me though I think they should). Once more do not forget the follow-up because that is where most of us are bad in. If you receive a lead, give feedback. If you are asked something, ask one week later how is it going.
Be prepared: I know many people who tell me that they are not on a networking platform and do not see any value in being there. Months later, they pop up with a badly maintained profile and maybe 9 contacts. Guess what happened: suddenly, they are looking for a new job (same for further education by the way. See my posting on this). You never know when you need a network and as I outlined before, I think we always do but do not ask often enough. If you do not have a proper presence in the world wide web, create one and link to anyone you ever met.
Everybody knows somebody. If you like people, meet as many of them as possible and do it as often as you can. Ask the people in your network when you feel they can help you and most probably, the reaction will be positive. And as a last point: yes, indeed, you should have 1 to 3 headhunters you trust and you like in your network because their network is probably much bigger than yours will ever be!