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6 Steps To Networking Nirvana

Arnie Fertig

Believing in his networking prowess, a newly unemployed individual sent this unfortunate message to his entire LinkedIn network:

"Circumstances have changed for me recently, where I now find myself searching for a new career opportunity. We have connected in the past, and I'm hoping that you would be able to write a reference for me on LinkedIn. Additionally, if you have heard of companies searching for senior qualified people, please let me know who I may contact, and if I may use your name."

While he was right to engage his network, the way he went about it may be ineffective for multiple reasons:

--The message is targeted poorly and lumps all kinds of contacts together. It can make the person with whom he had a solid working relationship in the past feel that he or she is now only regarded as a casual contact.

--The message does not provide information that can be used to create a personal and compelling reference. Who is the target audience, and what should be the content of the message? On what aspect of the person's work or personality should the reference writer focus?

--The "I'm desperate" sub-text is prone to make people flee.

--It doesn't ask anything about the recipient, or do anything to further a real relationship. It is an "ask" without an offer to give help in return.

Effective networking requires focused one-to-one communication, rather than blasting out cries for help to all within email reach. It is about building relationships, not exploiting them. It requires diligence and some amount of work, and that is the job of the job hunter.

Here are some tips about how to motivate people in your network to be of real help to you in your employment search:

1. Segment your network. Create different messages for people depending upon the nature of your relationship with them. Who have you interacted with recently? Who haven't you had contact with in years? Who are your peers, subordinates, or bosses? Who is physically close enough to meet with you face-to-face? Who has benefited from your help at some time in the past?

Your network goes well beyond business contacts to include family, friends, neighbors, etc. Accordingly, your message should be tailored to the kind of relationship you have with the person you are addressing. It should be personalized and personal.

2. Figure out how key contacts can help. For someone to help you, it's important for you to convey what that "help" looks like. Who might be in, or have contacts in, your target companies? Who might know what it is like to work in a field into which you seek to transition? Do your research, and go to the right people for the right things.

When you make an "ask," it should be as specific as possible. It should guide the person to easily understand what he or she can do to assist.

3. Rekindle and stoke your relationship. Respect the fact that while people are often eager to help, no one likes to feel used. Especially if you haven't had contact with someone for quite some time, rekindle the relationship before you think about asking for anything. A bit of chitchat and bringing each other up to date goes a long way in relationship building.

4. Make your asks "doable." You can't reasonably expect people to share any form of confidential information. Don't put someone in a conflict of interest situation. Don't ask a busy person for something that will take an excessive amount of time or effort. Instead, request something you know can be provided without heavy lifting.

5. Show gratitude and offer reciprocity. There may be nothing that you can do to aid your networking partner, but then again there might be. Based on your conversation, you might be prompted to offer some piece of knowledge, make an introduction or do something else to benefit the other person. Be proactive and make the offer. In any case, don't forget to offer to be of help in the future. And by all means, make certain to show your appreciation by thanking the person both in advance and after the fact for whatever it is they do for you.

6. Follow up. Once you have rekindled a relationship, keep it warm. Be in periodic touch to keep your networking partner in the loop about your progress, and how their help has benefited you so far.

Your relationships will thrive and your networking will bear fruit when you show people respect, treat them as individuals, ask for reasonable things and offer to give as well as get. People will be eager to assist you, and you will be one step closer to landing your next job.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.

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