Networking for Your Next Job: Creating Intense Demand for You
A few days ago I asked a young lady who was just laid off what position she was looking for. Her answer was “It’s such a tough job market; I will take any job I can get. I’m not going to be fussy.” As an employer, I was immediately turned off and disinterested.
She had conveyed to me that she was interested in a job, in an opportunity to make money for herself. She had communicated that she had not dedicated herself to understanding her greatest gifts, skills and talents, or to making them available to accelerate and improve the condition of her employer. She had violated one of the most fundamental principles in job seeking. She had failed to think about and speak in terms of how she could add significant value and benefits to prospective employers. It’s hard to imagine any employer getting excited to entertain her for a job interview.
If you’re going to position yourself as a desirable candidate for a job you should recognize the critical importance of making some adjustments to your approach to job hunting. Above all, recognize that getting a job is a full-time job!
1. Know who you are and who you’re not: One of the most important steps you can take to improve your chances at getting a job is that of completing a personal assessment of your personality, skills, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. If you invest some time in self-awareness you will be rewarded with a clear understanding of who you are and who you’re not, what types of work will provide a great deal of personal stimulation and enjoyment, how you can add enormously to the well being of your employer, and which industries and companies will allow you to make a meaningful contribution.
Personal assessment and awareness can be achieved through utilizing simple lists of strengths weaknesses, skills and interests. You should meet with respected friends, former supervisors and mentors to ask them to provide insight about your greatest attributes, skills, competencies, weaknesses and blind spots. You may also use more scientifically designed personality or career assessment tools. To the extent you can, you should use all of these approaches in order to give yourself the most complete self-understanding.
2. Identify the industry or industries that are a good fit for you: Do you like money and thinking about money? Did you enjoy biology, chemistry and mathematics while you were in high school or college? Are you oriented to working with your hands and tinkering? Do you prefer active interaction with people or working in relative isolation from others? Would you prefer to work in an office environment or get out and about, maybe traveling around with a change of pace and venue? Are you good with numbers or words, thinking or doing, leading or supporting?
These are just a few of the questions that you might ponder in your quest to find a good fit with an employer. Furthermore, you should examine your areas of interest from the perspective of industry interest. As you reflect on the things you enjoy have patterns emerged? For example, have you had a history of being drawn to clothing and fashion? Have you found yourself immersed in interior decorating or the design of buildings or furniture? Have you had an interest in art and crafts? What level of interest have you had in music or entertainment, in farm animals or household pets, in bridges, buildings or highways, in nutrition or health care?
Your answers to these questions will help you determine which industries and companies within them might be a good fit for your interests and skills.
3. Crystallize how you can add the greatest value: What are you very good at doing? As a matter of fact, what do you do with excellence? What have you received compliments for most often over the years? What are you most passionate about? What do you have the greatest interest in contributing to a prospective employer?
If you’re going to stand out and above the crowd of job seekers you must communicate clearly and often that you will be an asset and not a liability to employers. You will need to speak the language of business. That means you will need to think like a business partner to your employer, asking about the company’s goals, priorities, and challenges and then positioning yourself as someone who has the skills, experience and attitudes that are required to help in the areas that are of the greatest interest to them.
An attitude of service is critical. You must decide and dedicate yourself to putting the interests of your employer first. You must develop a mindset of asking how you can help prospective employers achieve more, with less, faster. You should develop an attitude of being willing to go to work early and stay late, study and learn whatever you must, and ask for help so that you could learn and have the necessary information and tools to be an asset. You should also condition your mind to be willing to add value to your employer that is a vast multiple of the compensation you ask for or receive in exchange.
4. Define your image and brand: Who are you? Who do you think you are? Who do others think you are? Who do you want others to think you are? If the answers to those questions are different from question to question, you have some work to do. They should be congruent so that you could reduce internal conflict and dissonance and arrive at a consistent message and image.
You will need to have a consistent message and be authentic to yourself and the people you meet. It is important that you dig deep into yourself to extract your core beliefs, values and principles. You should define your central purpose and mission. Understand what matters most to you. As you ask questions, articulate your message, and share the approaches you would take to help individuals and organizations improve their condition, let your central defining philosophies shine through to your audience of interviewers and influencers.
Know who you are and be sure to let others know who you are, what matters most to you, and what you are most passionate about.
5. Design and produce a high impact marketing package: If you’re going to find that ideal job in that ideal industry and ideal company, you will have to do a phenomenal job of self promotion. Understand marketing! You will need to sell yourself to the organizations that you want to hire you.
Think about the problems and goals of these industries and companies, on the one hand, and your ability to help solve the problems and achieve the goals, on the other. Develop your resume so that it dramatically and effectively communicates your credentials, education, experience and philosophy as key ingredients for helping employers achieve the things that are most important to them.
Create and develop marketing collateral that communicates how awesome you are based on past performance, accomplishments and interests. Find a good graphic artist and develop a personal logo. Use it on a personal business card and letterhead. Consider using it on a personal website that you use in conjunction with your resume. You should also consider investing in personalized note cards and using them when you send “thank you” notes to the people you meet in your everyday travels and at various networking events.
By investing time and money in developing your personal brand and using personalized marketing collateral, you will differentiate yourself from your job searching competitors and become more desirable to employers.
6. Research and determine the most relevant networking organizations and venues: If you know the specific job you want, and the specific industry and company that provides the best fit for you, does it make sense to spend time in places where you are most likely to meet decision makers from those organizations?
If you’re interested in a position in the medical industry, you should identify the events and organizations that are actively attended by decision makers from the medical industry. If you’re interested in a position in the financial services industry, you should visit events and venues where you can meet influencers or decision makers from financial services companies.
You should network wherever you can and wherever you can meet people and tell them what you’re trying to accomplish. Networking can occur in formal and informal venues. You might find your best advocate or employer in the most informal setting. A friend of mine found her job of jobs on account of having sat at a bar where she met the owner of a very successful company in the health care industry. They established rapport, stayed in touch, and as he got to know her he became so impressed that he offered her a position with his company. She loves her job, makes more than she ever has, and has the potential to make significantly more than she currently earns. That is an example of benefiting from informal networking.
On the other hand, you may join and attend events hosted by formal networking organizations. The Home Building Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Area Association of Realtors, Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Independent Financial Advisors, Business Network International, are examples of organizations that facilitate formal opportunities to build relationships with influencers and people who make hiring decisions.
You should identify the organizations that provide a good fit for you based on the industry that they represent and your sense of the industry that is most appealing for your career interest.
Whatever you do, recognize that you must understand yourself, identify your interest, know how much you are worth, provide extraordinary value, establish your brand, and network strategically, so that you will be able to secure the best fit job, best compensation and benefits package, and most fulfilling job experience.