Apr 30, 2024 | TNG Work | 0 comments

Networking – a Core Job Search Skill?

Written by Pam Moore

Even if you’re happy and in your dream job right nowit may not always be your dream job. Things change… including outgrowing the job right at the time when your organisation has nowhere else for you to grow to. Research indicates that a high percentage of executive placements are as a result of networking.

If you’re a leader in your organisation you should be networking outside the organisation anyway to enhance your current leadership competence (Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader – Herminia Ibarra, 2015). But this is not always music to the ears. It’s not too strong to say that many people hate networking, especially the more introverted among us. Not all leaders are natural extroverts.

Dorie Clark, renowned marketing strategist, has some tips for introverted networkersand you can avoid doing it altogether if you’re not actually in a career transition. But if you’re looking for a job, for whatever reason, it’s pretty much an inescapable part of a career strategy.

For senior and executive managers and specialists, online job boards are the least likely way to find a position and every other route requires networkingIt’s the linchpin

You need to network for referrals, to hear about opportunities, to get in front of decisionmakers, to be top of mind with executive search consultants, to come to the top of recruiters’ online searches or to find out what is going on in the job market and the industries that interest you.

If you’re networking with people you are close to and have stayed in touch with they will probably be only too willing to assist you, and it can be as simple as letting them know that you are looking for a career change, the type of role you’re looking at and the type of organisation that interests you. 

Remember that your job search is top of your mind, but not top of mind for even your closest connections. So this is not a one-and-done – you need to follow up at intervals after the initial contact. 

You want to be right there in their head when your connection hears about that golden opportunity before it slips their mind! There’s nothing worse than “I wish I’d known…”  

The ideal time to build a network is before you need it!

Face-To-Face Networking Events

But how about the more intimidating forms of networking?

The good thing is that people are at networking events for the same reasons – to find business leads of one sort or another including hearing about employment opportunities – so there’s no need to be coy. Getting the most out of spending time at an event requires some planning, so we have some tips from accumulated wisdom to bear in mind:

  1. Be selective – don’t go to every event. Make sure that you choose events where you will find good referral partners. By all means, try different groups to see which ones resonate and yield the best contacts but then focus.  
  2. Arrive early and introduce yourself to the organiser. Your goal should be for him or her to give you suggestions as to whom you should connect with and even make some introductions for you. 
  3. First give, then get, is a good rule of thumb, which in practice means listening to people and seeing how you can connect them with something or someone they need before you take your turn. This helps get over the feeling that you are there on a sleazy sales mission. 
  4. Target a few good quality connections and have a succinct summary of who you are, what you do, and the opportunity you’re looking for at the tip of your tongue. It’s the famous ‘elevator pitch’ that is just as appropriate to introduce yourself when you are looking for an employment opportunity as it is if you are looking for customers for a business. 
  5. And then, the most important part – ask for what you want from the person you are talking to. It may be that they just keep their ears open for opportunities that they can pass on, it may be an introduction to a decisionmaker or a referral, or it may be asking for an informational interview where you can find out more about their industry.  
  6. Make sure you exchange business cards with everyone you meet and write a few notes on the card that will help you personalise your next contact. Collecting cards is more important than giving out cards because it gives you the upper hand in making the next move. The same principle applies to electronic exchanges. 
  7. Follow up regularly to build your network. The first follow-up should be within 24 hours with personalised emails based on the notes you jotted down… and then follow up regularly. Connect with the people you met on LinkedIn and interact with them there as well. Once you’ve found your tribe, attend the same event regularly so that you become a familiar face. 
Electronic Networking 

As face-to-face networking has become less frequent in the past few years, digital networking has become more prominent. The same principles apply except you should as far as possible contact everyone on LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and your various contact lists to tell them that you are looking at opportunities. If you do not want your present employer to know that you are in the job market then you may have to be more selective or ask for the information in a different way.  

Executive Search Consultants/ Recruiters 

Once again, networking is at the heart of how you become noticed by executive search consultants and recruiters. Pinpointing and approaching the specialists in your field and staying in touch with them is the first step. Remembering that they each have only a specific set of clients, it’s important not to make your focus too narrow. 

The second aspect is refining your LinkedIn profile and becoming very active on the platform. Recruiters use LinkedIn extensively as a source of candidates when they are researching an assignment. We know that coming to the top of searches depends at the very least on having a complete profile with the right keywords for you and being active on the platform through interaction – posting, sharing, and commenting on others’ posts. In addition, you can use LinkedIn to identify people in an organisation to start a connection and conversation.

Instead, think of networking as an opportunity to meet people you’ll want to talk to and learn from professionally. – Dorie Clark

The practical aspects of networking are quite straightforward and common sense. The reasons many people do not like doing it range from social anxiety to finding it distasteful and manipulative through to starting off well but slacking off when there is no immediate result. Networking fatigue is all too common especially if you’re not a natural networker. Unfortunately, the results are seldom instant. You may just be in the right place, at the right time to find the job quickly but very often it takes persistence and consistent, methodical activity to land a position. It’s time-consuming and other priorities can seem more important. But as we said earlier, it is the core activity that underpins any senior or executive job search so to be transition ready when the time comes, start now. 

We can help you put all this into practice. Connect with Pam at pam@careerconversations.co.za.