You are out of work and all you keep reading and hearing about as it relates to finding a job is that you must network. Network, network, network. So you try. You make a list of friends family, colleagues, and other people you know that you think can help you. Then you contact each one, looking for their assistance. Quickly, you realize that you are not making any progress and you are tired of begging people for a job. Therein lies your problem.
If your approach to networking has been similar to the above, then you are practicing an exercise in futility. At its simplest level, networking is all about relationship building. Rome was not built in a day and you cannot build lasting relationships with one phone call, one meeting over lunch or a cup of coffee, or one meeting at a networking event. People who use this approach quickly give up and retreat to the more popular, passive forms of looking for a job such as working with recruiters or surfing the Internet job boards which can be successful but their success takes a back seat to networking when done correctly.
To make networking work for you, preparation is key. Before you pick up the phone and call a single person, before you blast off your resume to every good-hearted person that has promised to help you, you need to take care of a few important items. I won't go into detail, but here is a list of "must-do's" before you can successfully begin to network:
- Decide what (career) it is that you want to do.
- Decide where (geographically) you want to do it.
- Decide who (target companies) you want to do it for.
- Decide why (value proposition) you want to do it.
- Decide when (timing) you want to do it.
In answering these questions you will be developing key job search collateral, such as your public exit statement (why you left your last employer), your 30-second commercial ("tell me about yourself"), your personal marketing plan (key for informational interviews), and your values statement (why an employer should hire you). If you are trying to network without going through these exercises, then you are seriously damaging your chances of success. People in your network need to know these things so that they can be empowered to provide the best assistance. When you share this information, you no longer feel like you are begging for a job; you are asking for access to information. So if you feel like networking has not been working for you, consider how well you have prepared for the exercise.