Job hunt networking “starts with a mindset and an intention to discover, explore, and be open to what you may encounter. It’s about helping others and helping yourself,” says John Kobara on his blog, Adopting the Mentoring and Networking Lifestyle. Job hunt networking before you need it keeps you in the driver’s seat of your career. You have an eye on your future and a running start should something ever go wrong at your current job or company. If you aren’t already doing job hunt networking, here’s how to get started.
Make a List
Target 10 companies you want to work for in the “right” geographic area with the right career path. Find the name of the person who heads up the group you want to work in, or find the names of people at your level in that group. Include on your list the names of college alumni, neighbors, former supervisors, former co-workers, references, professional association leadership or just people you met at conferences or symposiums. You want 20-30 people that you will regularly follow-up with once or twice a year. The list may change as some move out of your target network or as some of your original contacts give you an even better name.
Determine Strategy and Order Business Cards
Decide that you are going to have a networking lifestyle. You connect with and help others and yourself in good times and in bad times. Don’t approach this as getting what you want but as building relationships and making memorable connections. You will end up enjoying this process and the job hunt benefits will be a byproduct when you need them. Don’t focus on what you want. Ask for information and advice. If you have technical skills, find a mentor who can help you with a difficult coding issue or statistical problem. People like to help others and love recognition for their efforts even from something as simple as a thank you note. Be considerate of other’s time as well as being specific and authentic about the issue you want to address with them.
Whenever possible leave your business card, your email signature, your text address with them. It reminds them of who you are on a regular basis.
Reach Out and Track
Take time to maintain your network. For the top ten companies you want to work for, commit to making contact with one person in each of those companies one to two times a year. Real contact, not just leaving a message or exchanging an email. Try to talk to them in person or on the phone.
You should contact your references at least once a year. They are very valuable to you, and should be an easy conversation based on your prior relationship. Always ask if they are still comfortable providing you with a good reference. The word good is critical. Many people say yes to giving a reference but sometimes that reference isn’t a good one.
For all of your 10-20 other contacts, try to space them out to once or twice a year as well. You should have 1-2 networking calls scheduled for every month. Conferences and professional meetings may have you completing 5 networking contacts in one day, but stick with the on-going calls every month. It will pay off.
Evaluate the quality and vibrancy of your network from time-to-time and make adjustments as necessary. Don’t forget to include recruiters that specialize in your niche in your contact list. Staying top of mind with those firms can mean a phone call to you when they have just the right job.