Helping Clients Network for Success!
By Lysa Appleton.
It is no secret that networking is an integral part of any job search, and an essential activity for long term employability. So, how can we support and guide our clients in networking successfully?
To begin, I believe that we need to clearly define what networking is – and what it is not. Networking is not about dressing in power clothes and asking for a job. That tactic may have worked 10 years ago, but it’s not a comfortable or appreciated approach today. Networking is about building or enhancing relationships; it is also about forging paths to key influencers. It’s about having an informal conversation with someone over a cup of coffee or a light lunch, armed with some really good, thought-provoking questions.
In a nutshell, networking is building connections while conducting essential market research.
Here are some tips we can suggest to help our clients achieve networking success:
1. Remind clients that networking is about focusing on others – asking people questions based on interest and curiosity, and listening carefully to information that is shared in the answers. The questions may be about someone’s work, role, and organization, or about their dreams, values, mentors, and how they got into their line of work. Other questions could focus on the person’s perception of the job market, future trends, and specific related challenges. Our clients could also inquire about how their own skills might benefit the organization. The topic of the conversation is not nearly as important as the ability to get a network contact to share thoughts and feelings in a way that builds a connection and relationship.
2. Coach clients to network as “solutions experts” and not just job seekers. One of the greatest benefits of networking is that it facilitates valuable research and helps our clients learn about new jobs and different kinds of work that have surfaced in the marketplace. It enables them to gain key information about the challenges that companies might be facing. Then they can approach key influencers and describe how their skills, knowledge, and expertise can provide valuable, expert solutions to those challenges. As clients gain practice and increased confidence in their networking skills, they should be encouraged to market themselves with a targeted message, using vocabulary and terminology that’s familiar and meaningful to the key influencers they meet.
3. Encourage clients to create a networking map by identifying all of the communities that their lives intersect with – friends, family, neighbours, ex-colleagues, school alumni, professional boards, team members from extra-curricular, spiritual, or cultural organizations, etc., making a list of key people in each community. In addition, clients should consider exploring networking opportunities with people they know who may have large networks of their own. These are individuals such as barbers, hair-dressers, real estate agents, financial planners, dentists, etc.
4. Support clients in generating information meetings. If they’re nervous or hesitant about reaching out to someone after a long period of no contact, we can encourage them to be transparent and upfront about that. They can communicate to their acquaintance that they feel awkward about reaching out, but because they’re back on the job market, they’re looking to re-establish or strengthen ties.
5. Assist clients in preparing a “kick-butt” elevator pitch that clearly highlights their value, along with a list of solid, thought-provoking questions designed to build rapport with the audience of their pitch.
These tips are guidelines only; it’s best for each person to customize his or her own plan to personal preferences, cultural norms, and communication style.
By applying these networking strategies, our clients will build their networks and their professional net-worth!