Some excellent thoughts about the importance of networking recently appeared in Law Practice Today, the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s webzine. Three prominent career experts share their thoughts finding and keeping a job in an economic downturn. Read the whole thing here.
Some key quotes:
Shelley Canter [author of Make the Right Career Move: 28 Critical Insights And Strategies to Land Your Dream Job]:
Over the past 20 years, studies have consistently shown that at least 70-80% of jobs come through one’s network. My experience is that in bad economies, this statistic is even higher.
Kathleen Brady [author of Navigating Detours on the Road to Success]:
The internet is a great way to learn about where the opportunities are but simply submitting resumes on line yields a pretty low rate of return. Job seeks should definitely use the internet but they should not hide behind their computer screens. Use the internet to learn about other careers and compile lists of target companies. Visit web pages, read press releases; know what career opportunities exist (even if they are not at your level.)
At the same time, begin to compile lists of people who might be able to help you. Consider family members, former classmates and colleagues as well as people “on the other side” of deals or projects you have met throughout your career. Strategize how they might be helpful. Can they provide information about a job posting you found? Can they introduce you to someone on your target list or help you expand your target list? Perhaps they can offer feedback on your resume or approach tactics. Be prepared to ask people for something specific they can do to be helpful. You have to do your homework first, but the bulk of your time should be spent talking to people.
It is one thing to understand the concept of networking. It is quite another to know HOW to do it. Start with the easy ones, those friends and colleagues you feel comfortable calling. Invite them to lunch and say, “I’m thinking about making a job chance and wanted to bounce some ideas off you.” During these initial meetings you will begin to become more comfortable talking about yourself, and, because these are your friends, they will be more forgiving if you stumble slightly as you craft your message.
The ability to communicate your qualifications to potential employers entails more than just informing them of your technical competence. You must be able to illustrate that you have the requisite personal attributes–things like problem solving abilities, analytical skills, assessment and planning capabilities–to perform the job. The examples you use to talk about your accomplishments should elucidate your thinking and problem solving style. The more concrete and specific you are, the better able your contact will be to think of possibilities for you and suggest additional people you should meet. That’s why it is critical that job seekers engage in the self-assessment process before they launch into the networking process.
A common mistake people make when job prospecting is to use the meeting as a therapy session. You do not want to inspire guilt, pity or dread. Your goal should be to make your contacts feel good about their ability to help you. It is important that you present yourself as positive, confident and self-assured, not negative, needy and desperate. Never make your contacts feel sorry for you or responsible for your situation. Do not scoff at their suggestions by saying “I’ve tried that and it does not work,” otherwise your contacts will doubt their ability to help and begin to avoid you. If you need to express anger, bitterness, anxiety, etc., talk to a career counselor or seek out a member of the clergy or a sympathetic friend before meeting with your contacts.