Into a Network and Energize Your Career
center managers understand the technical aspects of networking, but what
about the people side of the business?
Operations managers are familiar with LANs, WANs and SANs. But what
about networking on a personal level?
Networking -- a term that is overused and an activity that is
underutilized -- fills up to 75 percent of all job openings. While millions
of employment seekers are haplessly lobbing resumes at want ads, smart job
hunters are using the inside track.
But networking isnít just about changing positions. Interacting with
colleagues and maintaining professional relationships can provide expert
advice that improves your shop. Having a social network in place shows that
you are resourceful and makes you a more valuable employee.
"It can enable you to get things done faster, to advance your
career," says Steve Blood, director, regional services activity, for the
Defense Enterprise Computing Center in Ogden, Utah. "Itís a critical
leadership skill and itís a valuable skill regardless of what level youíre at
in your organization."
If weíre honest, many of us will admit we arenít good at networking.
We may even find it distasteful or self-serving. However, experts say those
views often flow from misunderstandings or narrow definitions of the
Not job begging
Networking is not about hitting up friends, relatives and neighbors
for jobs. They probably donít know of any openings anyway.
It is about developing and expanding a list of professional contacts
who can keep you informed of industry trends, common challenges and the
occasional job lead that you may or may not be seeking.
And when a corporate shake-up or economic downturn hands you your
walking papers, the network can help you get back on your feet quickly.
Understand, however, that itís a two-way street.
Approach networking by asking yourself how you can help the other
professional. How about referring candidates to fill openings, e-mailing a
relevant article or sharing information about an upcoming trade show?
"If everybody had that mindset, it would be an incredible world
to be living in." says Janet Shlaes, supervisor of career development
services for JVS Chicago, an employment services organization.
Shlaesí report, "Power Networking," can be found online at
"Itís just talking, being interested in people and finding out
about them and then, you just never know (what might result)," says
Shlaes. "When you move through the world from that perspective, things
You may feel that no one would want to help you. Networking experts,
however, point out that people usually enjoy teaching, giving advice and
making referrals. Donít feel like youíre annoying anyone. Youíre only asking
The people factor
One thing separates networking from traditional job search methods:
human interaction. Youíre not answering ads and sending resumes off to
faceless, nameless HR departments.
"Networking is doing research by talking to people," says
Bettina Seidman (seidbet@ aol.com), a career management coach in private
practice and a senior associate at The Ayers Group in New York City.
Traditional methods, such as responding to ads, have only limited
hundred thousand dollars of your closest friends probably saw that same
opportunity," says Jim Kacena, senior director of Spherionís
(www.spherion.com) Human Capital Consulting Group in Chicago and president of
the International Association of Career Management Professionals
(www.iacmp.com), United States.
advice: "Get involved in your trade group or professional association. They
may not have opportunities (immediately), but youíre meeting people who know
completely ignore traditional methods, but donít bank on them either. Networking
can make your search easier and faster, providing access to opportunities
that donít yet exist and opening up the unadvertised job market.
"A good person, if theyíre networking, tends to get unsolicited
offers," says Bob Maher, principal of Maher Associates
(www.careerpilot.com) in Dallas.
says many technology pros, in particular, need to resist the temptation to
confine their job search to ads or online listings.
"The tendency in technology to work only online or with print
ads or with agencies with headhunters is really cutting out 70 to 80 percent
of jobs at any given moment," she says.
Help where you are
If youíve landed the perfect job and plan to stay forever, you still
need to network for two reasons. One, you never know how secure your
employment situation is. And two, growth is inevitable when you rub shoulders
with other professionals.
"I have found it very valuable from an operations perspective
and from a career perspective," says Ray Heath, manager of computer
operations for CooperTools in Apex, NC.
When Heath moved from the U.S. Air Force to CooperTools, he had a
background in IT, but not operations.
"They hired me for leadership and management " skills
rather than data center technical expertise," he says.
As a result, Heath joined AFCOM and began cultivating a network of
colleagues in data center management.
He attended AFCOM seminars on business continuity to help move a
project forward. But Heath didnít stop there. He met data center managers who
could personally share their expertise on the issue. He stays in contact with
them, exchanging information and ideas.
The conference also resulted in contacts with vendors who may assist
with his companyís data center consolidation project.
"It was just tremendous," Heath says. "Every time I
go I get something from a networking perspective."
Start early, and never stop
If you wait until you need a job to start networking, youíve started
too late, experts say. Networking
takes time, and you donít want to put your contacts -- or yourself -- under
However, if you put off networking until you reach a crisis, you
still have to start somewhere.
Once you activate a network, be sure to maintain it. Donít forget
those who helped you get there, and be open to helping others.
"The network is forever," Seidman says. "Itís not
just about one meeting. Itís about developing a relationship that can be
mutually beneficial to one another for years and years."
Although it may sound strange, the one thing you donít want to ask
networking contacts for is a job.
"It puts people on the spot," Shlaes says.
The people youíre cornering probably donít know you. They arenít
ready to give you a job but donít want to reject you either.
The first goal of networking is to initiate contact and initiate a
relationship," Shlaes says."You donít know where thatís going to
Iíd rather have people thinking of
themselves as exploring their options rather than looking for a job. If you
look like a job seeker and act like a job seeker youíre going to get treated
like a job seeker.
The case for networking is convincing. But how do you start?
The first rule is to identify your current network, then expand it.
Kacena recommends starting with at least 35 names. If each of them
gives you two contacts, your network expands to 105. Be creative with your
initial list, including real estate agents, church members, former co-workers
and employers, merchants, hobbyists and parents of your childrenís friends.
Youíre asking for names of people they know in the field you are
"You need two things from these contacts: information and
names," writes Walter S. Keller Jr. in the Wall Street Journalís online
career center (careers.wsj.com). "Try to learn about industry trends,
corporate news or anything that expands your understanding of your chosen
field. Donít limit yourself to names of people who have jobs available. Ask
your contacts to introduce you to others who may have general information
about your industry."
When you get referrals, ask why the people are good contacts and
learn as much as you can about them before calling.
Donít worry about immediate results. A conversation may pay off
several months later when a contact hears about a need that matches your
More contacts can mean more failures, but it also increases your
chances of success. Each call puts you one step closer to victory.
Not every contact will pan out, but with perseverance, many will.
When trying to reach an extremely busy person, try to schedule a
five-minute phone call. If the person is unresponsive, move on to someone
else. Understand that some people may be on vacation or have another reason
for delaying their response to your call.
Always strive for a personal meeting, but you can settle for a phone
appointment if the contact is unwilling to meet.
"Thereís something about face to face chemistry," Seidman
says. "You always get more time and information face to face than you do
on the phone."
If you encounter objections such as, "I donít have any
jobs" or "Just send me a resume," Seidman says you can
politely counter with, "My goal is to take advantage of the insights of
people outside of my company, and Iím not asking for jobs here."
Seidman isnít aware of any studies
determining the percentage of calls that result in meetings, but says:
"Itís much more about your presentation than the strangerís
She recommends developing a 90-second to two-minute pitch that
explains who you are, who referred you, is sensitive to the callís timing and
asks for a brief meeting.
Once the meeting is established, your work has just begun.
The network meeting
The key to the appointment is research,
research, research about the contact, yourself and the company, says Jill
Griffin (firstname.lastname@example.org), president of Keller Communications, a human
resources consulting firm near Danbury, Conn.
"They (networkers) should know what their goal is and be very
excited about that," says Griffin, who is also active in the career
Networkers need a toolbox of at least 10 questions that can be
modified as needed. Choose five or six for the meeting.
Seidman says good questions include:
- Tell me how you got into this
- What are your major challenges and
- What do you see as important trends over
the last few years in the industry?
- Do you have any comments on my
background and where I might look to plug in?
- What salary range should I be looking
- What publications do you read?
- What professional associations do you belong
- Who are recruiters you respect?
- Who are some key people in my niche?
Always be sure to ask who else you should talk to, get a business
card to confirm spellings and contact information and send a thank-you note.
Shlaes says itís critical to have a clear message, so people know
how they can help you. Donít be passive, or you will waste your time and
Just do it
You know the odds in job hunting, and that networking is the surest
way to employment and professional growth. The question is, will you do it?
"You canít lose by networking," says Griffin. "The
greatest thing that can happen is making a new friend and finding a position
that youíve always wanted. The worst thing that can happen is you make a new
The bottom line:
- Start now, not when youíre in a crisis.
- Begin developing a network list.
- Join a professional association and get
- Work through the list by calling and meeting
- Expand the list.
- Give back to your network.
- Help others who are networking.
Roy Harryman (email@example.com) is a
free-lance writer and former managing editor of Enterprise Management Issues
magazine. He has found jobs through a combination of networking and
traditional means and helped two friends find jobs through networking in the
Networking Tips for
by Bettina Seidman
Sometimes job searchers in
information technology fields fail to spend enough time networking to
identify new positions. You will achieve success sooner if you conduct a
comprehensive job search using all possible job search techniques, including
Networking continues to be the single most successful job search
method. But, it is important to identify the style that suits you best rather
than assuming that networking is not for you.
Some individuals are uncomfortable reaching out to
"strangers," even though the contacts have come through old friends
and colleagues. Here are some recommendations that will increase your comfort
- Spend time preparing everything you want
to say in advance.
- Think about your communication style of
choice. Is it the telephone, e-mail, or snail mail? Use that method to
- Ask your friends or colleagues if they would
be willing to give the contact a heads-up call.
- Consider calling after business hours and leaving a voice mail
message the first time.
Seidman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a career management coach in private practice
with more than 25 yearsí experience in career consulting and human resources
management. She founded SEIDBET Associates in 1990 and also works as a senior
outplacement consultant at The Ayers Group in New York City. She is a board
member of the New York Chapter of the International Association of Career
Carnegie on Networking
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People,
could be considered the father of modern networking. Following are a few tips
from this classic book to help you in your networking efforts.
- Give honest and sincere appreciation.
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a personís name is to that
person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk
- Make the other person feel important -- and do
Opportunities With AFCOM
Attending AFCOM conferences and joining local chapters is an
excellent way to build your network of professional relationships.
AFCOMís Spring 2001 conference will be held March 25-29 at the Las
Vegas Convention Center. Contact AFCOM at 714-997-7966 for more information
or watch the Web site (www.afcom.com) for details.