Articles quoting Bettina Seidman

Plug Into a Network and Energize Your Career

by Roy Harryman 

Data 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 practice. 

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 www.chicagojobs.org/network1.html.

"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 open up."

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 for information. 

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 effectiveness.

"One 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.

His advice: "Get involved in your trade group or professional association. They may not have opportunities (immediately), but youíre meeting people who know people."

Donít 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.

Seidman 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 pressure.

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."

Networking no-nos

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 go.

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.

How-tos

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 exploring.

"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 skills.

More contacts can mean more failures, but it also increases your chances of success. Each call puts you one step closer to victory. 

Tactics

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 response."

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 (jill.griffin@att.net), 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 management field.

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 profession.
  •  What are your major challenges and frustrations?
  •  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 for?
  • What publications do you read?
  • What professional associations do you belong to?
  • 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 theirs. 

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 friend."

The bottom line:

  • Start now, not when youíre in a crisis.
  •  Begin developing a network list.
  • Join a professional association and get involved.
  • Work through the list by calling and meeting people.
  • Expand the list.
  • Give back to your network.
  • Help others who are networking. 

Roy Harryman (rharryman@aol.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 last year. 

 

Networking Tips for Introverts
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.

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 level:

  •  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 get started.
  • 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. 

Bettina Seidman (seidbet@yahoo.com) 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 Management Professionals. 

 

 

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.
  • Smile.
  • 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 about themselves.
  • Make the other person feel important -- and do it sincerely.

--Roy Harryman 

 

Networking 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.