Most people realize networking is an effective way to find jobs. But networking isn’t a subject that’s taught in school so not everyone knows how to do it. In this job searching tip, we’re going to address the question of how to network with people you haven’t talked to for a while.
QUESTION FROM A SUBSCRIBER:
I have been out of work for several years, and am now looking to get back into the workforce. I know they say that networking is the preferred way to find jobs, buy I haven’t talked to my old network for over two years. I feel reluctant to call people I haven’t talked with in several years, since it’s obvious that I’m only calling to see about help
finding a job, no matter how I couch it. I’m over 50 which I know doesn’t help. I should add that when I first started looking (before having to stop), my contacts weren’t helpful. Is it worth trying them anyway?
It always makes sense to try networking with people you already know when looking for finding a job. Even if they weren’t able to help you a couple years ago. People are constantly meeting new people, so people in your contacts’ networks have changed since you last talked to them and some of them may be in a better position to help you. The average professional person has at least 200 contacts in their rolodex. Even if you have only a fraction of that number in yours, let’s say 50, you still have potentially 10,000 people who can help you find a job because 50 times 200 = 10,000. The key is to motivate people in your network to make them want to help you land a new position.
You are right that when you first make contact with people you haven’t talked to for a while, at least some of them will believe your only motivation is to get help finding a job. That is not necessarily a bad thing. People understand how important it is to have a job and most people in this world are good-natured and want to be helpful. Even if you just reach out to people in your network and explicitly ask them for help finding a job, you will most likely get some positive responses. However, if you want to get people to really go to bat for you and to really think about who they might know that could help you, there has to be something in it for them — whether it’s a professional motivation or a personal one.
People who are really good at networking tend to be genuinely concerned about other people and constantly looking for ways to help people they know. When you call someone you haven’t talked to for a while, find out what’s going on with them personally and professionally. Find out what their interests are. Networking expert Harvey MacKay developed a list of 66 questions ranging from Spouse’s name to favorite foods and sports teams. When you’re starting a relationship with someone — or in your case, re-starting a relationship, one of your initial goals should be to learn about the person and their motivations and interests. It’s not really important that you get them to help you find a job on the first phone call. If you’re really looking to maximize the value of your network, you should look to create a relationship with the person and have a reason/excuse to talk to them again in the near future.
Once you know some things about a person in your network, you’ll naturally find reasons to get in touch with them. If you find out they’re a Yankees fan, you might e-mail them after a spectacular Yankee game and ask them what they thought of it. Or if you find out they’re into fitness, you might e-mail them an article you came across about exercise techniques. These little communications — especially if they’re thoughtful and/or helpful — will keep you on the person’s radar screen and they’ll be more likely to think about you and your situation when they’re talking to other people they know.
It also might make sense for you to start working on expanding your network of contacts. Now that you’ve gotten a sense of the basics of networking effectively with other people, why not apply those techniques to working with recruiters? The great thing about recruiters is they are in the business of knowing people who can help you find a new position. Posting your resume on several job boards is one effective way of getting in front of a lot of recruiters.
Another approach to getting in touch with recruiters is to e-mail your resume to them.