So this is an article I have written for sharing on the Internet. It does toe the line between politically correct and incorrect. For some of these tactics, you should be a well polished communicator and know exactly what you are going to say. With that in mind, here we go….
Who am I? My name is Samuel Diener. I am 25, and I am networking for a job. I have been successful in my own ways. While I was employed, I used my skills to creatively network. I have built up a network of literally thousands who I can call to help me and I am not afraid to go “creatively network my ass off” when I need to either. Despite getting many interested inquiries, I haven’t found the right opportunity yet. But I am also like all of you, and I feel your pain. I, too, know what it feels like to submit my resume to the “perfect opportunity” seventy five times, and hear nothing back. I, too, collect unemployment, and it isn’t really enough to live off of, is it? If you aren’t getting results, I want to help you. And I will, trust me.
So who are you? Maybe you are just out of college after sinking a nice chunk of your own (cough, parents’) money into your education, or you might be a baby boomer in your fifties who just got laid off because the company was restructuring due to the, um, economy. I want to help you both. But here’s some tough love….. You need to accept that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who are the same as you, at least on paper. Wait, don’t leave! I have actual advice. And I know you are reading this because “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I am going to tell you how to “know” people in today’s business world, and my first secret is that the days of the “BIGGEST NETWORKING EVENT in blah blah blah” are over. Let’s get to how you really make an impact.
A word about networking: Networking is not about getting a job. Many people fail to realize that. If you think that it is only about finding the person that can get you the job you seek, you will fail, miserably.
I implore you to think about networking as kind of like making a group of friends. They have to want you in their circle, too. People make and maintain friendships with those that provide them value. So when you are thinking about ways to be creative, you will have MUCH more luck thinking about how you can help others, versus how they can help you.
Setting the mood for creativity: I am sure that you know this by now, but today’s best networking sometimes occurs right in front of your computer. But certain rules still apply. Do you remember the old adage “dress for success” and “conduct yourself as if?” A successful business person, or teacher, or whatever you want to be, doesn’t work from their dark basement. And they certainly don’t do it in their pajamas, or hung over from last night’s dance party, either. To truly be a good networker, you need to FEEL successful. Therefore, have a healthy breakfast. Work out. Get dressed AS IF you were going to be successful today. Then LEAVE the house. Take your laptop, and go to a coffee shop, park, or anywhere with people. I don’t really care where you go –just don’t sit in the house. Don’t meet up with anyone you know either. This is about getting out and surrounding yourself with NEW people. You didn’t think you were going to actually network sitting by yourself, did you? Do all of this, and I guarantee you will be more productive and insightful.
Profile Management: I just told you to be dressed for success and to leave the house. Why would you do that? Because you care about your first impression! You might as well assume that you could possibly meet the hiring manager at your next job at any point while you are out in public. And if you are being a creative networker, you ARE going to run into your future hiring manager. Would you want this person to meet you while you were out drunk at a bar hitting on who you know to be your next ex-girl/boyfriend? Or while you were out half shaven and hung over on a Saturday morning? Do you know what I am getting at? Well, don’t show them that online either!
When was the last time you “googled” or “binged” yourself? Seriously. Go and do it now. Look through the first three pages. I don’t care if the so and so “drunk and flashing on spring break” isn’t you. It still reflects poorly on you. You must manage your first impression. This is actually quite difficult as Google and Bing will pull pretty much anything you ever mention on the internet and index it in its’ search for everyone to see. I will be writing another article on fixing this stuff later. Or, you can plead with Google (good luck.)
Use Social Media Creatively: By now you should all have linked-in, Facebook, and twitter profiles. You more advanced users will have blogs. The best will have their own domain names. Embrace them all. But let’s look at each site.
Linked-in: Linked in shows off your professional front. There are so many ways to be helpful and to network on this site. When was the last time you took a look at the questions that users are putting out there and actually tried to answer some? Have you joined groups that pertain to your interests? Asked to moderate one? If there isn’t a group for your particular interest, have you started one? People do respond to you when you are the creator of a large group on linked-in that they have joined. Case in point, I created the linked-in group for Enterprise Rent-A-Car employees and its alumni. It now has nearly 2,000 members. I recently created another group for those previous employees looking for jobs and recruiters looking for them. I have a large group of people that I have helped network together, and they in turn help me. What do you do for others on there? If you can’t answer that, then it’s not nearly enough. Your first step should be to go to a job search group, then join, find someone who is looking for a job, and see if you can help them by connecting them with one of your contacts.
Facebook: This should be the most social of the three sites. Obviously you want to have the fun perspective of your personal life out there for everyone to see. Originally, Facebook was only for college students, and you could showcase all of your nights of debauchery and talk about whatever you wanted. Now, everyone is on Facebook, and you MUST limit what people can see. In any case, on to creativity.
The benefit of having so much information out there is that you can find out anything about anyone. Let’s say you are trying to get that job at XYZ company, and you use your linked-in account to find out who the hiring manager is. Then you go to Facebook and find out that he is going to the coffee house concert that your sister’s boyfriend’s friend is putting on. Well, by golly, you had better be there and work the room. Yes, it’s a little stalker-ish, but it’s dog-eat-dog out there.
There are many utilities on Facebook that can help you connect to others that you don’t know, based on mutual interests, or what you could conveniently front as an interest in order to garner an important connection. If you started a group based on your interests IRL (that’s “in real life”) then you can’t be hurting yourself. Also, have you thought about changing your picture to “I NEED A JOB?” Think outside the box!!!!
Twitter: This has a mind of its own. If you think it’s useless, then you are wrong all together. However, how to use twitter is beyond the scope of this article.
My personal feelings are that not only is twitter useful, but it gives you access to people you couldn’t access before. On Facebook and Linked-in, you are not able to directly connect to people you don’t know or that don’t know you. So in essence, those connections would never even know that they were interested in what you have to say. However, on twitter, your raw thoughts are put out there, and you could find that Oprah Winfrey is now connected to you. At that point, you can essentially send the equivalent of a text message to her. The creative goal here is to get as many followers as you can, and have as many people reading your messages as possible.
So, how do you build followers? Well, there are utilities to help, based on your interests. Take a look at Hummingbird or Twollow if you are willing to spend a few dollars. Otherwise, follow people that you are interested in, using the twitter search, and go from there. Also, if you want direct access to the hiring managers on twitter, take a look at twitterjobsearch.com and find out who is tweeting the jobs. It is only a matter of time before you start to interest those who can be helpful. You can follow who they follow, and find out what interests them. Guess what you talk about if you decide to make a cold call…
Getting a little more creative about where you network: Another little secret for you. Those people you want to meet, who can get you the job, are not at those huge networking functions. If you know your target industry, you had better be at every convention that is even a close match. They are your targets. Executives from companies get to go to conventions, and they are there with an open mind to learn new things, and believe me, they can make jobs open up. Just be there. You should be doing it for your own knowledge anyway. And if you don’t have the money to go to these conventions, stop drinking yourself silly, and use that money to go.
Also, start getting cultured in your daily activities. Getting drunk with your friends at a bar that has plastic cups isn’t going to get you face time with someone who can hire you. Instead, pick and choose where you go at all times very wisely. Instead of a dive bar, go to an upscale speakeasy. Instead of a rock concert, go to the symphony. Go to an art gallery! Are you catching my drift? Just keep thinking outside the box.
Do Unto Others: Remember when I said that people want to help people that help them. That being said, I am going to talk about some ways to be creative and help at the same time. Alright, so let’s say you find out that you are interested in the medical industry, for example. You should find a way to be volunteering your time. If you want to get a job in a hospital, apply to their volunteer program. Or, you could plan a community event that requires the hospital executives to be present. Apply the same theories to any other industry. You never know where you can get simply by volunteering your time. And it’s personally rewarding. I was always taught in sales that people buy from those they see as helpful. You are selling yourself.
A Final Lesson: People like to be listened to. Make sure in networking, you find a way to listen 90% of the time. People like those they can talk to.
Conclusions? I hope you all find my writing informative. I welcome any of your comments, and I will respond to all inquiries and job offers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep checking back for new writing. Good luck.