Is it socially acceptable to go up to random people on the street and invite them to coffee? Typically, no. You need to have a reason to meet, and it is up to you to come up with the reason before you do the inviting!
Research is a key factor for successful networking. I like to tell my clients, “Don’t look for a job, look for a company.” Similarly, Ã‚Â networkers should not first try to identify a list of people to meet, but rather identify organizations to infiltrate.
How to begin? Easy!
Think about geography. It’s always easier to connect in person with people who are local. Plus, are you willing to relocate for a job? If not, clearly, the organizations in your area will be your targets. Use all available resources to identify organizations of interest in your area. Don’t forget word-of-mouth resources, newspapers, information online and business journals.
Julie Abraham had some great ideas posted on Career Rocketeer to help job seekers:
“Research these companies by looking at their website to understand their mission and values. Use Hoovers or Yahoo finance or some other library database (like Mergent) to look up financials (if public company), read the most recent annual 10-K report (if public company) to understand their strategy and vision, check their website for PR articles and look up articles on Proquest or some other database at the library.
This should give you a good understanding of the companies strengths and weaknesses so you can ask intelligent questions when you speak with an officer of the company. Set-up Google alerts on these companies so you can read any breaking news. Search them on Twitter and other social media sites to understand their social media presence.”
Once you have identified several organizations, begin to tap your way into them. Leverage your LinkedIn connections and search other social networks (Twitter is my favorite) to determine logical connections. Now, it is time to contact people.
Every time I talk to clients about informational interviews, I always emphasize the importance of approaching contacts NOT as a job seeker, but as someone who is simply gathering information. If you can convince yourself AND the person you want to meet that you don’t expect the meeting to result in a job, you are much more likely to be successful securing appointments.
Let’s face it, if you approach as a job seeker, (“I am looking for an opportunity working in _____, and I would like to talk to you about positions at your organization.”), your contact will not want to speak to you unless he or she actually has an opportunity in mind. No one wants to disappoint another person, so if your target contact has no job in sight, he or she is likely to suggest that you send your resume to HR.
That tact will not help you get your foot in the door, and does not connect you one-on-one to a potential ally. So, be polite, but persistent.Ã‚Â Insist that you are gathering information, “not expecting a specific opportunity as a result of our meeting,” and push to talk to contacts in person. If your targeted contact is not interested, ask for a referral. (“I appreciate that you are too busy to meet. Is there someone else in your department who might be able to speak with me?)
The fact is, most people love to talk about themselves, and few of us have a willing audience for our stories! Ask yourself, if someone called you andÃ‚Â requested that you share your story and information about your organization (assuming you weren’t working with classified information), what would you say? I would bet that most of you would be willing to help.
Stay tuned for information about what to ask once you land the meeting!
If you’re ready to hire someone to help you move ahead with your plans, contact me to find out how you can boost your job search – both online and off line. Check out my new book, Social Networking for Career Success, to learn how to use Branchout and other social networking tools to your advantage!
photo by BW Jones