Two Ways to Network Smarter

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: April 9, 2008 - 11:14 AM

Networking can be a great way to connect with employers. Tap into existing networks and make new contacts by using websites like Hoovers.com and LinkedIn.com.

Kevin Donlin

Photo: Star Tribune Sales and Marketing, StarTribune.com

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Networking – everyone will tell you it's a great way to connect with employers.

Yet, I get more questions and complaints from readers about networking than almost any other employment topic.

Why is that?

Here's an example. Russ, in Minneapolis, writes:

    I am looking for a job. The problem is that I have not the foggiest idea where to network. I am looking for a management position, possibly in manufacturing, but I don't know who to talk to. Do you know of gatherings, clubs or user groups where I could start?

Let's see if we can help Russ – and you – network smarter, and get hired faster ...

First, Russ should tap the latent value of his existing network.

Think about this: If you're, say, 40 years old with friends dating back to college, you've built up 20 years of "relationship equity" with those people over the years. What a huge asset that is!

I suggest you send an email inquiry to everyone you know, like this:

    Hi! I hope this email finds you and your family well. Would you do me a quick favor? I'm in the job market, looking for a manufacturing management position, with a company like Caterpillar, Honda or Toro. Who do you know that I should be talking to at those companies, or one like them? If you could send me their name and contact information, I would really appreciate it!

Better still, pick up the phone and call the 20 most-connected people you know and use the above message as your script.

Second, Russ should add new people to his network.

Start by visiting Hoovers.com, a treasure trove of corporate data. Here, I searched for "manufacturing" under the Industry/Keyword option and found 63 different industries.

I narrowed it to "Construction, Mining & Other Heavy Equipment Manufacturing," which returned 10 company names on the first page, including Deere, Komatsu, and Caterpillar.

Clicking on the Caterpillar listing returned such data as what they manufacture, news and financial links, a list of top executives, and the heading, "Latest Caterpillar Jobs."

Clicking that jobs link brought up a page of openings nationwide, including one for a Warehouse Associate in St. Paul. Now, Russ wants a management job, so this opening looks unsuitable at first glance.

But here's where Russ – and you – can get creative.

We know that Caterpillar is hiring for a location in St. Paul. Why not connect with an employee there using a service like LinkedIn.com? If you know someone on the "inside," they can tell you of any plans to hire management positions. Your target employer may even create a new position just for you. But you'll never know unless you ask someone who works there.

At LinkedIn.com, I searched for "Caterpillar St. Paul" and found 3 people listed who work at Caterpillar in St. Paul. Bingo.

Here's how to contact these folks by email, according to Jason Alba, author of "I'm On LinkedIn. Now What?" Alba suggests you send them something like this:

    Dear Joe,

    Sally Smith recommended that I get in touch with you. I'm a manufacturing manager, an area in which Sally said you have a lot of experience. She also said you are very well connected and would know some of the best networking opportunities. Would you have time this week or next for me to treat you to lunch?

There are 4 key elements in this email, according to Alba:

  • Drop a name (first and last). This has to be real. If Joe contacts Sally, your story must add up, or you're sunk.
  • Give your bio. Don't ask for a job, but do tell who you are and what your field is.
  • Find common ground. Describe how your job search coincides with Joe's interests, and state how Sally recommends Joe as an expert to learn from.
  • Invite them to lunch. "I find the best relationship building is face-to-face, over lunch. You'll have more of their attention this way than if you simply exchange emails," says Alba. Just remember: You invited, so you pay!

So there you have it. Two ways to network smarter: Tap your existing network, and reach out to new people using Hoovers.com and LinkedIn.com.

You can get hired either way. Why not try both and find your next job even faster?


Kevin Donlin is creator of TheSimpleJobSearch.com. Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 11,000 people. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio and others. His free report, The Simple Job Search Manifesto, is found at www.TheSimpleJobSearch.com.
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