Three Networking Tips from the Pros

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 6, 2009 - 2:49 PM

This week I am re-running three of the best networking tips I have found recently to help you find a job faster.

These proven networking tactics get results in good times and in bad.

Which can you try today?

1) Network with the Recently Departed
David Perry, author of “Guerrilla Marketing For Job Hunters 2.0,” shares a unique way to find and connect with employers using Google.

It’s this: Find and call people who used to work where you want to work now.

“The fastest way to learn the real workings of an organization is to Google past employees and call them up. This is exactly what I do. Before I take a recruiting assignment from a company to place an executive there, I want to know if I’m walking into a hornet’s nest,” says Perry.

Here’s how to do it …

Google the name of your target employer and the word “resume.” The search results will include resumes of people who used work there. (You may want to add the word “experience” to “resume” in your search; experiment using Google’s Advanced Search options.)

Once you find resumes, pick up the phone and call. Say: “Hi my name is _________. I’m researching XYZ Corp. and it looks like you used to work there because I found your resume online. I’m thinking of applying for a job there. May I ask you a few questions? I know this is an unusual way to do a job search ...”

Most people will be impressed by your initiative, flattered to be asked for their opinion and willing to help you out.

“You want to learn about three areas: the company and its culture; the department you would work in; and the name of the manager you would report to,” says Perry.

Finish your conversation with this all-important question: “If I decide to talk with them, may I say that I spoke with you?”

“You ask this for two reasons,” advises Perry. “First, if they left on good terms, you can drop that former employee’s name when contacting the company to ask for a meeting. Second, that person may phone his old boss and tell him or her to keep an eye out for the smart person who just called -- that would be you.”

If you’re hesitant about this technique, try it on a company you have no intention of applying to. Work out the bugs first, then network your way into your ideal employer.

2) Recognize -- and Work Around -- Your Shyness

If you’re shy about calling strangers to discuss your job search, take heart -- so are most other people!

“It’s a myth that you have to be an extrovert to network. It’s not about personality at all. Networking is simply a skill,” says Donna Fisher, author of “Power Networking: 59 Secrets for Personal & Professional Success.”

Tip: Focus your attention on others and how you can help them, because this automatically makes you less self-conscious. “Once you realize that others feel awkward, too, you’re going to feel more natural, network better and gather valuable information,” says Fisher, who confesses to being somewhat shy herself.

Yet, even an introvert can start a good conversation. All you have to do is let the other person talk about themselves. Fisher suggests these openings the next time you find yourself at a networking function:

  • “How did you get involved with the ____ Club?”
  • “Can you tell me a little bit about this organization?”
  • “What made you decide to go into your line of work?”

3) Follow a “Wish List”
Before you start networking to find a job, you have to know where you’re going.

“Through job postings, online information and network connections, [you should] create a wish list of the companies where you would like to work,” suggests ExecuNet Vice President, Lauryn Franzoni.

Once you have specific employers in mind, your network can lead you to people you need to meet. “The more you know about a company and the problems they face, the better positioned you are to demonstrate how you can help,” says Franzoni.

People respect -- and are quick to help -- other people who know where they’re going.

So, help others help you. You absolutely need to know where you’re going -- the names of 10-20 companies you want to work for. With this “wish list” in hand, it’s a simple matter of finding people you know (or, more likely, people they know) at your target companies, and getting referred to a hiring manager there.


Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0.” Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com


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