How to Make Networking Purposeful for Your Job Search

When you pursue new contacts in your job search network too casually and without focus, you not only waste your time, but you become frustrated. And when you become frustrated, you may give up.

Executive talent agent Debra Feldman (JobWhiz.com) personally conducts job searches for professionals and is widely respected as a master networker. Feldman advises you to ditch lottery-ticket-like networking habits and head for the people who are most likely to give you a good return on your time. She calls her method "networking purposefully."

Aim to find targeted connections to hiring decision makers.

It's a logical idea, but how does it work in practice? Here are two baseline tactics to make this strategy pay off for you.

Advance scouting

Before heading out to a live event such as a group meeting or industry conference, identify the people who are going to be there who you want to get to know — and ones who need to know how you can help them. Just call event producers and ask when a list of attendees will be available online or in print.

After obtaining the list of invited guests and presenters, do some research to see if you share mutual interests with your target connections. "Going in ready to talk about things your target likes to talk about changes you from a forgettable person with a pulse, to a memorable individual with obvious good judgment," Feldman observes. Research makes building new relationships much easier.

Selective aim

The quality of your connections is a far more important factor than their number, Feldman explains. "Set a goal for each event to get at least one strong new contact with a potential job lead, or with an individual who can refer you to a job lead, or with someone who can refer you to a hiring authority."

Examples of people Feldman identifies as being able to make referrals include employees of your target company, as well as its former employees and retirees. Others are vendors, suppliers, partners, consultants, bankers, auditors, customers, investors, advertisers, board members, and neighbors of employees.

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