A recent Execunet survey of 3,600+ senior-level leaders reveals that 70% of them credit networking for their job search success and more than half of corporate and search firm recruiters find candidates this way.
Statistics vary on the success rate of various job search methods, but there’s no getting around the fact that networking by far tops the list.
Your executive job search and career brand toolkit should include diverse methods, but it just makes sense to concentrate most of your efforts where you’ll get the best results – networking.
Sure, it takes a lot of time to network. But the benefits are far-reaching and far outweigh the time spent.
The big bonus for spending time now keeping these connections alive kicks in the next time you have a job transition looming in front of you. If you haven’t let your network fizzle out through neglect, you’ll be top of mind in the hidden job market. When they hear about an unpublished job opportunity that sounds like a good fit for you, you’ll hear about it before most everyone else.
Wouldn’t you rather circumvent employer gatekeepers and connect directly with hiring decision makers?
Whether or not you’re actively searching, when your network is aware of your capabilities and value, you’ll hear about opportunities early in the game from influential people and may slide into a great new job without ever having to search. You’ll have the competitive advantage of being a known and preferred candidate.
With top-level executive tenures lasting 2 years or less, you may be jumping into a new assignment before you know it. If your network is clicking, you may never have to experience the trepidation and pressure daunting so many executives when they face a new job search.
The key to good networking is to give more than you take. Cultivate relationships slowly and unselfishly, while making your brand and value evident.
Let’s get to the 10 essential networking actions you should be incorporating into your routine, with an 11th bonus tip:
1. Compile a list of your target employers and any of your contacts associated in any way with those employers. Reconnect with them and see how they’re doing. Tread lightly. Don’t hit them up for a job, just touch base with them.
2. Give before you take. Send out a steady stream of communications to your contacts by email, phone, and regular mail. Set up in-person or phone meetings to catch up; mail them special occasion and holiday cards; let them know about upcoming relevant teleseminars or webinars; email a link to a compelling blog post, website or article; update them on activities of other mutual contacts, etc.
3. Create value for your network. Continue nurturing and supporting your connections. Draw them into your extended network. Make an introduction or referral for a contact; invite them to your networking events; mention them in a blog post. Find ways to help those who can help you. They’ll remember your generosity when it’s time for you to ask them for help.
4. Rely on your existing contacts to expand your network. Ask for their referrals and recommendations to their connections at your target companies.
5. Look beyond your contacts to add new connections affiliated with potential employers. Do some targeted company research to identify top decision makers at those companies, or people who may have decision makers in their networks, and start connecting with them.
To develop new leads:
- Search each company’s website;
- Look into company alumni groups (scroll down job-hunt.org’s list of corporate alumni groups);
- Look for company profiles at places like Hoovers, Onesource, and Fortune;
- Search companies on LinkedIn;
- Check out relevant trade publications.
6. Participate in industry-related events. Offer to give a presentation at an industry convention; chair a conference committee; set up a relevant Yahoo! or Google group, etc. Stay in touch with the old or new-found connections you make through these activities.
7. Connect on a local level by volunteering. Tap into your areas of expertise to lead and/or participate in community events, PTA efforts, organization Boards of Directors, fundraising efforts, sports activities, etc.
8. Get involved with relevant professional associations. Hobnob with other niche experts and thought leaders. Join committees and communicate through their e-lists. Write articles within your areas of expertise for their newsletters and Websites. Mentor a new member and/or less experienced professional. Check out job-hunt.org’s extensive list of professional associations and societies by industry.
9. Amplify your online visibility and credibility. Build your VisualCV; get blogging in some way; comment on relevant blogs and link back to your blog or website/portfolio; join, write an on-brand profile, and connect on online business/social networking sites (especially LinkedIn); publish an e-book, etc.
10. Establish and coordinate networking groups to meet on a regular basis either in-person, by phone, or through an online group. Focus on different relevant topics each time you meet, talk about new ideas and new connections, or freewheel and simply update each other.
And one of the most neglected networking best-practices:
11. Say thank you a lot – in person and on paper. Nothing shows your appreciation better than a hand-written and regular-mailed thank you note for an introduction, kindness or special gesture. And remember to extend your compliments to presenters and contributors at industry events, and anyone whose work was valuable and impressed you.
Your take-away from all these concerted efforts? Strategically spreading your personal brand and value across diverse outlets on- and off-line will link you to opportunities that otherwise may have been invisible to you. You just never know who may lead you to a key decision maker and when a great opportunity may literally fall in your lap.
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