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The reason that networking works so well when looking for a new position is due to a concept known as the multiplier effect. In other words, by contacting friends and business associates you know personally, you should be able to tap into their social network (people they know) in order to develop new leads, and from those leads develop yet other leads, and so on. By continuing this process until you land a position, networking allows you to transition a small handful of contacts into potentially hundreds of people willing to provide at least some assistance in your job search. The ability to ultimately recruit the assistance of so many people, most of whom you won’t even know, makes networking the most potent weapon in your job-search arsenal.

Your Initial List of Networking Contacts
Once you have established your initial list of contacts (people you know personally), try to determine which of them are likely to be of more help than others. By focusing on your best-connected contacts first, particularly those having target company or industry connections, you improve your chances of shortening your job-search time. Just be careful that you do not underestimate any contact’s potential value in providing meaningful assistance to help you find a new position. It is simply a matter of prioritizing your list of contacts so that you get the fastest possible start right out of the gate.

Many first-time networkers develop a slight case of nerves when making their first few contacts, even though they are dealing with friends and known business associates. To help alleviate this problem, make sure you are completely familiar with your script, but do not memorize it to the extent that you sound too mechanical. If, however, you feel especially nervous about making your first few calls, reverse the recommended process and speak with a few of your less promising contacts to get some practical experience before calling your best-connected leads. You should become much more relaxed after making a few “practice” calls.

Your past relationship with initial contacts should make it fairly easy to establish a good rapport, but don’t try to “wing it” with them. Before speaking with anyone, make a determination as to how you want to focus the conversation with that particular person in order to optimize his or her assistance. This may be accomplished by asking yourself a question. That is, “From what I know about this person, what guidance or help will he or she most likely be able to provide that will help me the most?” You may then create a customized script (series of questions) for each person with whom you speak, based on the individual’s operational expertise, organizational level, relationship with your targeted companies or industries, and any other criteria you consider important.

Calling Your Initial List of Contacts and Asking for Leads
Your opening telephone script is likely to vary considerably depending on your relationship with the contact, but it might sound something like the following: “Tom, I have a favor to ask of you. It shouldn’t take much time, but it would really be very helpful. I am beginning a job search in order to find a new senior-level sales and marketing position that will allow me to operate in the global marketplace, as opposed to just focusing on the domestic market as I do in my current position. Now, I don’t expect you to know of a job, but I would appreciate about 30 minutes of your time on the telephone (the opportunity to meet with you at your office later this week) in order to discuss my options and get some honest feedback from you regarding my job search. Your opinions and suggestions would be very helpful in pointing me in the right direction. And needless to say, I would be happy to return the favor if you ever need my assistance. Is this a good time, or would you prefer to talk later this week?”

Even though one of your key objectives is to obtain the names of new leads for the next round of calls, never allude to this fact until the conversation is nearly over. If you ask for the names of additional referrals too early in the discussion, the contact may feel you are only tying to use him or her as a stepping stone, which could cause resentment and possibly damage your relationship.

When given the name of a new referral, be sure to ask your contact some basic questions about the lead. Not only will the information prove helpful in creating the script for that lead, but it should also serve you well in breaking the ice with the person when you place your call at a later time. For example: “Is there anything of particular note that he or she has done or accomplished?” “How do you think I should approach this person?” “Are there any specific areas where you feel he or she could be particularly helpful?” “In what operational areas does he or she excel?” “Does he or she have any interesting hobbies?” Don’t forget, of course, to ask permission to use the name of the person giving you the lead. Never assume that just because someone provides you with the name of a lead that it is automatically permissible to use his or her name as a reference.

Occasionally, one of your contacts may offer to send your executive resume to someone else on your behalf. If this occurs, express your appreciation for the assistance and ask for the name, title, and other pertinent information about the person who is to receive your executive resume. After sending your initial contact several unfolded copies of your executive resume, wait about 10 days and call the recipient just as you would with any other new lead. Don’t be surprised, however, to discover that your well-meaning associate did not send your executive resume as promised. If your new lead has no idea who you are, proceed just as you would with any other referral.

The Importance of Record Keeping
Major job networking projects can turn into sheer chaos if you don’t establish a good record-keeping system right from the start. After completing one or two hundred phone calls, you won’t even remember the names of most of your contacts, much less what they had to say or the names of new leads they supplied. By establishing an efficient record-keeping system in the beginning, the critical information you collect will not be lost, follow-up calls will be completed on a timely basis, and you can be assured of conducting a thorough and effective networking process.

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