Networking is a job search technique that will considerably increase your visibility and will lead you to discover job opportunities unknown to other job seekers. In fact, networking is the best strategy to get both an interview and a job offer since experience tells us that:
1. Adopt a positive attitude, have confidence in yourself and take action
Informational interviews have two goals: gathering information (i.e. market trends, occupations, companies, industries) and obtain recommendations (i.e. training, other resource persons); this is very gratifying for your contact as he can help you make important decisions and find other people to add to your network. Informational interviews should never be used to sell yourself in order to get a job and making this clear from the onset will help you and your contact relax. If you are not sure about this technique, ask yourself: if someone cannot help me or refuses to see me, will I survive? And the answer is yes… so go for it! However, it is essential to carefully plan and target your networking activities. If they only serve to keep you busy, you will be disappointed or even discouraged.
2. Know who you are and what you are looking for (your goal)
If you don't know what you are looking for, it will be very difficult for your contact to help you. With a solid knowledge of your interests, values and skills (use your CareerLeader or CareerLeader-College results), you can clearly explain what you are looking for and your contact will be in a position to help you determine how to reach your goal.
3. Prepare a solid strategy ahead of time
For example, prior to meeting people, clearly identify your possible contacts: people who have a similar occupation as the one you are looking for, people who make or distribute products or services you are interested in, people who have many contacts in the community like professionals who have clients (i.e. lawyers, accountants, dentists, physicians, etc.), members of professional associations, HEC Montréal alumni, etc.
4. Quickly win your contact's attention
Prepare intelligent and relevant questions on the work and industry of your contact and avoid trivial questions that could have been answered with some preliminary research. Question your contacts on specific issues that will help you decide if this is an area you can relate to. Write down your questions ahead of time and take notes during the interview. Expand your network by asking for referrals. Show openness towards the ideas of others. You never know who can be of help to you.
Some examples of questions to ask:
5. Respect the other person's schedule: be brief, honest and open
During a reception, do not take up all of someone's time. After a few minutes, give someone else a chance. During an informational interview, be prepared ahead of time and plan on a 20-minute interview, no more. Here is how it should be planned:
6. Dress appropriately, be polite and professional at all times
The person you are meeting is already assessing you even before you start the interview. Dress as you would if you had the position. It is better to dress according to the company's dress code. Small introductory talk is important, use it to establish a friendly contact. A firm handshake is important at the beginning and at the end of your interview. Give your name slowly and clearly and the reason for your interview.
Never be familiar or on a first-name basis and be mindful about body language (i.e. yours and your contact's). Treat each person you talk to as you would like to be treated. Thank your contact and confirm how you will follow up.
7. Always follow-up
After your interview, record your notes and send a thank you card or letter to your contact. Do not hesitate to recall a particularly helpful piece of information that was very useful to you. Remember that if you do not keep in touch, they will presume that you have found a job. It is therefore paramount to inform them or your progress, from time to time. After accepting a job offer, let your contacts know and thank them again for their help with your job search process.
8. Assess your effectiveness and determine what you would do differently the next time.
For example, if you muddled on the phone, prepare a script ahead of time and have your notes next to you when calling. When you come back from an informational interview, make a thorough assessment of yourself and the effectiveness of your interview. For example, how can you improve your approach and do better the next time? How can you develop more relevant questions that will lead to getting useful information for your job search?
9. Learn how to deal with obstacles
Choose the right moment to call. It is usually more effective to call early in the morning (before 9:00 a.m.) or after 4:30 p.m. It is usually better to contact people at the beginning of the week. Understand that the assistant has responsibilities also: screening calls, protecting his/her boss and give information. Help him/her by stating the reason for your call, ask what the best time would be to call back and use the voice-mail efficiently: leave a detailed message, with professionalism and specify the best time to contact you.
10. Keep detailed records (date, name, occupation, company, telephone and comments)
Remember who referred you and the people you talked to.
Important: Correct spelling and pronunciation of the person's name.