Monday, November 23, 2009

What Am I Doing Wrong? Networking Revisited

I have a new client, a senior IT professional, who has been struggling in his search for new employment. Though he has a well-documented track record, he’s had a very hard time getting interviews. His main search strategy has been to use the job boards, and after sending out at least 500 resumes in response to job openings, he has had exactly 8 interviews. His success rate of 1.6% is not very good, to say the least, but probably sounds all too familiar to those of you who utilize any of the local and national job boards.

He came to coaching with the question, “What am I doing wrong?” My response was that nearly everyone’s experience with posted jobs is about the same, and that if he relies only or primarily on “visible” job openings, he is severely limiting his odds of getting an interview. I added that he has “blinded” himself to the many opportunities that exist only in the hidden job market, those that never see the light of day.

When we started talking about networking, he laughed, and responded that he hasn’t been networking because he felt that someone at his level shouldn’t need to “beg” people for work or connections. He sees networking as a vague process and beneath his stature and experience. When we explored further, it turned out that he was embarrassed about networking mainly because he didn’t know how to tell his story in a way that was compelling and that he didn’t really know how to ask for help.

We began by having him script and practice his elevator pitch. The first thing I asked him to describe was his “hook;” a word, phrase or sentence that would get a listener immediately in the mood to hear more about who he is and what he has to offer. It was no surprise that he was unable to articulate his hook, and so that became his first homework assignment.

We then focused on how he could ask for help so that people would be likely to offer him useful ideas, information, or advice. He immediately recognized that asking directly for a job or leads to job openings was too blunt, especially if he was meeting someone for the first time. He also realized that he was much more likely to gain support if he framed his request in a way that people would respond with “yes,” instead of “no”. This, then, became his second homework assignment: How to ask for help so that people will give a positive and supportive response.

Best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving.

Mark Guterman