Schmooze or lose: networking for your next job

Linda Zamer, Former Director, JVS Career Counseling & Placement

A personal contact may be the key that opens the golden door to your future; however, most of us are reluctant to use personal contacts to help us in our job search. This paper will outline proven techniques that will help you identify, and then link with others in order to build an ever expanding network of personal contacts who can provide information, advice, support, ideas-more contacts-and, maybe even your next job.

How to Network
Here are a list of points to guide you toward your first networking meeting:

  • Meet as many people as you can. Tell them briefly what you do. Networking is low-cost advertising.
  • Don't wait to be introduced. Introduce yourself. Act like a host, not a guest.
  • Don't do business while networking. Make a date to meet your contact at a mutually convenient time. Exchange business cards, whet his/her appetite with your enthusiasm and your interest in a future meeting.
  • Be brief and to the point. Don't ask for a job: ask for suggestions, advice, contacts.
  • Give and get. Do favors. People will remember you for them.
  • Follow-up. This is all important. Meeting someone is just the beginning. Stay in touch. If you haven't talked to someone in a while, call to offer information, to ask advice, to keep in touch.
  • Make friends even when you don't need them.
  • Edit your contacts. Eventually you have to separate the productive from the nonproductive. You can't be involved with all your contacts.

The Networking Meeting: An Overview
Here are some tips to remember when you finally have that networking meeting:

  • Assure the person that you are not there to ask for a job! Thank him/her in advance for meeting with you. "I want to make it clear that I did not come here to ask for a job or even expect that you know of an opening. What I need at this point is some information and advice from you."
  • Provide a brief work related summary highlighting your general background, work experience, and several specific accomplishments. This should not take more than several minutes, at most.
  • Ask questions and gather information. Elicit the contact's views and opinions about the job market, where you might fit in and employment trends in your industry.
  • Ask for names of other people you might meet or talk with to gather additional information.
  • Close positively and courteously, thanking the contact for the meeting and indicating that you will stay in touch.
  • Follow up immediately with a brief, sincere, well-written thank you note.

Networking Questions for Career Changes
If you are changing careers, here is a set of questions you can use during your networking meeting:

  • How did you get started in this field or obtain your job?
  • What are the responsibilities of your job?
  • How would you describe a typical day in your current job?
  • What do you like best about your job?
  • What aspects of your work do you like the least?
  • Are there jobs that are similar to yours but with different job titles?
  • What are some common problems in this job/industry?
  • How long does it usually take to move from one step to the next in this career?
  • Are there other areas of this field to transfer to what are they?
  • What are the basic prerequisites for jobs in this field?
  • Are there any specific courses you would recommend in preparation for this field?
  • What entry level job would best qualify one for this field?
  • What types of training do companies provide to people entering this field?
  • What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
  • What is the demand for people in this field?
  • How do you see the jobs in this field changing over the next five to ten years? What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
  • What periodicals or trade journals would you recommend that I read to learn more about this field?
  • What is the best way to obtain a position to start my career in this field?
  • Is there anyone else you can suggest whom I might benefit from talking with?

For more information about this or other topics related to your job search, contact Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest or the author.