After he was laid off by a U.S. automaker, Tom French spent six difficult
months in the job market, but then received a high-paying offer as Vice
President of Finance for an electronic chip manufacturer in California.
Mr. French found his position through networking, and he has maintained
his hard-earned contacts for two years now. That's unusual, because many
job hunters abandon networking once they're happily re-employed.
When I asked Tom why he's maintaining his network and how he does it, he said, "What would happen if someone walked off with your Rolodex? How long would it take to recover your files? I was surprised and dismayed when my employer refused me access to my own Rolodex the day I was terminated. They defined it as company property. As a result, I spent three weeks rebuilding my lists, and many names were permanently lost. That frustrating exercise added an extra month to my job search."
"Therefore," he advises, "if you haven't already done so, put your business and personal contact names, addresses and telephone numbers onto an electronic database. (Something like ACT! or Excel.) That way you can update records instantly as changes come in."
Now, hardly a day goes by that Tom doesn't access his database, and his network is growing, not shrinking. "I now track 350 contacts, up from 260 last year," he reports. "Copy your list onto a disk and keep backups using Data Deposit Box to prevent loss by fire or theft. That way, you'll have instant access to your network even while traveling."
Susan James spent four frustrating months in the job market, but then moved up from Controller in a small asbestos abatement company to Chief Financial Officer in a national environmental consulting firm. "Send a letter to everyone you encountered in the job hunt," she suggests.
"Thank them for their help, explain your new duties and responsibilities, give your title, address, and telephone number. Include an anecdote or two from the search, especially something positive, upbeat, or unusual. Perhaps you met someone famous or well-known, or learned something new and different." Ms. James met several well-known movie celebrities during her search. Naming them in her correspondence and sharing tidbits of insider information made fascinating reading.
"If you're earning $30,000 or more, send a press release to the business editor of your local newspapers and trade journals announcing your move," advises Brad Bawmann, Director of Public Relations for Columbia Hospital. "A press release is nothing more than a standard business letter with the headline 'FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.' Look in the media and model your words after those in the business section. Type and double-space your text," Brad says. "Send a professional black-and-white photo of yourselfpoor photos are bad publicityand include a daytime telephone number."
"A published announcement tells your friends and colleaguesand especially executive recruitersyour whereabouts," says Tom. His photo was published in two major metropolitan dailies, and he was featured in a four-page industry trade journal article. "I received great publicity for such a small effort," he admits.
Join at least two professional organizations, one in your functional area (say accounting), and one in your industry (say manufacturing). Then join one group that crosses industry lines, for example, the Chamber of Commerce. It's dangerous to be active and visible only in one industry, as many oilfield executives have recently learned. If your industry declines, or disappears entirely, you career could be in jeopardy.
"All my contacts were in the oilfield," says Mike Johnston, former Division Manager for a major oil company. I belonged to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, The Society of Petroleum Engineers, and The Society of Professional Well Log Analysts. When I lost my oilfield job, I had no ties to any other industry. Everyone viewed me as an outsider. Looking back, I could have found an executive job sooner if only I had made connections in other fields."
"Don't be just a joiner, either," warns Fran Sincere, SPHR, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Kaiser-Permanente. "Participate heavily in at least one association or trade group. Attempt to hold an office. Make a contribution. That way you'll be known and recognized as an industry leader. Write articles for your association's newsletter or become a speaker or workshop leader at their functions."
Susan James writes a monthly column for the California Society of CPAs. " As a result," she says, "three recruiters have called to seek information about me. Apparently, I'm becoming visiblestanding out from the crowd."
"Put 110% into your new job, but hang back initially to get the lay of the land," adds Roy J. Wilson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Pearle Vision, Inc. "Learn who the key players are, and what their expectations are. Don't jump in with both feet in the wrong direction. Although you want to get ahead, don't overcompete with your peers. They will serve as references and employers for you in the future; so don't try to get ahead by 'beating them out.'"
Susan waited at least six weeks before making major changes in her department. First, she listened, took notes, and bounced ideas off her colleagues. When she finally revamped the management reporting systems, she had the full support of both her immediate work group and top management. "The project went like clockwork, she says, "and I was promoted to Vice President of Finance after only eighteen months."
Remember to help others who call in need of advice. This sounds simple, but often only the recently re-employedespecially those who've finished a difficult job searchrecognize the importance of helping other job seekers. "Never turn a job hunter away empty-handed," advises Tom. "Give them the name of someone to contact, send them a trade journal article, call someone on their behalf, or simply give them a pep talk. If you do something to help, chances are those whom you help will return the favor, perhaps when you or a family member are in the job market."
As a hobby, Tom has become a part-time career advisor. "I reserve at least two hours monthly to counsel job seekers in my office," he says. "I'm building a reputation for networking and I'm developing deep, long-lasting friendships along the way."
"Contact everyone in your network at least twice a year, in person, by telephone, or by mail," reminds Brad. Try writing a personal newsletter. Include a useful business article: something you've clipped, or preferably something you've written yourself and published."
Two or three times a year Susan writes personal letters to friends and attaches copies of her published articles. "Networking," she says, "is the best thing that ever happened to me. It produced my highest-paying job. I'm certainly not going to abandon my business contacts now that I'm happily employed."
Tom agrees. "I was unemployed for six months because I didn't have a network. Strangers wouldn't return my phone calls. I jokingly said, 'I've been working, not networking,' but being unemployed wasn't especially funny. Now, thanks to this hard-earned lesson, I'm both working and networking."
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