In the course of one’s career, one may change jobs and companies, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Networking is a key skill that can open up new opportunities, but it needs to be worked on and requires a method. Daniel Porot explains why networking does not always work, what mistakes to avoid and, above all, how to be effective.

Network with the right approach

The concept of networking is often misinterpreted. Candidates approach networking with a double intention that does not work. On the one hand, they are looking to gather information about jobs, recruiters, companies that interest them. On the other hand, they are in action, looking for concrete job leads, meetings with HR managers. This two-pronged approach is ineffective, even catastrophic. Networking must absolutely be limited to one approach: gathering information. Why? Because if a candidate immediately targets a job, a lead or a recommendation, his or her contact will most often limit himself or herself to asking for a CV, which will be thrown away after a few days or distributed in an anarchic way, without much result. On the other hand, by restricting themselves to asking only for information from their contact, the candidate will put them at ease without pressure, allowing them to open up and give first class information.

Define your targets well

A clearly defined target audience allows you to know which companies to approach, which positions might be suitable, details of certain recruiters and decision-makers. When identifying a target, even if it seems unnatural, it is not wise to make an appointment with the most ‘outstanding’ or ‘high profile’ person at the outset, thinking that this will save time and reduce the number of interviews. On the contrary, it is important to go gradually and start with a modest target. It is only after the third or fourth interview that a candidate is comfortable, masters the information interview technique and asks strategically relevant questions. It is advisable not to contact a person with a much higher level than the one sought. Finally, if done well, people are often happy to share their experience and show that they have something to pass on.

Prepare for your interview

In a job interview, it is the recruiter who asks the questions. But in an information interview it is the candidate who asks questions. A large majority of people go to information interviews unprepared, thinking that they are « natural ». This is a big mistake, as the questions asked are basic and flat, leading to basic and flat answers. It is therefore essential to spend time finding out more via the Internet and social networks in order to get to know the interviewer, his or her environment, but also his or her jargon and key words. Obtaining information is only possible if you have a common language. Another reflex is that the candidate will also be questioned, but he or she must practise answering concisely so as not to take up too much time. It is the ‘resource’ person contacted who should speak. This attitude allows you to learn more about the job and the sector you are looking for than by talking about yourself, especially if the interview is short. Finally, it is important to plan questions that involve the interviewer and make him/her want to answer, such as: « How did you manage to get into your current job, what do you like most, what do you like least?

Secure your interlocutor

When a candidate contacts a person recommended by a third party, delicacy is required. It is good to contextualise and clarify the intentions: who is the intermediary contact making the connection, what are the expectations, explain that the interview will be short and will not exceed about 20 minutes. An unemployed person should not appear desperate, but remain positive. If asked about their situation, they can state that they are in the process of validating a professional goal and that they are considering a career similar to that of the interviewer. At the end of the information interview, the objective of the « networking » is to get two or three contacts from the interviewer of people who have the same job in another company. This is often a delicate phase that arouses a lot of apprehension. Depending on the ‘feeling’ perceived during the exchange, it is either possible to ask the question directly, or it is more elegant to formulate it indirectly by asking how to investigate further. In any case, the approach should be gradual. If a person agrees to give names, the candidate then finds out if they can write them down, if they can contact them and, above all, if they can recommend the person.

Open your horizons

There is no one place or one way to network. Many people fear networking and think that it can only be practised in a professional setting, at a cocktail party, at a social event. This vision, which is too limited, obscures many other circles, such as friends, relations, old acquaintances, the local café, the sports club, the children’s playground, waiting rooms, cultural events. All the « public » places of everyday life allow you to expand your network. The same attitude of openness should be adopted when one loses a job with which one has been identified, sometimes for fifteen or twenty years. Another life is possible afterwards, even if you feel disoriented and depersonalised. But it is essential to mobilise all one’s resources to go and meet people who have held the same job for a long time before losing it and who have managed to bounce back afterwards, even if their field of activity has nothing to do with the one they were looking for. They allow you to share a life experience and to find the strength to face this turning point with resilience.

And don’t forget to thank

Thanking after an interview is also a powerful search tool. Not just a « thank you » when leaving the interviewer, but writing an e-mail, a text message or a handwritten letter can enhance a potential application and make you stand out. In this perspective, it is essential not to send a « flat » message but to build your thanks by raising the important points discussed and the areas for reflection proposed. The icing on the cake is that sharing a relevant article and then keeping you informed of its progress will enable a real exchange that is beneficial for everyone. So, are you finally ready to network?

Daniel Porot

Considered a pioneer in career management and job search in Europe, Daniel Porot is the author of a method that bears his name and that has become the reference. He teaches in schools and universities in Europe and the United States. His team conducts workshops, seminars and conferences around the world.

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