Career Networking for Outcomes – The Starter Kit
This career-networking guide is most useful for professionals who are serious about making a career transition within the next four to five months. In particular, coaching clients who have implemented these ideas with the greatest success have fallen into the following categories:
- Mid-level professionals who want a starting point that will help them launch networking conversations with senior-level professionals.
- Individuals who have been exclusively looking for the right opportunity on job boards and career websites with little success—and are willing to change their behavior.
- Anyone who wants to identify decision makers and influencers with greater precision than ever.
- Professionals who want to attract higher-earning opportunities—think salary jumps of 25%-plus.
- Employed job seekers with little leisure time who need to maximize limited after-hour efforts.
In-person networking is being underutilized following the advent of job boards and career websites. What I am seeing as a career consultant is that in-person networking is not prioritized. Previous efforts had not been thought about strategically, leaving them fruitless. Folks were not talking to the right people, encouraging anyone to actually go out on a limb for them, or capturing key insights that could have helped them land higher-earning jobs. Based on these poor prior experiences, I conducted a recent survey where an astounding 54% of those surveyed are now “hesitant to network and utilize their connections.” Some feel as though they were asking for handouts, while others see it as a complete waste of time since there are plenty of job-search tools with direct feeds to hiring managers.
However, being referred into a company by a current employee via your network is the most promising and efficient way to land a job—if done correctly.
It’s most promising because employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate—but only 7% apply. This accounts for 40% of all hires.
Meanwhile, the same survey respondents concurred with this statement: “I am fighting against time. My job search is taking longer than I expected.”
A job hunt conducted exclusively through career sites takes longer than one that optimizes networks. Did you know that you can find, land, and start collecting a check up to 26 days sooner if you were referred into a firm by a contact than if you applied via a career site?
As a result, if you want to land a plum role faster than your peers, you will have to stretch beyond your comfort level. It takes courage, which my clients bring to the table. Meanwhile, on my end, I empower them by helping them figure out who they should talk to, what to say, and when.
Do you want to know what to say?
Stop second guessing yourself—here are the 15 most successful scripts I have leveraged throughout my practice. I encourage you to use them, preferably on the phone or in person. Feel free to edit them to make them your own. For example, if you’d never use the word “garner,” don’t start now!
How to start
Prior to using my scripts, prepare the following information:
- Identify your top 10 most desirable companies. One way to draft this list is to go to LinkedIn and simply click “Jobs,” which will show you the opportunities that can be found via your network.
- Go to LinkedIn to map out who you know in these firms. Learn about those people and brainstorm beforehand what you can offer them in exchange for their time.
- Figure out what job functions to focus applying for.
- Update your résumé based on that target function—this requires clarity and conviction, which I draw out of clients as well after asking a few highly targeted questions.
- Draft a preliminary cover letter for an open role you found online.
Pre-work is essential here. The only way your network can help you is if you are clear on the types of opportunities you are best suited for, you lay out EXACTLY how your network can be helpful, and you humbly request guidance. You are doomed if you rely on others to connect your career dots and simply assume that they will be thinking about you whenever they hear of any opportunity. These preliminary tasks are ways to help you become focused, and as a result, more compelling during any networking conversation. And now, the scripts…
A. How to Ask for an Initial Meeting
*This section is most useful when you do not have a relationship with a contact*
Launching any conversation with a request is poor etiquette. Therefore, you should not ask for a job at the onset of a conversation with a prospective networking acquaintance irrespective of the depth of this relationship. Instead, try any of the following variations in person on the phone, or via email as a last resort.
I read your article in _________ OR I saw your interview on ___________. Here is my perspective on your viewpoint: ____________. I would like to take you out for coffee because I am interested in learning more about your expertise when it comes to ___________. Moreover, there is an angle unexplored that I think you can capitalize on—it’s ___________, and I would like to offer my time to help you research that angle.
Case study: This script helped a client in information technology land a meeting with the founder of a research firm that he greatly admired and had been following for years. The key to properly preparing for that meeting was that he reread this thought leader’s research papers, which became the key to his confidence during that successful conversation.
My network includes __________ (ex.: venture capitalists who are interested in investing in your field). In exchange for 30 minutes of your time, I will open my network to you and initiate warm introductions. My interest in meeting with you lies in the fact that I am looking to strengthen my candidacy for potential opportunities in your field. My background is __________. The strength that I can bring to your sector is ____________. I would like your candid evaluation of my readiness for a job in your field.
I would like to meet with you for one hour on __________. It’s my understanding that you are trying to figure out how to do __________ (ex.: penetrate the East Asian market, gain market share from Y, etc.). I would be more than happy to prepare for our meeting, during which we can spend 30 minutes thinking through the most effective paths toward your goal. During the next 30 minutes, I would like to ask for your brainpower in thinking through various alternatives on how I can penetrate ____________ (ex.: company, better position myself for a ____________ role, or expand my job-hunt strategies).
Case study: A former capital markets professional who was looking to get into investment banking used this script as his starting point for a meeting with the decision maker in a boutique firm. He landed the job over that lunch hour.
B. How to Ask for a Contact
*It’s critical to narrow down who you wish to speak with before engaging in these three scripts—at minimum, the business units in which they work *
I combed through your LinkedIn connections and I am seeking to identify live opportunities in _________ (ex.: this business unit) in ________ (ex.: this company). You are connected to _________, whose experience includes two years working in precisely that business unit. If you are comfortable introducing us, can you warmly connect me to her? Here is a sample email that you can write to her to make this introduction as quick as possible. I wouldn’t want you to have to spend more than five minutes on this.
You are affiliated with ___________ (ex.: organization) OR You are on the board of ___________ (ex.: Jobs for America’s Graduates). I am working on __________ (i.e., transitioning into _________ OR becoming better acquainted with ________). Attached is a sample of the homework I have already done on the topic and what I have learned. As a result of aiming to close my knowledge gaps, I would like to be introduced to _________, who is also affiliated with _________ (ex.: organization). I would like _________ minutes of their time over the phone. Here are some of the questions I intend to ask. Thank you in advance for considering this request.
Case study: This is how I secured 15 interviews with executives for my upcoming book, which is focused on helping organizations gain self-awareness around what their fittest employees desire. The executives included Marshall Goldsmith, Beverly Kaye, Janet Hanson, and Laura Fitton.
When you attended _________ school, did you take a class with __________? After speaking with _________ professionals in ___________ (ex.: company Y), her name kept popping up. You are the person whom I most trust. I would like to ask you to introduce me to her, if you feel comfortable in doing so. I want to gain momentum in my job search. __________’s background closely mimics my own, and her ascendency to leadership compels me to have a conversation.
Case study: A client interested in the entertainment field used this script as inspiration for what to say to a college professor who taught in the drama department. He successfully asked a peer of his to introduce him to that peer’s former mentor and professor.
C. How to Ask for a Recommendation/Endorsement
*This section is most useful when you have a DEEP relationship with a prospective contact*
I would like to give you an update on my career. It’s been __________ years since I have been doing ________ in __________ (ex.: company). This year, I had the opportunity to work on __________ (ex.: this mega project OR I hit this milestone—basically, say something positive that happened that compelled you to seek new opportunities). As a result, I would like to specialize in ___________, OR learn more about __________, OR change directions to ____________. Your recommendation would be a critical part of bringing me closer to that change. In your recommendation, I would like your perspective on my ___________, __________, or _________ skills. Specifically, I’d love your perspective on my efforts tackling this assignment. [SIDE NOTE: Many graduate-school applicants would find this useful as a starting point, mainly because it emphasizes an answer to graduate-school personal statements asking why now is the best time to pursue a graduate degree].
I am applying for the ____________opportunity focused on ________________. The critical skills that are sought by this institution include __________, ___________, and _________. You can help me showcase my aptitude in these three skills in fewer than two minutes and with the click of a button. Please go to my LinkedIn profile: ________________ ( ex.: www.linkedin.com/in/melissallarena/). Go to my “Skills & Expertise” section. Click the plus sign for those three skills. I appreciate your endorsements and will keep you up to date on the final outcome of my candidacy.
Case study: A medical student used this script to better show up online during the medical-school-residency selection process. Decision makers in a medical-residency process check each applicant’s online presence, and this helped organize and better prioritize his LinkedIn “Skills & Expertise” section.
In an effort to land a role in ___________ (ex.: business unit) focused on ___________, I have done the following legwork. My résumé and cover letter are currently in the system, and I have interviewed with _________, __________, and ___________. Their feedback has been ________. I am seeking your internal endorsement regarding my candidacy. I have drafted a note that you can tweak and forward to any of the above-mentioned individuals who have an influence on my candidacy. Alternatively, you can use the content of this information during any of the conversations you may have during the course of your day.
Case study: This worked for a senior leader in financial services who was looking to work into another financial services firm. Although she had ties to senior leaders in the new firm, I coached her to subtly remind the organization about her interest and candidacy via more junior staff members whom she also had strong relationships with. As this is being published, the new firm is drafting her an offer letter that will increase her earning potential by more than 50%. Of course, we had worked aggressively beforehand to prepare her for five key meetings that helped position her strengths and potential contributions in that new salary range, which can be the topic of an entirely different eBook.
E. How to Ask Someone to Hand-Deliver Your Résumé
*You should be excited about this company and fairly certain that you’d accept a reasonable/strong offer from them because you are putting that employee’s reputation on the line.*
I have been following your firm’s founder. His perspective on _____________ stretched my thinking. As a result, I am very interested in pursuing opportunities in your firm. After researching your firm’s website, these opportunities best fit my areas of experience: _______, __________, and _________. Rather than blindly applying online, I would like to request your guidance. Do you have 15 minutes to speak on __________) ex.: this date? Attached is my résumé and cover letter for ___________ (ex.: an opportunity you are passionate about.) I know many firms offer referral bonuses as a result—and I don’t know if your firm does, but just in case—I wanted to engage you instead of applying directly for the job on your firm’s website.
Case study: There are many companies that offer their employees a referral bonus. You should always check to see if you know someone internally. Another client wanted to shift from working on the client side to working on the agency side, which is atypical. She reached out to an executive assistant in the firm who hand-delivered her résumé to the firm’s chief talent officer. That executive assistant also defended her contact’s interest in leaving American Express. In the end, my client landed an agency role, and that executive assistant enjoyed a shopping spree.
Your company is taking a leadership position on __________ (ex.: topic). My experiences leading up to this point have included ___________. I am well positioned to add value to your firm in these few ways: ____________. I am seeking your guidance in how to approach applying for a job in ___________ (ex.: business units) in your company. I know I can apply online without your help, but I also know that applying blindly will not be the most useful approach when I truly want to be considered for an attractive opportunity. I would like to take you out for coffee or have a Skype conversation on the topic. Attached is my résumé and preliminary cover letter. Are you open to brainstorming on the best plans of action? I would be grateful your insights and would be more than happy to return the favor to you or anyone in your network.
Case study: An undergraduate leveraged this script to set up an interview with a decision maker in a world-class digital-marketing agency. He was interested in a sales role, interviewed a sales leader via video chat, and landed multiple interviews. The odds of interviewing for this firm were one in 1,000.
Your firm is facing ___________ (ex.: a critical situation OR a specific competitor). Having worked for ___________ (ex.: company) helping it do precisely what your company has to do to optimize on this opportunity, I have zeroed in on your firm because I know I can add tremendous value. I’d rather not apply blindly to your organization because I want to be considered for both advertised as well as non-advertised opportunities. I have narrowed down the business unit that makes the most sense given these experiences and my topic of interest to these: _________. Are you open to a brief conversation during which I can better explain my qualifications? In all transparency, I would like to speak with you regarding your comfort level in hand-delivering my résumé and cover letter to your human resources leads.
Case study: The client from the previous example also leveraged this script to penetrate another organization that he admired. Together, we worked on a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to uncover the situation the company was facing that he could best handle. He landed this job and accepted it… and he has received numerous sales awards since.
F. How to Ask Someone to Keep You in Mind for Openings
*These are highly successful if you use them when connecting with highly connected people.*
The worst way to ask someone to keep you in mind for openings is to be imprecise. It is not their job to connect the dots, mind-read what you’d be interested in, and to actively think about you every day. You have to make it clear exactly what types of opportunities that make the most sense for you based on your interests, background, and logistical requirements. Think about drafting your request for your network’s mindshare in this manner:
I recently moved to _________to focus on my job search locally. As an incredibly busy professional who works with _________ (ex.: digital marketing professionals OR insert other specialty), I would like you to think of me when you hear of these three types of opportunities: __________, _________, _________ (ex.: social marketing, mobile marketing, advertising sales). Alternatively, the core skills or experiences that should come to mind when you think of me are _________, _________, __________ (ex.: my SEO experience, success with SMS campaigns in developing markets, and strong relationships with the editorial leaders in the beauty industry). Attached are my résumé and a cover letter. They better express my interest along these lines. Are you open to a 15-minute chat during the next few weeks to follow up?
Case study: This worked for a client looking to go into the fitness industry in a new destination on the other side of the country where he had few relationships. The key was clearly outlining the types of jobs that made the most sense. He provided highly targeted keywords which helped his contact pre-filter the best opportunities.
After researching your workplace, I learned about ________, _________, and _______ (ex.: name some business units). I can do this for business unit ______. I can do that for business unit _____. My understanding is that these business units are your cross-functional partners. If you become aware of any specific opportunities that align with my potential contributions within those units, then I would love to connect. In the meantime, while researching LinkedIn, I noticed that you are connected to _______ and _______ (i.e., folks who work in those business units). If you are comfortable in doing so, can you introduce me to them? I will send you an email that you can simply copy and paste as the intro. [SIDE NOTE: Although not explicitly stated, you should follow up with anyone you ask to keep you in mind. You can even suggest a biweekly check if you have a deep relationship with the individual.]
I am strategically approaching my job search. Out of my network, I have identified the top individuals I respect and with whom I have the deepest relationships. As someone I trust based on _________ (ex.: a shared experience), I wanted to inform you about my job search. Attached are my top 10 desired companies. The common thread that runs through them is that they have fewer than 500 employees, each are located in ___________(ex.: location), and they are known for ___________(ex.: offering flexible work environments for moms). If you run across anyone who works in any of these firms, I would love my name to be on top of your mind. Let’s chat so that I can better express what I have to offer these organizations, or perhaps you have some other firms that could fit in my list of interesting organizations. I also attached my résumé in case it inspires any other ideas.
Case study: This was useful for a client who was looking to jump from a director-level job to a vice-president opportunity. She was not open to relocation. As a result, she enlisted the help of a trusted circle of professional acquaintances to help her expand her target list based on a specific criteria. She is now an executive in a nonprofit organization whose culture and way of doing business nicely align with her requirements.
Given my success in coaching clients to more quickly, efficiently, and successfully network, I will be offering a course at NYU in 2014 entitled “Take Your Search for a Job Offline.” In the meantime, this piece offers an intimate look into how working with a career consultant can significantly streamline your job-search efforts, especially since drafting one note can take a nervous job seeker up to two hours! Engaging an expert also helps you push through the uncertainty of not knowing what is next, which can compel even professionals to accept less than desirable opportunities just to leave a bad professional situation. It helps to have the support until you secure the best opportunity. So consider this guide a starting point. Incorporate the various scripts in your own self-directed job hunt. You can land an opportunity more quickly if you network with more of the right people, and this in turn can produce results in as few as six months.
However, I encourage you to think about the alternative. I offer a white-glove service which includes five to fifteen coaching sessions (each 45 minutes in length) offering an end-to-end solution for the busiest professionals. With my assistance, my most successful clients have landed the most enviable jobs in fewer than four months. One client landed an investment banking job in 30 days and garnered a 50% salary jump. Another secured a position in business development earning 60% more than he had anticipated, plus full relocation support. Meanwhile, another client recently accepted a position in his dream company in fewer than 30 days.
Together, we’ve analyzed job descriptions, selected the most appropriate contacts to speak with, tackled résumés and cover letters together, and strategized on how to appropriately follow up with the warmest leads. These joint efforts have significantly focused and accelerated job hunts that could have dragged on. Across the board, each of my clients’ investments have produced aggressive ROIs, and the best part is that, once they’ve worked with me, they then know how to more effectively conduct their own job hunts in the future.
Email me [email@example.com] if you are ready to start, change, or speed up your efforts so that you can finally feel like you are back in control of your career.
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