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Making A Career Of Networking
A recruiter’s look at what works when finding the ideal job
by Nancy King

 

"What’s the job market like right now?" It’s a frequent question lately. It’s real. It’s a job market where companies are interested in running efficiently, on ideas with merit and with talent right for the job. In the long run, jobs opportunities of today can be less risky, filled with opportunity to really make a difference and benefit from a company’s growth, not just from it’s IPO. The downside of all this, there are not as many jobs available as the continued shake out takes place.

Hey we all fell into the hype. I thought Pets.com, Homegrocer.com and eToys were brilliant ideas. Except that, in hindsight, I never used pets.com (when the dog needs food, the dog needs, food) Homegrocer.com (when the kids need milk, the kids need milk) and only used eToys at holiday time (that was great, but not great enough to support a business). Building infrastructure for niche markets just didn’t pencil out. You can’t change consumer behavior overnight.

So how do you survive as the new economy re-adjusts? It’s not easy, it’s not as fun as free coke and foosball, but in the long run it could be more rewarding.

Take stock

For everyone who needs to work, whether you’re in or out of a job right now, stop and take a look at what you’ve done over your career, what you’re doing now, what you believe you want to be doing. What are the central traits of the roles where you have been most successful, happiest, and rewarded? Start asking people you work with, you work for and those who work for you for feedback. It’s the quickest, truest way to get to the answer. There are good self-help books, but there also are many that would lead you to believe that everyone can be a CEO. You can get lost in the pursuit of the wrong goals. Start small, get to the truth quickly and use it to make your next move, no matter how small it is.

Own your own career

Let’s talk professional help. There are recruiters, basically divided into two kinds: contingent and retained. A contingent recruiter works for both the candidate and the client. They will have you send a resume, call you in for an interview and maybe some other testing and then possibly send you out on an interview. If you land the job, the contingent recruiter gets a fee from the client, not you. You will never pay a fee to a recruiter.

Retained firms work for the client, not the candidate. If you contact a retained recruiter, you will be asked to send your resume. Your background will be reviewed and you will be contacted only if you are a fit for a position they are recruiting for. If you do fit a search, you’ll meet the recruiter and be one of the candidates being reviewed for presentation to the client.

What to you do if a recruiter calls? Return the phone call. Recruiters maybe calling to see if you’re interested in a position, or maybe calling to see who you know. Be as helpful as you can and add them to your network.

Ultimately, it will always be up to you to get the job.

Are you ready?

No matter where you are, in a happy job, in a not so happy job, or out of work, before you take on the task of making a switch, you need to be prepared. Check how you sound when describing your career history. You need to be honest, and positive about it all, even if some of your history is less than stellar. Show you’ve learned lessons, and have moved on. If you are laid off, take a couple of days (or more) to work out the bad vibes so you can present yourself, not your baggage.

Put a resume together, the simpler the better, and don’t get all wrapped up in pretty formats, they don’t e-mail well across all platforms. Keep your resume chronological and leave out your early work unless it is directly related to what you’re doing now. Don’t go over board trying to keep it to one page, hey you may have accomplished so much you’re ready for two.

Here’s what I like to see:

    • Company
    • Job title
    • Dates
    • Sentence or two about the nature of the company and your work
    • Bullet point list of accomplishments

Network

  1. Make a list of everyone you know and admire.

  2. Make a list of all the companies you admire and would be interested in working for.

  3. Right a short statement about the kind of role you want to play within a company based on the prep work you’ve done so far.

  4. Call the people you know and admire, and see if it’s convenient to meet or just talk by phone. Your goal in networking is to learn as much as possible about others and their work. By doing this, you are opening up your horizons to opportunities now and in the future. Check your company list. Can this person refer you to someone they know at one of your target companies? Can they recommend someone else in your field that may be helpful moving you towards your career goal?

  5. Send a thank you note.

  6. Send a follow up note once you land a new position.

Once you’ve landed where you wanted to be, keep networking. Many people were so buried last year, their networks suffered.

Career management is the same in any economy. While it’s slower, less "exciting" and maybe just a little unnerving, successful talented people find work. The most critical thing you can do for yourself is to manage your career at every turn. Don’t get complacent, make sure that you are finding yourself in roles where you can succeed and then build on that success proactively.

 
 
Nancy King is Director of Research, at Lee Koehn Associates, a Portland, Oregon Retained Executive Search firm.