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June 13

Why Continuous Networking is a Must (even for the Happily Employed)

 

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“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“The best way to get a new job is to network into that job. “

“Your professional network is the most important tactic in your job search strategy.”

Networking is critical throughout your career – we all know that. We have all heard the above statements many times over.

What established advertising professionals sometimes forget is the continued value of networking. They ignore it, don’t invest the time into meeting new people or keeping established connections warm until the critical point – when they’re miserable in their job.

Maybe you whole-heartedly believe that your next position will come from your professional network, but, how do you continue building your “professional network” when there are approximately 270,000 marketing/communications/advertising professionals in Minnesota* alone?

OVERWHELMING!

The strategy and tactics surrounding a career transition have remained stagnant for many years. While all HR professionals promote networking, no one is talking about targeting a network and making efficient use of time (meeting with quality contacts vs. anyone that will take a meeting).

YOUR PERSONAL CONNECTIONS

Since a job search is highly confidential, you start by speaking with people you know and love, letting former colleagues, friends and family know we are on a job search, and asking for help. Everyone wants to help, but if you’re not clear about WHO you want to meet, you might end up networking with professionals who know nothing of our industry (i.e., your mom’s former college roommate who works at Target in Property Development). Or, we find it’s very easy to connect with professional “networkers” – financial advisors and insurance sales – they will meet with you anytime, anywhere to gain your business.

So, that’s a bust. Where do you go next?

INDUSTRY NETWORKING EVENTS!

Yes, a room filled with people in the advertising world! But, they all seem to know one another – TERRIFYING (especially if you are a Minnesotan, it is ingrained in Minnesotans that we do not talk to strangers). You take a leap, introduce yourself to a lone person who looks as terrified as you feel, and find that they are in the exact same boat, JOB SEEKER, instead of the ever elusive hiring manager. Sigh…

Don’t lose hope, I have some good news.  There is an actual methodology around networking, it starts with targeting and leads to success.

STEP #1: DEFINE YOUR VALUE PROP

The first place you go for anything and everything is online, so it makes sense that your first instinct is to hit the job boards, customize your resume to match the job(s) you want, apply online (fingers crossed/hold your breath), and you get crickets – dead ones. Every time I use the statement “the black hole of online resume submission”, candidates and hiring managers nod in agreement (where do those resumes go?). *

Online submission of a customized resume is an antiquated tactic that will not get you a career in advertising – at all. Instead of bending and shape shifting yourself for a particular position that may or may not still be open, it’s time to define your personal value proposition:

  • Evaluate your career experience and determine your value as a professional
  • Articulate your personal and professional goals
  • Identify the companies and/or agencies that align with your values and goals

STEP #2: THE 30-10-5 STRATEGY

You say you are a strategic thinker, how about applying strategy to your job search? There are thousands companies in the state of MN, where do you even start in narrowing this list to identify the organizations that align with your value proposition? RESEARCH – USE YOUR GOOGLE MACHINE. Check out who is fastest growing, or wins best place to work year over year.

Use this research to identify 30 companies – only 30. Now you have a manageable starting point to begin deeper research on these 30. Dig deep to narrow the 30 down to 10, and by digging even deeper, you’ll naturally take that 10 to a top 5 list of companies that not only intrigue you, but where you strongly believe you will provide value, both personally and professionally, if you joined their team. 30-10-5 -these top 5 are your first TARGETS (not the retail giant).

STEP #3: MEETING YOUR TARGETS – IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

Now for the really scary part. Meet 5 people that work at each of your top 5 target companies. Invite them to a networking coffee to learn about THEM, as an individual. Ask them questions about their career experiences, discover what they like about their current role… this meeting is not about you and your job search. It is about the professional sitting across the table and his/her career.

But, wait a second, why would these people want to meet with you? What’s in it for them?  What do they gain? If they are solid advertising career professionals, they recognize that they gain a great deal by meeting you. They know the value of strengthening their networks by connecting with a strong potential candidate for the future – someone whom they know will align with their company/agency culture.

The unemployment rate in the state of MN is 4.7%*. This is the lowest we have seen since pre-recession 2007. This statistic is very important. We all need to change our perception of the MN job economy. We can no longer blame a poor economy, nor can hiring managers take advantage of an underemployed market.  The very best candidates are working. The very best candidates are hard to find. With that said, the very best candidates are always targeting their networks.

BACK TO STEP #3…

The metrics – 5 target company/agencies  x 5 people working at each = 25 new people in my network.

But how do I meet these 25?

  • Start by identifying at least 10 people at that company that share similar titles to your own (c’mon, you know how to use Linkedin –right?).
  • Email them directly, using their professional email address, not Linkedin (you’re smart enough to figure out email address patterns – right?).
  • Be honest, be sincere and customize each email you send specifically for that individual (don’t forget to use correct grammar and check for typos).
  • Share a story about how your values align with the company they work for and offer to bring them coffee. No one will say no to coffee and chocolate (mocha latte?).

STEP #4: PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE, POSITIVITY

If you don’t hear back, do not fret. You have simply fallen below the “email fold”.  Human email management tips are for another blog post on another day, but very few are skilled at managing their in-box. For every 5-7 emails sent, you will likely solicit 1 response. For each professional you meet over coffee, ask them who else in their network they think you should meet.  Create warm connections for yourself and shoot for 4 coffees/week, for one quarter straight.

Following this methodology of targeted networking, you should meet close to 50 professionals that work at your top 5 companies/agencies within 3-4 months.  Coffee + Professionals = new opportunities. You will be front of mind. Not only will you become a known entity, you start being sought after by others looking to network.

Target, be mindful, stop shooting darts in the dark, gain purpose in your career search, and you may find yourself in your dream job sooner than you think.

*US Department Labor Statistics; Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan area

* WSJonline.com: Zappos Zaps Its Job Postings

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathryn Duncan is singularly passionate about connecting smart talent to great clients. As managing partner of CLICK, she spearheads recruitment for digital advertising, media and marketing professionals. A marketing veteran, she has worked closely with ad agencies, in-house corporate agencies and Fortune 500 companies all across the U.S. Kathryn joined FRWD Co. in 2010 and launched CLICK in January 2014.