First things first -- before you target a specific job, you'll need to be successful leveraging contacts. Here's how to make the first move.
Understanding the importance of networking is not enough! Everyone in the job market has that understanding. To be successful in networking, you'll need to make the right moves with your contacts.
Making the first move is always tough, but establishing a clear goal can help. Your goal is to make every professional contact whom you interact with confident enough to refer you for a job. Your focus in the past may have been on the job you want but we're asking you to place it squarely on the person you are networking with. Make them believe that referring you will make them look great!
Your initial conversations with a contact will make that person believe in you. There are three things that you will need to establish: 1) Prove that you are curious and passionate about their field 2) Show that you have researched their industry and 3) Prove that you are sharp and motivated. We'll show you how to accomplish these three objectives.
Prove your passion
Always begin with thoughtful questions. Never ask for a favor in your initial conversations. Here is a great example of an email that you can start off with to an alumnus:
Thank you so much for participating in the alumni network - I find it to be a huge help!
Here is a little background on me: I am a senior Finance major and I am graduating in May. I have a strong interest in strategy consulting and I have been practicing cases over the course of the semester.
It would be great to hear about your experience at Boston Consulting Group and the career path that has led you there. Would you say that the recent downturn in the economy will affect the flow of engagements across the industry?
Thank you again for making yourself available on the network!
Here are some examples of questions that you can ask any contact:
What do you like best about working in your industry?
Looking back, what would you have done differently in life and in your career?
What skills should I develop to be successful in your industry?
What has been the key to your success?
Show them you are curious and passionate about their field, and they will be more likely to help you.
Do your research
For more personalized and thoughtful questions, keep up with the news surrounding your contact's company and industry. Pay special attention to news that affects your contact's specific division, and then ask for their opinion. Not only will this show that you have done your homework, but it will also give them the opportunity to talk about themselves and their team.
Here are some examples of industry and company specific questions:
I recently read an article about the battle for software engineering talent amongst technology companies--what do you think works best to attract talent?
I often read about your division being a leader of innovation within the industry--how do you consistently make the right moves?
How is the recent credit crunch affecting your company?
Prove that you are sharp and motivated
Since you do not work with your contact (yet!), this is the hardest of the three to accomplish. The best way to accomplish this one is to take your questions to the next level. Rather than just asking for your contact's opinion, begin to offer your opinion or forecast. This can be done further down the line in your second or third conversations.
Here are some examples:
I really believe that long-term value investing can empower relatively average investors to beat the market. Most institutional money in the market is short-term money due to quarterly and annual return goals. To what extent would you say that U.S. securities are mis-priced due to the short-term bias?
Advertisers seem to be demanding more accountability and transparency from their campaigns. I think the industry is evolving and will be pressed to deliver more bang for the buck. Would you agree?
After you accomplish your objectives, start thinking about asking for job opportunities. Sometimes your contact will even make the first move. Once again, the key is to make them believe that referring you, an all-star candidate, will make them look good! Get out there and start making the first move.
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