Help Us Help You; Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Helping people is in my personal core purpose, and assisting people seeking employment provides a source of fulfillment.  In recent years, I’ve presented someone for a VP position at a well-known telecom brand, referred a friend for her first independent project within hours of learning she’d left her job, and recommended another colleague for his initial speaking gig at a national conference.

Each of these people was actually adept at taking advantage of the help. Unfortunately, they have been the exceptions.

Based on numerous other interactions, many experienced people, including marketers, are ill equipped to network for opportunities. Given how job prospects have been in this economy, that’s scary.  From mistakes I’ve most frequently witnessed, here are seven pieces of advice on demonstrating personal marketing skills and improving your networking prospects:

Be Ready to Talk – I may call initially based on someone else’s description of what you’re seeking. After taking the initiative to call, introduce myself, and state that so-and-so asked me to contact you, it would be nice if you were prepared to say “thank you,” exchange a pleasantry, and share your call objective. Too many individuals act as if they’re being disturbed or don’t understand why I’m on the phone. It’s taken three attempts on some occasions to turn it into a two-way conversation. Work with me, people!

Know Your Interests – Have an elevator speech – describe your background, aspirations, and goals in two paragraphs. With someone I know, I can easily probe and get more clarity about options. With a stranger, that’s more difficult. It would be nice if you’ve done it in advance.

Conduct Yourself As If It’s a Job Interview – It’s amazing how casual people are on the phone with total strangers.  A woman once recounted her intense interest in transportation, the industry in which I was working. To make her point, she said a fully loaded rail car was like “pornography” to her. Huh? Instantly, she went from a potential referral to a curiosity; I wondered what other inappropriate things she might say.  Even if I’m not hiring, you want an introduction to someone who might be. That means it’s an interview. Act like it!

Offer Something – I go into calls expecting to offer information, ideas, or referrals that might be of assistance. It would be great if you shared that attitude. Even if you think your near-term need for opportunities is greater, I also appreciate information, ideas, and suggestions for people to meet. A two-way exchange will earn you follow-up conversations.

Do Some Work Yourself – I received an email from someone unknown to me seeking senior marketing candidates. I then forwarded the email to a candidate whom I’d met for a networking lunch. Clarence (not his real name) responded in a stern tone that the employer’s email address was wrong, asking me to get the right one. All this, even though I had to use the same resources available to him (ever heard of Google?) to track it down. Clarence has also asked me to send him direct phone numbers for other people rather than calling himself to get them. Remind me – who is looking for work here?

Make It Easy to Help – An unsolicited email arrived from someone (call him “Clarence #2”) who had been referred by a business acquaintance I hardly know. The email included two separate Word documents. Having to open both (shortening review time), I quickly closed them since a mild virus was attached (eliminating all review time).  When Clarence #2 called, he presumed I’d fully read the resume and asked what questions I had about him, followed by silence (precluding meaningful dialogue).  Important tip – presume I haven’t given a complete stranger’s resume a lot of time; help refresh me.  When later referring him to associates, I created a single PDF of his documents (he couldn’t create PDFs) to spare them the virus (robbing time from pre-selling him).  Clarence #2 could have gotten more valuable help if he’d saved me all this wasted time.

Follow-up – Maybe there’s a reason you’re looking for a job since follow-up is also typically spotty. Remember:

  • If I send information or make referrals, let me know if they’re beneficial.
  • If we set an appointment, do everything to keep it. When you cancel multiple times, don’t expect much future energy from me on getting together.
  • If I invite you into LinkedIn and offer to make connections, include a message for the ultimate target that explains why you want to network. Don’t expect me to compose a message explaining why they should spend time with you.

These are basics any senior person (especially marketers) should know, but invariably, people trip on several of them. If you’re intent on shooting yourself in the foot while networking, I’ll try to help stop you, but don’t expect me to take a bullet for you while trying to wrestle your own gun from your hands

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