DEAR JOYCE: I am finding job networking to be a big dud. It is exhausting, frustrating and even humiliating. Is it the nature of the beast, or am I doing something very wrong? -- O.M.
Master career counselor
In responding to your question, Chapman explains the value of the referral interview (vs. the information interview) in job networking:
USE REFERRAL INTERVIEWS.
The star of networking meet-ups, referral interviews build your visibility and credibility as a candidate for a targeted job. A rich source of valuable information, advice and lasting contacts in your field, referral interviews can steer you to the right position.
FIRST, THE TWO-MINUTE PROFILE.
Memorize a brief statement that describes what you do well, illustrated by a story of you doing your best work. End with what you'd like to do next.
SETTING THE TABLE.
Try to conduct referral interviews in person. Send a good letter of introduction and then call to arrange a time to meet. Plan the structure of the meeting:
(1) Thank your meeting partner for his or her time. To prevent overstaying your welcome or cutting your opportunity window short, ask, "How much time do we have for our meeting?"
(2) Establish the agenda. You might say, "I'd like to tell you about myself for a couple of minutes." Then deliver your two-minute profile. Follow up with, "Now I have some questions to ask you about -- (the career field, the company and current conditions)."
Setting the table puts the other person at ease by giving structure to your meeting, and puts you in control.
Focus on what you're chasing, which is information, advice and contacts. These three components are the basis of your questions.
Giving objective information is easiest for your interview partner. After that person has observed and talked with you, he or she will be better able to offer advice. Assuming that you have presented yourself well, most people will be willing to refer you to others. By contrast, if you haven't made a good impression, they won't. Who wants to send an individual who's confused or inept to meet with colleagues?
After the interview, remember that a lasting benefit of referral interviewing is building relationships. Send a thank-you note. If it's all right with the interview partner, call that person every few weeks to report your progress and see if any opportunities have materialized.
What if you don't know what you want to do next? That's when you can honestly do an information interview.
Compared with a referral interview, in which you hope to build your reputation as a qualified, ready-to-be-hired accountant, trainer or other specified professional, in an information interview, you hope to gather information about the possibilities that may be available to you in a given field. In an information interview, you know what skills you want to contribute and are deciding which position(s) to apply for.
Caveat: It's fine to say, "Right now, I'm exploring corporate meeting planning, sales and fundraising." It's not OK to say, "I'm open to whatever."
WINNERS AND LOSERS.
Successful job networking hinges on conducting effective referral interviews. Job networking doesn't work so well using techniques like these:
-- Stan handed out resumes to everyone he knew or met, saying, "Let me know if you hear of anything." No one did.
-- Mark said he was doing information interviews, disingenuously telling people he wasn't looking for a job and just wanted information.
-- Julie reached influential people who might have hired her, but she couldn't tell them what she wanted to do. She seemed like a lost soul.
-- Dana's friend named five people to contact. Dana made cold calls, saying she was laid off and looking for work. Four said they couldn't help and ended the call. The fifth referred her to the human resources department.
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