“Hello! My name is David Roberts, I am trying to find out how to buy a small piece of leather, and Sue Robinson suggested I call you; I only need enough to cover an old chair, but no one seems to sell such a small quantity. Can you help?” The sort of generic telephone conversation you might often have; the subject may be different – old books, ice-skating lessons, a good plumber – but the approach is the same, and the tone of your voice and the easy confidence with which you approach the call suggests it might actually be rather fun.
So why do some people find it so difficult to make the same type of telephone call when the underlying purpose is to find out whether the company/person has a job for you?
Networking is the key but what makes up successful networking? Twenty years ago, no one talked about ‘networking, unless you were a computer freak or project manager involved in critical path analysis; we all had a ‘network’ but we did not call it such, or even contemplated its ‘potential’. There is the close network of family, of friends and of business colleagues, the loose networks of associates, of school, university, and course fellow students and the not-so-close network of non-work acquaintances. Each individual has a number of their own networks, and we can not possibly know all of their contacts.
Being made redundant creates all sorts of pressure; fundamentally you can’t find another appointment totally on your own and you should not be too proud to seek help – suppress the natural English tendency not to ask, and get used to asking people for advice and assistance; ‘using’ people – they will love it! But first, get focused on what exactly you think you want to do (for example, list some companies you would like to work for); this is vital not only so you appear professional but also to assist those you wish to help you. Remember Alice’s problem?
“”Would you tell me, please, which way I go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” said the cat.”
Decide on where you want to get to; this should produce a number of options, some directed to stay within one’s industry or similar appointment, others putting on paper the ‘dreams’, the ‘if only’s.
Now start your research, now start to network:
Start with the same intonation in your voice, the same smile on your face, as if you were looking for that piece of leather. I always try and stand up, as hunched at a desk, the diaphragm is constrained – your breath should come easily.
“Hello, this is John Haley, Sue Phillips suggested I give you a call. I am doing some research into chocolate processing/widget manufacturing/flower pot sales, and my research suggests your company is the market leader – Could you spare 20 minutes at the end of the day to answer some questions I have?”
“Are you looking for a job?”
“Not yet. First I need to be sure, through research, that my skills can contribute to the particular company and, equally importantly, that the company can give me what I want. How about Tuesday next week?”
For some, this really is an anathema; they probably have some form of telephobia and have convinced themselves that they should meet people face-to-face. The dilemma then is how to meet new people, for the sole object is to eventually meet the person who is able to give you some work. Be open-minded – talk to people at your sports club, organise reunions, attend business lectures/talks, go to Rotary meetings, and network afterwards (with your business card readily to hand). Aim to grow the ‘network’ by a certain number of people each week; to those you contact and who are really helpful, be courteous and drop them a card or short note of thanks – because you never know what the future has in store – they might learn of something, and your letter reminds them of your needs.
Play games; one client, unable to confront the real task of selling himself, invented a research project into the use of consultants by his local firms. He then had no difficulty in telephoning Managing Directors – and, yes, the conversation often turned to what he was doing.
In summary, ‘networking’ can be fun and rewarding, just as rewarding as finding a small piece of leather.