It’s my personal opinion that the best way to approach anyone when networking during your executive job search – no matter what your relationship with them – is to ask them for their opinion or expertise. This is because most of us find it enjoyable to be asked what our opinion is and most of us enjoy helping people. It’s these two things you must focus on when leveraging your network during your job search.

It’s not very effective to ask people for a job, if their company is hiring, or if they know of any other companies who are hiring. First, not many people are aware of various companies that are hiring and most people will find this kind of question loaded with “pressure,” which causes them to back off rather than open up the conversation to brainstorming ways they might help you. Second, it places them as the leader in the conversation and you as the passive receiver, which also creates pressure. There are other reasons that asking for a job does not work, but these are two of the main factors.

Mentally, you need to approach networking in the following ways:

  • You must accept and understand how asking for information is going to benefit you. Have a basic understanding of networking and how it can work to propel your conversations. Give those you are speaking to a gracious opening to share confidential information with you about company growth or available jobs, without having to point blank ask them for it. Understand how you can easily ask your network to introduce you to others who might help you.
  • You must accept and understand that you are NOT being sneaky and really just asking for a job under the guise of “networking.” If you don’t come to grips with this, you will find yourself saying and doing things that put this seed in the other person’s mind. You ARE networking, NOT job searching, and you must separate the two. You can then approach your networking contact with a lot of authentic positive enthusiasm in the true spirit of asking for their expertise. Most always they will respond by giving you more than what you asked for in help and support.

I should point out that the one area you want to avoid asking for help and advice about is your resume. The various answers you will elicit based on the vantage point of each person is going to be so varied that it will confuse you and shake your confidence. If you want feedback on your resume, please ask a qualified, certified resume writer for an objective, professional review.

The following is a great script for networking with friends and associates. Note how the approach supports your position as leader and as someone who is both confident and knows how to take initiative. This particular script is ideal if you are exploring alternative industries, but it can be easily modified to work as well when staying within your industry – simply say you are conducting a little due diligence on market and economic indicators of the ____ industry in preparation for an upcoming job search.

Networking Script

I have stepped back and looked at my career for the past 6 months and have determined there are a few industries that would be a good fit for me. They are ______ and ______. Model organizations that probably fit are ______, ______ and ______. Do you know anyone I could talk with for a few minutes to get some mentoring as I continue to gather info on these industries?

Here are a few additional tips to help you network successfully:

Keywords and Phrases that Make a BIG Impact

  • I would be very grateful for any mentoring you may be open to giving me.
  • Is there any way I can return the favor of your time and expertise?
  • I would love to garner your expertise on …

Keywords and Phrases to Avoid

  • I am looking for a job.
  • Do you know anyone who may be looking to hire?
  • I am looking at hiring trends and want to talk to you about …

The Wrong Approach

  • Abrasive, possibly frustrated.
  • Not networking, feeling entitled, or feeling like you are asking too much of or inconveniencing the person you are talking to.
  • Venting on the person you are speaking with because you have not been eliciting the attention you believe you should have.

Tips for networking and informational interview calls:

The Right Approach

  • Friendly, informal, don’t talk too much.
  • Peer-to-peer or executive-to-executive networking.
  • Can you help me? Could I “interview you” as the expert in your industry?

If you would like more help with job search networking please see my e-books here.