The following guest post was written by Marc Luber, of Careers Out There. Mark is a new friend and an extremely business savvy person. After law school he followed his dreams into the music business, and later became an attorney recruiter. After spending so much time helping people with their careers he’s has launched his new site committed to helping you walk away from each video knowing what life could be like if you went down each particular career path. Enjoy!
I got a networking call today from my cousin’s friend who graduated from college last year and is eager to secure a full-time job. He was told to call me due to my experience in – and his interest in – the music business. He has had several internships in the music business and wants to find an employment opportunity in Chicago. As I spoke with him, I could tell that he’s a really good guy – but I realized that he would get more out of networking calls like this if he did some research before typing that email or picking up the phone.
Here is what I suggested to him:
Before you call (or email) people you’re reaching out to for help, research them: Google them and check out their LinkedIn profiles. There are several reasons for this:
1) You’ll learn more from the call.
If you are able to walk into the call with the full knowledge of this person’s background, you can ask more targeted questions (ex: How did you get a career started at Company X just one year out of college?”).
2) You’ll save time.
The person you’re calling is likely busy and doesn’t really know you. That means you probably have a limited window of opportunity to establish a relationship and learn as much as possible during the call. If you already know this person’s background, you can avoid time-eating dialogue like, “When I was fresh out of college, I got a job teaching elephants how to play the harmonica” and your reply of, “Really – you worked with elephants – I didn’t know that?!” etc. You could have known that – and with that knowledge you could have led the discussion by asking how the skills of working with elephants were helpful in getting that job at Company X just one year out of college. Going back to #1, maybe you should be working with elephants – and by leading with this question, you’ll learn more key stuff from this call than if the elephant subject never came up.
3) You’ll be better able to lead and guide the call.
After all, you’re the one initiating this contact. That means you must have something you’re hoping to learn or gain as a result of the call, even if it’s nothing more than a new friendship. If you can take ownership of the call and actually lead it, you’re more likely to walk away with whatever it is you’re hoping to walk away with. If the other person ends up spending the call explaining his/her whole background to you, the odds are that that person will be taking over the leadership of the call and your agenda will get watered down or completely drowned. Showing you know your stuff about the person on the other side of the conversation will help you to maintain control of the call.
4) You’ll likely impress the person you’re calling.
When people you’re calling see that you are someone who does his/her homework before taking action, then they’re more likely to feel comfortable connecting you to their networks for work opportunities. Keep in mind that a networking call is also a marketing call – you are marketing yourself. Wouldn’t you rather market yourself as the impressive person who has done his/her homework?
5) You’ll satisfy the ego of the person you’re calling.
Some people need their egos stroked and want to know that you know their story. After all, they’re about to hear your story….So they could easily think, “why is this person calling me if he/she doesn’t even know who I am and what I do?!” So if you call the big ego type, you’re more likely to get what you want if you’re prepared.
I often like to compare American Idol to the career process. You know how the contestants on American Idol often get attacked by the judges for choosing the wrong song? It’s a similar concept – had the singer done some homework and figured out what song he or she could make unique that also meets that week’s theme, then that singer would have been more likely to nail the performance and move towards the #1 spot. Same goes for you when making your networking calls. If you do your homework and learn the background of the person you’re calling before reaching out, you’re more likely to maximize what you get out of the call and move towards whatever your goal happens to be in making that new connection.