Networking and cold calling

Posted 25 Sep 2005. First published in The Press, Christchurch, on 16 Jun 2001.

Networking or cold canvassing can dramatically increase your chances of securing the job you want.

Of the two, networking is the easiest option, and often the most immediately
productive. Simply let people know that you are in the market for a job, and what
kind of job you are seeking. Start with your friends and the people you know within your target employment field.

If you are employed, and your employer is not going to take kindly to your departure, then choose who you speak to with care. However, don’t leap to the conclusion that your supervisor will take a negative approach to your desire to move on. You may be pleasantly surprised by their understanding and willingness to help.

In any case, you will probably want to use your current supervisor as a referee at some point in the future, so you will need to manage your relationship during the transition to a new job with care.

If you are targeting a position in the same employment field, your previous supervisors may prove to be your most effective networking contacts, in addition to acting as your referees.

Once you have updated your CV, re-establish contact with them. Give them a copy of your CV. Quite apart from underlining your availability on the employment market, your CV will remind them of who you are, what you did and when you did it.

If possible, meet up with your referees in person. Ask them whether they know of any possible vacancies or leads — in their own organisation or elsewhere.

Seek out opportunities to meet with employers in your target employment field — at trade association meetings or expos, and through any other organisation you belong to.

If networking is not producing the results you need, it is time to seriously consider a cold canvassing campaign. The idea of approaching perfect strangers and selling yourself as a prospective employee is something that many people find quite intimidating. It needn’t be.

Often, it’s advisable to make the initial contact by mail, enclosing a letter of introduction along with your CV, and advising the recipient that you will be phoning them shortly to seek a meeting. This already goes some way towards breaking the ice.

The scary part of the exercise is that asking for a job amounts to much the same thing as asking for rejection. So don’t ask.

If you make it clear to a prospective employer that your primary purpose is to find out whether they are in a position to give you a job right now, then there is a simple answer, which is almost bound to be “No”. From an employer’s perspective there is little point in setting up a meeting just to provide a simple answer to a simple question.

If you have a real desire to work in a particular field, you will be interested in much more than the question of whether a particular vacancy exists in a particular organisation at a particular time. One way or another, the depth of your interest — both the questions you have about the field and the information you have already gathered — needs to be indicated in a letter, and clearly conveyed when you meet.

Depending on the employment field you are targeting, you might want to find out more about the various organisations that are operating in the field, their business development plans, the kind of jobs they offer, what the particular challenges of the job are, how often vacancies arise, what mix of skills, experience and training they are seeking in job applicants, and whether there are any ways that you could strengthen an application for a future position.

If you are seeking a major career transition from one employment sector to another, you might want to know whether they have employed people who have made a similar transition, and if so, how well this worked out for both the employer and employee. In seeking out this information, you are not only learning more about the employment field and how to increase your chances of employment in it, you are also conveying your genuine interest in working in the field. This is a key to success.

All employers want highly motivated employees who are well suited to the jobs that they oversee. If your background, as illustrated in your CV, can establish that you have the skills for the job, then the other key factor — motivation — is being clearly demonstrated in action by your cold canvassing approach.

© Christopher Adrian Eilers 2001–18.