This article, Career Advice: how to meet and talk with anyone, was previously published on the Washington Post website
You are ready for a new position. You’ve sent out a zillion resumes but the results have been disappointing. How can you gain entry into nearly any setting? How can you get gatekeepers to take your calls? Whether you have years of experience or you are new to the field here are two strategies to consider. Don’t take them literally. Rather try to modify them so that they meet your own goals. The first is designed to help you to network with a broad range of senior people in your field who may hire you. The second is aimed at helping you to meet prominent people in your field.
Take on a networking role in your local organization.
Consider serving as an active committee member in the local chapter for your professional organization. For example, let’s say that you are a beginning web architect and you want to network with other female web architects who might be in a position to hire you. Consider joining your local organization of web architects and volunteering to be the “Membership Outreach Coordinator”. Alternatively, consider creating a Web Architect committee within an existing umbrella organization (like for example, DCWW).If your offer is accepted, here’s what you do. Ask around to find out who the key senior web architects are. Contact the senior web architects at several places in which you would like to work. Write a script for yourself and call them.
Speak with them directly or leave a friendly voice mail message saying something like: “Hi. I am the new membership outreach coordinator of the web architect’s organization. I’ve asked around, and you have been consistently identified as a leader in the field. I would very much like to seek your suggestions as to how the organization can best assist women web architects with their professional development. I know that you have been in this field from the ground level. I’s really like to seek your advice. I wonder if you would be willing to have coffee with me.”
When you meet with these women, seek their advice about the kinds of services the organization can offer to attract members. Encourage them to join the organization. Explain that having them in the group will enhance the organization’s credibility. Talk with them about how the organization can help them to achieve their goals. During the meeting, you might ask, “Can you suggest any other women who might be as helpful as you have been? Can you help me to connect with them? May I use your name? Afterwards, send a thank you note. This is crucial not only because it displays good manners but also because it keeps your name active in the mind of the senior woman.
Beyond this, if you have identified common interests follow-up with a friendly email every few months. Track the senior woman’s accomplishments and send congratulations. She will appreciate the recognition, particularly if it is sincere. Also, if the senior woman displays an interest in you, keep her apprised of your accomplishments.
This sort of approach can lead to a rich and stimulating professional network. Also, it can lead to employment. The senior woman will keep you in mind. Why? Because every employer has had hiring fiascos. Thus, they are most comfortable hiring “known quantities”. After many coffees, emails and phone calls ÃƒÂ¢ that’s exactly what you become: a “safe bet”.
Even more importantly, if you recruit these senior women as members, you have served the organization well. You have expanded the organization’s membership. Coach your committee members on this art of networking and you will win loyal friends for life. They will emulate your efforts. When the national chapter learns of your success they may ask you to serve on a national level. A lot of work, you say? Yes but when you network, you establish enduring relationships with people with whom you want to do business throughout your career!
Meeting prominent people in your field.
Consider this scenario. A female software engineer, new in town, joins the local chapter of software engineers. She volunteers to serve on the programming committee. Her job is to identify and pursue interesting speakers. This gives her license to call just about anyone! After leaving a friendly voice mail message inviting a prominent person to speak, she follows up. She is organized, helpful, and gracious throughout the process. After the talk, she and the other members of the programming committee have dinner with the speaker. They hit it off and follow up with one another.Both of these people are received well because they are networking, in a sense, colleague-to-colleague. They are not selling anything. Rather, they offer something that appeals to the target individual’s generative, nurturing side. As these scenarios demonstrate, you don’t have to be famous or important to network effectively. Rather, you must have something to offer and you must offer it in a professional fashion.
Author’s note: Have you developed an effective method of getting past gatekeepers or networking? If so, I’d love to hear about it at: drlynnfriedman(at)verizon.net Thank you.