Networking: The Three Questions You Must Answer to Achieve Job Search Success

Barry Curewitz, Senior Marketing Executive and Business Leader

As regular readers of “Your Career Advocate” know, I sometimes feature the writing of other people in this space. I thought this article by Barry Curewitz would be an ideal selection, because many clients have recently been asking about how to increase their networking effectiveness and momentum. Barry’s phenomenal networking experience will be instructive to all our readers, I am sure.
– Ford R. Myers

To be an effective networker, you must:

  1. Understand what you are offering
  2. Know what it is that you are seeking
  3. Explain who you need to connect with

When done correctly, networking has proven to be a very effective tool for achieving a wide variety of career goals, including:

  • Executing a Job Search Campaign
  • Developing New Business Opportunities
  • Collecting Industry Information
  • Identifying Specialized Resources

To help demystify what effective networking requires, I have identified three key questions that each well-intentioned person needs to answer before beginning his or her quest. With these answers in-hand, any networker’s efforts will be rewarded.

To make this exercise more realistic, throughout this article I will use my own job search campaign as an example.

First, a little bit about my background. After 11 years owning and running my own marketing consulting firm and working with many Fortune 50 and smaller companies in the new product space, I decided that I wanted to begin each day knowing which business I would be focused on and contributing to (in other words, get a full-time job).

When I made the decision to seek a full-time position, I decided to hire a Career Coach to assist me. Through his coaching program, I learned a great deal about myself and crafted much of the process that has led to more than 350 new contacts in seven short months.

The first requirement to become an effective networker is to understand what you are offering, and it happens to be the most critical and difficult element to “get a handle on.” It requires extensive thought in an area where answers don’t come easily. Essentially, you must be able to explain your value proposition – what benefit do you offer an employer and how do you provide that benefit in a unique way?

Some people call this an “elevator pitch” or “positioning statement.” I think of it as a “silver bullet” – what can you say that will make the listener stop and really listen to what you have to say? And, what is it that you want the listener to remember about you? This is mission critical. Without a memorable, differentiating “silver bullet,” it is likely that once your discussion concludes, your networking partner will forget about you in less than 48 hours. Having worked with college students on this for a number of years, I now conceptualize the result of this introspection much like how a newspaper or magazine article is structured.

An article has three parts – a headline (which is meant to grab the reader’s attention), a sub-headline (which expands on the headline and attempts to convince the reader to read more), and body copy (which provides all of the information needed to support the sub-headline, which in turn supports the headline).

Here is how I differentiate myself:

  • Headline – “I accelerate revenue and profit growth” (the benefit I offer)
  • Sub-headline – “By selling more product to more people at higher margins” (how I make that benefit happen)
  • Body copy – “My career started at Campbell Soup, where I learned to analyze data and trends leading to consumer insights. For the last 15 years, I have put these insights to work in innovative programs leading to a wide array of options (could be business platforms, new products, new service offerings, or new advertising campaigns). I know how to work with senior management to identify the best ideas and then implement them.

Said another way, “I use my analytical, innovation and implementation skills to sell more product to more people at higher margins – thereby accelerating revenue and profit growth.”

When my networking partner shows interest, I then provide specific examples of times when I have put the three skills described above to use with great success. This is an extension of the body copy, and serves as additional support of the headline and sub-headline.

Answering this question and having the ability to articulate your value proposition is imperative if you want to differentiate yourself from the competition and be memorable (I try to communicate this information twice during each networking meeting).

The second step is to understand exactly what it is that you are seeking. To be effective at finding what it is that you want, you have to be able to explain it to someone else, and it must align with your value proposition. The more specific you can be, the better. The more detail you can describe this with, the better your networking colleagues will be able to point you in the right direction and provide guidance.

Here is how I describe the next great opportunity I am seeking:

  • A consumer-focused company, with revenues between $50M and $1B
  • A senior marketing position reporting to a CEO/President/GM
  • Challenged to achieve growth rates of more than 8% annually
  • Managing direct reports and a budget to achieve targeted growth rates
  • Involved with making important, strategic decisions
  • A business culture that is receptive to new ideas
  • A company which understands that their success occurs through their consumer – and that understanding the customers’ attitudes and motivations is critical to business success
  • A demanding role with a variety of challenges
  • A situation where I can work as part of a team, and at times, as an individual contributor
  • Located in Greater Philadelphia, Central New Jersey, Southern New Jersey or Manhattan (I’m also opening to a commuting situation)

Once I have communicated my “silver bullet” and what my end-goal is, it’s time to implement the third step, which is to explain to others who I need to connect with in order achieve my desired result. In other words, I need to describe who it is that I need to meet in order for the opportunities I am seeking to present themselves.

I must tell you one important caveat: it is the job seeker’s responsibility to put networking partners at ease. We need to convince them that we would never embarrass them in front of their contacts, and that we will treat their contacts as gently as we would treat “a newborn baby.”

We do this by assuring our networking partners that at no time during any discussions with the targeted contacts would we ask for a job, or even expect those contacts to know of any job opportunities. It is important to explain that we will have only three goals in mind when meeting with their colleagues – (1) to share information about ourselves with the hope that they will help us expand our contact database; (2) to gain the benefit of their advice, guidance and feedback; and (3) to learn about them and explore ways that we can potentially be of help or service to them.

In my own case, I have two target audiences: (1) “C-Suite” Executives; and (2) their trusted business advisors (bankers, lawyers and accountants).

In Conclusion

My wife would argue that during my job search, I have provided much more assistance to others than I have received myself. If she is right, so be it. I like helping others. I want to help others. It makes me feel good. And if, along the way, my generous spirit builds a relationship, a sense of camaraderie, or an obligation to repay the favor, that’s OK too. I think of it as MBN – Mutually-Beneficial Networking.

At this point, the skeptic in you may be asking … “Why should I listen to this guy Barry? He’s been in transition for seven months and he’s still unemployed. What does HE know about job search?!”

OK, good question. Let me give you a good answer. Since March 11, I have had 356 networking discussions (roughly 95% in person and 5% over the phone). There are currently 36 meetings on my calendar (including a televised interview on the topic of networking), and 26 more in the process of getting scheduled. I’m getting close to my goal, and it’s only a matter of time.

Through this work, I have helped dozens of people solve strategic issues by connecting them with specialized resources, and I have helped dozens more in their own job search endeavors. Twenty-eight job opportunities have come my way – six of which are still “in process.” I have also turned-down four consulting projects.

If you give serious consideration to the three critical questions outlined above – and develop your own compelling answers to each of them – you’ll be headed in the right direction to achieve your networking objectives!


About the Author:

Barry Curewitz is a Senior Marketing Executive and Business Leader with more than 20 years of experience accelerating revenue growth for consumer brands. He has generated more than $500 million in revenue with Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson, Lenox and Warner-Lambert. Barry holds BS and MBA degrees, and he has taught at the Fox School of Business at Temple University and the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University. His articles have been published in Marketing Management, Advertising Age, Chief Marketer, MarketingProfs and Marketing Daily.

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television and radio networks. He has also conducted presentations at many companies, associations and universities. Learn more at www.CareerPotential.com or contact Ford directly at 1-800-972-6588.

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