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12 Ways to Create Job Connections in a Virtual World

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By Maribeth Kuzmeski

RISMEDIA, July 24, 2010—Finding a job in today’s job market can be like conquering a new frontier for many job seekers. With the unemployment rate still over 9%, the job market has been flooded with tons of competition for job seekers—many of whom are experiencing a culture shock when they send out their résumés. After all, the days of mailing in your résumé and receiving a phone call to set up an interview are over. Today, everything is done online, from sending in your résumé to setting up your first interview—and nine times out of ten, you’re lucky to receive any kind of response, even if it’s an automatic one thanking you for your submission.

It doesn’t take long to discover that in a virtual world, it can be very difficult to get noticed by the decision makers whom you need to impress in order to land the job. Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life says there are three easy steps to getting noticed in today’s digitally dominated job market—networking, networking, networking.

“Today you need more than a résumé and a cover letter to get that dream job,” says Kuzmeski. “Think of yourself as CEO of Me, Myself, and I, Inc. You need to be doing everything you can to get the word out about your brand. That means networking.

Kuzmeski offers the following tips on how you can network your way to a great new job:

Rejuvenate your résumé. Résumés rarely showcase how great you are. That’s why it’s probably time to breathe a little life into yours. Think of it this way: If you are the CEO of Me, Myself, and I, Inc., you will need some marketing materials to promote your brand. Your résumé and cover letter will serve as those marketing materials.

Build your online résumé using LinkedIn. According to Jobvite.com’s 2010 Social Recruiting survey, 83% of employers plan to use social networks to recruit this year. If you aren’t already on business-focused social media sites like LinkedIn, take the time to set up a profile.

Get face-to-face with potential employers. Find a way to get in front of your potential employers. These days it is much harder to show potential employers what you are all about and to forge a connection with them because so much of the pre-hiring process is done online and through email. That is why it is essential that you find a way to communicate with them face-to-face. Dropping off a follow-up note or a résumé is a great opportunity for getting some face time with a potential employer. Another great face-to-face opportunity comes after the interview. To show you paid close attention to everything your interviewer said, stop by her office with an article that you think would be of interest to her or a small gift (e.g., a box of candy) based on some key piece of information—what Kuzmeski calls the “remarkable”—you found out about the interviewer during the interview.

Make an impact by using video. If you really want to capture the attention of a potential employer, record a quick video. Use it to get an interview or as a follow-up after an interview. Here’s how it works: Instead of just e-mailing a résumé or a post-interview thank-you note, include a link to a video of you. Carefully script your response and record the quick message using a Flip video camera or even a webcam. Post it on YouTube or some other service and send a link for the video to your potential employer.

Here are some helpful scripting tips for getting the interview:
-The video should be no longer than one or two minutes.
-Introduce yourself.
-Identify the job you would like to be interviewed for.
-Tell them three things about your background that may make them interested in interviewing you.
-Thank them for watching the video and ask them for the interview.

Become a contrarian networker. The focus of networking should not be on gaining an immediate job offer from the people you network with. In fact, that tactic almost never works. The goal should, instead, be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who may never even be able to give you a job, but might know someone who can.

Let them do the talking. (You ask the questions). There’s nothing worse than coming away from a great networking opportunity realizing that you didn’t capitalize on the situation. Be sure to have more in your arsenal than small talk. Kuzmeski suggests coming up with a list of questions to get the conversation going. Here are a few great ice breakers:

-What did you do for your vacation this year?
-Where did you grow up? Do you still have family there?
-How are your kids? What are they up to?
-What do you think about…? (Complete this question with something from current events, your town or city’s local news, or a recent event in your industry. Remember, it is always a good idea to avoid topics that can lead to contentious conversations such as religion, politics, etc.)

Once the conversation is flowing freely, then you can move on to more in-depth business questions:
-What’s the best thing that has happened to your business this year?
-What’s one thing you’ve done that has really changed your career?
-What will you never do again in business?
-What’s your biggest challenge?
-What’s makes a good client for you?
-What do you find is the most effective way to keep a client happy?

Be prepared to pitch yourself in 15 seconds. It’s no doubt that you have a lot of qualifications and experience. So much that you could probably go on for hours about yourself. But the hard reality is that no one wants to hear that much about your accomplishments. Kuzmeski says that when you are networking and getting the word out about yourself, you should resist the urge to give a ten-minute introduction about yourself. Instead, prepare a short, fifteen-second elevator pitch that hits on your career high points and top skills. Think about what’s unique about what you have done and what will help you stand out from a crowd of other job seekers.

Network to the people you know. Sometimes the most obvious connections are the ones most easily ignored. When you are building your network or considering who might be able to lend you a helping hand during your job search, don’t forget about the fruit closest to the ground. “Again, think about the people close to you, who might have huge networks of their own,” says Kuzmeski. “For example, maybe your mom is or used to be a teacher. She’s had contact with tons of parents over the years who just might be working at a company that could hire you. Or maybe your best friend is in a completely different industry from you, but he has a huge network of friends on Facebook. You never know how a great opportunity will present itself. Don’t count anyone out of your networking efforts, especially those who are the closest to you and therefore the most willing to help.”

Get involved in organizations that are connected to your profession. Job fairs can be great ways to get in front of potential employers, but you might not want to focus only on companies you know are hiring. In order to meet people within your industry who might have the potential to hire you, attend trade shows and seminars and join organizations or associations connected to your profession.

Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to give back, but it is also a great way to sneak in some networking. For example, if you are in marketing, volunteer to work with the PR director at a nonprofit, or if you are an accountant, volunteer your financial expertise. “There are usually many hands that go into keeping a nonprofit running,” says Kuzmeski. “Volunteering provides you the opportunity to meet them. And remember, you don’t necessarily have to be doing anything that is connected to your profession. Simply volunteering at a place with a cause you are passionate about will provide you the chance to get in front of a lot of great connectors that you might not have met otherwise.”

Be a mover and a shaker. The next time you attend a networking event or even just a party, force yourself to get outside your comfort zone. Don’t just hang out with the people you already know. Make it a point to introduce yourself to new people and find out as much as you can about them. The more you move around from group to group, the more connections you will be able to make.

Always be networking. You don’t have to be at an event or party or working your social networks to build your connections. “We all run into people everywhere in our day-to-day lives, but very few of us capitalize on all those great connections,” says Kuzmeski. “For example, next time you’re on an airplane, instead of working on your laptop or reading the paper the whole time, get to know the person next to you. Network at your kid’s soccer game or the next school PTA meeting. Strike up a conversation with the person behind you in line at the grocery store.

“Trying to find a job in such an overcrowded job market can be a daunting task,” says Kuzmeski. “But by placing a renewed focus on networking, you open yourself up to many more opportunities than just the ones on the job boards or those being offered at your local job fair. I truly feel that there are only six degrees of separation between everyone in the world—or at the very least the U.S. Every time you make a new connection, you get that much closer to a great new opportunity.”

About the Author:
Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, is the author of four books and the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth.

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