Rod Colon: Make Networking Work for You

Getting to know the contacts of your connections is the real power in networking, according to Rod Colón, author of Win the Race for 21st Century Jobs, who spoke at a PSGCNJ general meeting May 28th.
Job seekers with at least 200 LinkedIn connections can have a reach or a half a million people, according to Colón. But, often they don’t take the time to leverage those secondary connections. Like most people, they have a tendency to take just the first few steps in the networking process and stop.
Unfortunately, many people just don’t know how to network effectively; they have mistaken impressions about what it actually means to network. They go a function, collect a few business cards, go home, get on LinkedIn, send their new contacts invitations to make a connection thinking that’s all here is to networking – it’s all about collecting as many connections as possible. But that’s not what it’s really all about, according to Colón.
Here are some of the scenarios Colón used, by personally interacting with PSGCNJ members during his presentation, to show how to meet key people and ultimately find hidden jobs.
1.      Get to Know Your First & Second Tier Connections
Again, collecting a business card or connecting with someone on LinkedIn is only the first step in networking. You have to get to know your second tier connections; the only way to do that is to go through your direct (or first tier) connections. To learn more about your first tier connections, do some research on them. Find out where they are working, what groups they belong to, and what projects they are working on. Call them up to ask for advice or share information. People like to be helpful and will take the time to speak with you on a topic that interests them. While you are talking, let it be known what companies and positions you are interested in. These first tier contacts will often invite you to check out their LinkedIn connections and may offer to do an “invite,” or be a referral, on your behalf.
2.      Offer to Help a Contact with Something
Contacting people you don’t know can be hard. A good way to break the ice is to offer to help them with something. You’ll know what to say from the research you have done on your connections. For example, you may offer to help a former boss, or colleague, with research, or, assist recruiters you are working with to fill a job that isn’t a good fit for you. These opportunities are ways of standing out from the crowd and showcasing your expertise.
3.      Call Contacts on the Phone, Instead Sending Email
For many people, calling someone on the phone can seem challenging and may seem old-fashioned. Most job seekers have tendency to send a contact an email, then wait for a response. Nowadays, people are becoming inundated with sheer number of emails they receive each day and a lot of communication may be lost when you resort to just sending emails.
A more effective way of communicating is to call someone on the telephone and use a compelling hook. Perhaps you have some insights in, or access to, research that will help them in their job. Another way to break in is to use the name of a referral, someone they already know and respect.
4.      Take Ownership of Your Job Search
When you meet with a connection don’t just give them your résumé and cover letter and expect them to look for your next job for you. This puts pressure on your connections; it may make them want to avoid future communications with you. They will probably forward the information you gave them to a human resource person and tell you the company will contact you if there is a fit. This passive attempt at job hunting does not usually lead to an opportunity. Working professionals are simply too busy to do your job search for you and, besides, you, as the job seeker, must take an active role in your search for employment.
There are two scenarios that could precede a meeting with connections. The first involves an open job you are interested in. Call your connections to let them know your interests. Then, send them a value proposition, which is a targeted résumé and include a t-letter, or cover letter, listing your job description on the left and your qualifications on the right. Explain how your skills/experience fit the position. Taking these few steps will make your connection confident in passing your materials over to the hiring manager because you have shown how you fit in with that position.
The second involves either a job you are interested in, within a particular company, or networking with someone doing a job you would like to do. Call your connections to see if they will give you a referral.  Have a compelling reason as to how and why your skills are a perfect fit for the job. Remember, take an active role in your job search.
Rod Colón does private career coaching and speaks to group all over the country. Check out his website or listen to his radio show Own Your Career, which airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. To listen to the program go to or use the call-in number 201-G07-JOBS.

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