Career Changes Are Like Farming
When you’re searching for the next thing, it’s normal to feel impatient. Every point of contact feels like hope, and it can be crushing to not hear anything back. You can almost imagine yourself as one of your ancestors, with a bow and arrow, stalking a prize – and you know that if you stay focused on the herd, you’re bound to bring one of them down. There’s a big problem with this analogy though – when you hunt, the easiest beasts to take down are the old, sick, or infant members of a pool of possibilities. Do you really want this for your career?
If you feel like your job search is like hunting, you’re looking at your efforts in the wrong way. There should be no weapons involved, and you shouldn’t be trying to catch an unsuspecting target. You should be cultivating a range of highly valuable options by strategically and aggressively networking. You should be farming.
The reality for senior executives looking for a career change is that networking will have a huge impact on their success. This can seem intimidating if you haven’t been to a proper networking event in years (or decades), but learning how to get the most out of each interaction can be done at any age, and in any stage of life.
Networking is so important for your career growth that, at Shield Meneley Partners, we dedicate a significant amount of effort to helping each of our clients learn how to optimize their public demeanor, read body language more effectively, break out of their shell and increase their charisma.
The first step to this process is to look at each interaction as a chance to plant and nurture a new relationship. When you first meet a new person, you have the opportunity to plant the seed of possibility by making a great first impression. Think of the effort of going to networking events and aggressively rekindling old friendships and relationships as planting a whole garden of seeds.
Pick The Right Fertilizer
Just as plants need fertilizer to grow, in order for relationship seed to grow and bear fruit, you’ll need to nurture them diligently over the course of their life. This means making sure to pick the right fertilizer for the seed, which, in this case, would be the right communication medium and frequency for the situation.
While your Shields Meneley Partners advisor can help you optimize specific relationships (especially those with the most potential), there are a few rules of thumb when following up with new contacts:
- Reach out within 24 hours after your first introduction. If you met in person at a networking event or other gathering, include a reminder of who you are.
- Connect on LinkedIn. This will help you keep track of them, and also advertise your relationship to both of your contacts.
- Offer value them before asking for something in return. This can be something as small as taking them out for coffee or drinks, or just give them some (positive) feedback on their work. Don’t go into an interaction expecting them to give you something – everyone can tell when they’re being used.
- Set a reminder for yourself to reach back out on a regular basis. We recommend about once a month!
The goal here is to essentially be a great business contact for them, and a good friend. Scheduling reminders helps you keep in contact, and it also shows effort. Be as involved as they’re comfortable with, and invest in the relationship to get the most in return. The goal here is to build up a solid base of contacts, friends and trusted professional relationships. Not all of them – or even most of them – will result in the perfect job offer, but having a strong network will help you close that big opportunity when it’s presented.
You can’t rush a plant to grow faster, and you can’t pressure an opportunity into presenting before it’s time. When you’re looking for a career transition, it’s easy to get discouraged or frustrated when, after a few initial meetings, it doesn’t look like a friendship is going anywhere, but keep at it! You never know who is connected to someone you need to know.
Further, don’t discount the value of a friend or employee referral. The more you network, the more opportunities you give yourself to be found by a stranger who knows your new contact. Remember, job hunting isn’t about hunting for the “perfect” opportunity, or finding the one contact who can help you get what you want – it’s about cultivating many contacts who can, by their sheer numbers, lift you up in the eyes of others. One of them may know someone, too.
Be Part Of The Community
While we still urge you to be patient, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process a bit – but beware, they all involve proactively being a part of the communities you’re interested in. For many Shields Meneley Partner clients, there are a few popular choices:
- TEDx talks
- Free classes (both on and offline)
- Proactive interactions in online forums
How does community and public involvement work? Establishing your thought leadership will showcase your skills, expertise and enthusiasm to your community. Displaying these characteristics often acts as the catalyst for turning relationships into opportunities. After all, if you’re well versed enough in something to teach others about it – and have the ganas to do public speaking – it’s hard to think of anything that could stop you from being successful. If you’re chronically successful, you’re instantly more valuable to their team.
As you build up your reputation and network, the more you work at it, the better your prospects will be. You may be tempted to harvest the fruit of your labor early, but wait until it’s something you truly find satisfying – if you network properly, your opportunities should increase exponentially over time.