Networking for job success

What is networking?

Networking is something that most of us do in an informal way all the time. Networking for job success is essential. A friend mentions they are looking for someone – a good plumber for example – and you will happily pass on a name. If you are looking for an expert in any area you will probably feel more comfortable about approaching them if you have had a recommendation rather than just looked on the internet. This is the basis of networking. Networking for job success is simply using this method in a more structured way.

You may know exactly what type of new career you are looking for or you might be looking for a change, something with less stress and responsibility for example, or part time.  

Step one

Write down a list of your friends and business contacts. These can also include people from any social, religious or sporting activity you undertake in addition to past work colleagues. Allow your mind to flow over all possibilities as you write names down.Don’t be concerned if you think that no one on your list has direct contacts within in the organisation  or sector you want to focus on. Networking for job success goes through a number of stages.

Six degrees of separation

Remember there is only a maximum of six degrees of separation. The theory being that  everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of a friend of a friend can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

Having run many Networking seminars over the years I have asked delegates to test this theory. I mention a name such as The Queen of England or Elton John. The Queen is always no more than two degrees away, but then she has been around a long time and goes to many places. Elton John is more often as must as three or four degrees. Never have we gone beyond six  even when the group are trying to help each other reach contacts they want to speak to. This has all be part of networking for job success.

Step two

Design a template, like a pyramid and keep a note of who you have spoken with and the contacts you have made.

Rules for networking for job success

Primary contacts

When speaking to your primary contacts – friends, ex colleagues etc – try to meet them face to face if practical. Explain your present position – that you are research the options for future employment and would like their advice. It’s useful to take along a copy of your resume/cv and ask them if they think it represents you. This gives them the opportunity to remind themselves or discover what your experience has been.

Your objective is to get the names of two contacts that you can approach. The most important part of this is to reassure your primary contact that you will not be asking their referrals for a job. You will only be looking for advice. An essential component of networking for job success.

We all have friends who we like very much but may not want to employ or may not know how they would be as an employee, and this can make it uncomfortable to pass on contact names. However this reassurance can result in much more willingness to offer suggestions.

Step 3

Write a referral letter. If possible post it to the secondary contact rather than email. Simply to show you have made an effort. People get so many emails that they cease to always be read, especially if they come from a source that isn’t instantly recognisable.

A referral letter

 You will develop your own style, but an effective referral letter will always contain certain features:

  1. An opening which establishes your connection with the contact, usually by mentioning the person who has referred you.  Acknowledge the expertise of the person you are writing to.
  2. The reason for writing - your current situation and present purpose.  Mention that you enclose a copy of your resume to give a better understanding of you and your objective.
  3. A clear disclaimer that you are not expecting the contact to have job for you, or even to know of a current opening.  Explain that you would value his/her help in giving you advice on your campaign in the light of his/her particular expertise.
  4. An acknowledgement that his/her time is valuable and that you are not seeking more than 20 minutes of their time. Give the commitment to telephone in a few days' time to set up a meeting.

Telephone referral

 SMILE!!  BE ENTHUSIASTIC!! This comes across

  1. Set a time for telephoning, eg 2.30 to 3.30.  Do not allow anyone to interrupt. Prepare a list of those you want to telephone.
  2. Have your diary at the ready, together with alternative dates for each of the people you want to see in relation to sensible journey planning.
  3. Use a script with the exact wording you intend, including answers to likely objections.  Start by establishing who he/she is and who you are and mention your mutual contact.
  4. Many people find it beneficial to stand up while telephoning, as it enhances the seriousness of the purpose and focuses both body and mind.

Potential objections and suggested forms of reply:


"I don't see how I can help you."

“I understand that, but from what ……..said about you, you have a great deal of experience in ..........  The reason for ringing, therefore, is to ask if we might meet.  Would it be convenient to meet on .......... or would you prefer ........?”


"I'm far too busy.

“I do understand, and that's why I'm ringing to suggest a meeting at a time convenient to you.  Would .......... etc.”

Close the conversation

 Once the time has been agreed, close the conversation by thanking him/her and confirming the time and place of the meeting.  Don't talk about anything else!

 Be deliberate - remain composed. 

If a call does go wrong, take a break before you make the next.  

Step 4

Referral meeting

Treat this as an interview, dress smartly and act confidently. In a way it is an interview because it’s unlikely you will be offered a job by this person you want them to be able to refer you on with confidence. Then it’s just waiting. However I have had clients who have been taken on immediately by the secondary contact, once on a temporary basis as their accountant had taken ill – he didn’t return and my client was taken on in a permanent basis. He was 61.

Useful questions

Ask for advice and Information

  1.  ‘I should be interested to know how you got into this job/field:  what kind of different challenges did you meet?  How did you become successful?’
  2.  ‘Is my resume clear to you?  Would it get me through your door?  How do you feel about my presentation?’
  3. ‘How do you see my skills being employed in your field/industry?  In other fields?’
  4.   ‘Is my objective clearly stated?  Is it realistic?’
  5.  ‘What type of organisation/industry should I be interested in?  Who will be interested in me? - Perhaps ask for referrals here when names are being mentioned.’
  6. What areas of the market do you think will show the most significant growth in the next ten years?’ - referrals opportunity.
  7. ‘What publications in this field should I read?’
  8. Are people recruiting in your industry?  At what level?’
  9. ‘How do they recruit?  What papers/journals/agencies do they use?’
  10. ‘What salary level is realistic for me?  How do Service Industry salary scales compare with Manufacturing Industry's or Advertising Agencies?’
  11.  Ask his/her advice:  ‘what would  you do in my position?’   

 Step 5

Send a Thank-you Letter:


Regardless of the outcome of the meeting, everyone gets a thank-you letter - and promptly, or it loses impact.  If you can, write on the same day as the meeting.  Be personal, specific and genuine in your thanks.  Promise to keep him/her informed as to your progress. And do so.

There is nothing more disappointing than thinking you have given someone your time and energy and they don’t even let you know that they have found a job. Networking for job success works but you do have to apply yourself and keep at it.

Tessa Simpson has written

A complete guide to networking - an audio guide – published by Journey Learning

Successful Networking – published by Fenman

If you enjoyed  Networking for job success you might want to link to Preparing for interview

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