Networking is useful when you are looking to get information beyond what’s written (e.g. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the employer’s website). It can also be utilise to promote you to employers and may lead onto work experience then potentially to a graduate opportunity. It is in essence a tool for tapping into a hidden job market.
Often when I speak to students …………… with regards networking with employers we invariably move onto the topic of emailing. They’ll flag that they’ve emailed several employers with no response. This is not uncommon. The reasons around this can vary – the employer may:
- Be focusing on responding to clients or colleagues at that particular moment.
- Be experiencing a high volume of email enquiries or they are simply away from the office.
- Have felt the email query was already answered on the website in the FAQs section. So why respond?
The list goes on. However, one thing is clear and that is that emails on their own are not necessarily the best medium to connect with an employer, especially if they don’t know you. Unless:
- A relationship has already been established. Face to face or perhaps over the phone.
2. The employer in their advert (or information) indicates that you should communicate via email.
So before your email consider whether it is the right medium. Would it better and more immediate to talk politely over the phone? It’s harder to ignore a phone call. But if you do phone (i.e. cold call) be mindful of the employer’s time. Make sure before you call that you think about:
- The value of the call? How will it move you on? Will you be more informed in relation to recruitment selection, the role or the industry? Make a list of key things you want to cover and tick them off through the conversation. Don’t ask about things you should have picked up from their employer literature or website (e.g. FAQs).
- Managing your expectations. The employer may not respond in the way you anticipate. Remember always be polite and calm in your responses and be prepared to exit the conversation.
- Give the employer the option to exit early in the conversation, especially if you sense they’re extremely busy (e.g. perhaps ask them: Is this a convenient time? Could we re-arrange to talk?)
- Is it better to arrange a face to face meeting? You could email them an agenda of the things you’d like to cover prior the meet. Face to face may help you to pick up on non-verbal communication (e.g. how they look and feel about their role and the job market).
- What benefit will you bring to the employer by having the conversation? What can you offer them? Can you offer them support? This may be the first step to becoming part of their team.
- Tone of voice, in other words how you sound? You’re likely to get a positive response if you sound interested on the phone – a flat tone may be mis-interpreted as dis-interest.
- Is your networking to that employer sparked by genuine interest in them? Have you been researching naturally the activities they’ve been engaged in? Can you express this interest in your tone and what you talk about? This links to point 6.
Ultimately, it’s very much your decision on whether you agree with this advice. But I feel that thoughts such as these are worth bearing in mind, especially when also considering any media platforms (e.g. email, twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook). Researching the employer and picking up the phone could be the answer? Remember be polite. It’s up to you to decide the best method of networking approach.