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May 07, 2012

The Highwire Act – Networking Into an Interview

Doing something you don’t like to do but doing it anyway can be a critical part of networking. Professional networking often requires a bit of a high wire act for most people. “I know how to market others or market things,” said one of my executive search clients recently. “But don’t ask me to market myself or do all the things at networking events that I need to do for me.”  Networking for jobs puts most of my clients and many, many executives into their uncomfortable zone. Everyone seems to know that they are not their own best marketers. Another executive client of mine said: “I am not objective when it comes to me. I am good, Hire me.” Confidence is great but if you know you have to rely on networking to help you in this search or help you land an interview the tightrope gets higher off the floor. So let’s think about your networking and earning interviews strictly from networking as a real high wire act. But first, let’s up the ante on this high wire thought process, shall we?

How about this for some mental exercise? What if the only way you knew you could get a job was to network your way into that job? What if rules were created that said you would not receive a job offer unless you perfected your networking to the point of developing job offers strictly from networking? You couldn’t use Internet leads, postings on company sites and you could only “eat what you killed” as they say in sales? This sounds tough. But the so-called hidden job market exists because leads start out as needs or ideas in the minds of people who influence or author hiring. So how?

If you were going to walk on a tightrope across two buildings and at 50 feet or more in the air how seriously would you prepare for this role? What if you had to do this and you did not have a decision not to do it? I don’t know if anyone who ever reads this post will get a request like this but if you did what would you do? You would know a few things or find out a few things immediately. Let’s start your list now: when, where, type of rope, thickness of rope, access to experts who have done it before, training times, on and on. As you looked into the feat you would perform you also would immediately want to know if you had any safety harness or safety net. What if the answer was no to any safety harness or net? You would try to get out of it wouldn’t you? You might say: “I have never done this before. Who in the world is making me do this? Do I need to do this? Am I being threatened to do this? This isn’t something I want to do.” What if you did? I mean what if you really had to do it? How would you prepare? I can’t really teach you how to high wire walk but I can give you a primer on what it takes to artfully and athletically move a networking conversation into a potential interview.

1. Become Networking Ready – you need to have a powerful resume, strong interview skills and some catchy brand propositions ready for any setting. If you think networking will open doors for you and you go to networking events looking or in any way unprepared you will not be the best that you can be. I tell our clients and get in their heads early that every conversation from now on constitutes an interview so you act as if every so-called informal conversation as an interview. It’s hard to think like this but when you are trying to separate yourself from similarly qualified people or a mass of 400 resumes or better yet, trying to obtain a job interview from networking, you better be beyond the typical jobseeker in every way.

2. Know Your Audience (People) – so you really want to land a job offer at a one on one or group networking event? You need to have studied the person, who they represent, what they do and how they impact hiring. You need to study their bios on Linked In or Execunet. You need to talk to and try to find out who will be there. If you are meeting one on one you had better know as much about who your talking to and their needs, wants and desires.

3. Know Your Audience (Company or Organization) – don’t go to a networking meeting or networking event without know who might be there and what companies will be represented. Our job search clients may spend an hour at a networking event but I ask them to double or triple the time before they event, even days before to prepare to know any companies that could be represented through people. Find out what they do and their problems and how you can be a solution to those problems. Talk to people who work there or who used to work there and find out how they screen others.

4. The Pain Counts – what matters to your audience in networking should matter to you. What do they need now? What are their problems? How could you help them solve their problems? What is their pain? Go into a networking meeting with bold intentions of having your first interview with the idea that you can solve a problem or help them solve a problem.

5. Speak Their Language – you need to use the words of the organization or person that you are speaking to when you network. If you intend to earn a first interview and that’s your bold goal I applaud you, especially if you are trying to do everything first class. But you still need to know what they mean when they speak their corporate language, what the words are that they use to describe them. Most people including executives in career transition think that networking meetings are about getting something. Networking meetings should be about the person across from you and their needs. If you care about someone else’s needs you will study their culture and speak their language. Work on that before you boldly network and intend to land an interview within the context of an early networking meeting.

If you are going to walk a tightrope you might want some leather shoes, the kind with the soft leather soles used in Funambule (tightrope walking). You might want to know about Highwire, Slackwire, Skywalk, Slacklining and Freestyle Slacklining. In job search you need to know your capabilities and your abilities to drive revenue and reduce costs. You might want to have all of this down as cold as ice or colder.

Now if you really want to tightrope walk just don’t read below but get a coach and a training program as if your life depended on it. And don’t tell anyone I told you you have to walk the high wire to get a job. Look, I know it feels like it sometimes.

According to eHow, this is how you walk the Highwire:

1. Become reasonably fit. Practice walking on peg stilts first to develop your balance.

2. Start with slack rope first, which is a little looser than the tightrope. You will have to experiment to find out which tension works for you.

3. Set up your rope not more than 12 inches from the ground at first. You can always raise it as you become more accomplished.

4. Have someone help you up on the rope. Start in the middle first.

5. Look forward and not at your feet. Work on keeping your balance from your hips. Keep your arms out straight.

6. Avoid waiting for the rope to stop wobbling when you put one foot on the rope.

7. Keep your arms out and move them to keep your balance when you place your other foot on the rope.

8. Hold something in your hands to help you balance. Some slack rope walkers recommend juggling clubs.

9. Practice standing at first. When you are able to do so without wobbling too much, take a step, stand again, take a step, stand again, until you reach the end of the rope.

10. Find your footing first when walking on the rope, then place your foot (it is the opposite when walking on the ground). Keep your weight on your back leg when you stand on two legs.

11. Work on standing on one leg. You will actually find it simpler than standing on two legs, as you can use one leg to help you balance.

12. Learn to turn on the rope by having your right foot facing ahead on the rope, then place the left foot at right angles with the toes facing out. Shift your weight to your left foot, and swivel on the ball of your right foot. Put the weight on the right foot, and face the other direction. Do not look down at your feet.

13. Walk backwards on the rope. Remember not to look down.

14. Tighten and raise the rope gradually.

 

Image Credit: instantshift.com

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