Getting Your Network To Work for You

Excerpted from WSJ “Networking? Here’s How to Stand Out” by Joann Lublin , November 4, 2008

* * * * *

Fans of Bruce Mount sang his praises to BzzAgent before he applied to become vice president of engineering of the Boston word-of-mouth marketer.

In late June, the software-development manager asked nearly two dozen present and past colleagues to tout his abilities. “Even one sentence will help!” he assured them. Their testimonials ranged from a brief haiku to a multipage missive dubbing him “a freakin’ goldmine of knowledge, ingenuity and kindness.”

Mr. Mount’s creative approach “made him stand out,” recalls BzzAgent’s director of recruiting. He was the frontrunner among 166 outside prospects…

Unusual times demand unusual networking tactics. Most candidates find work through networking, surveys show. But in today’s dismal job market, many feel frustrated with standard strategies such as tapping friends for referrals…

“The bar has been raised on what it takes to make networking work,” concurs Scott Allen, a consultant about online networking. “Virtual interaction allows us to create the illusion of networking by making electronic links with people,” but online ties represent “just a starting point,” he says. “You still need some kind of relationship.”

For job hunters who use networking Web sites like, Mr. Allen favors a more-sophisticated approach. When you invite someone to join you on LinkedIn, he proposes including a personalized offer of help, such as an introduction to a customer or a useful link to a relevant article.

In the real world, you can improve your networking by finding out whether key executives of potential employers will attend a trade group meeting and then scheduling encounters during the event… “Don’t expect to just show up and bump into these people,” he cautions…

There are additional ways to network more effectively at events. “Be the only person like yourself in the room”…An offbeat but memorable “elevator pitch” will also make you stand out in a crowd, says Lorraine Howell, a public-speaking trainer in Seattle…

Still frustrated? Your network may know why. Ask friends, relatives and associates to anonymously assess your strengths and weaknesses through…

Possible questions to pose in an anonymous poll of your network:

  • What three words come to mind when you think of my strengths? Areas where I could improve?
  • Is there one aspect of my hunt where I am making a big mistake but appear unaware? If yes, what is my mistake?
  • What jobs do you think I might be good at that I haven’t considered?
  • What type of jobs have I looked down on that might pay well?  

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