Monday, November 15, 2010

Smart Job Search: Expand Your Personal Network

It's not who you know...but who knows YOU that really counts in job search. The more people who know YOU, the greater your exposure will be to potential career opportunities.

To frame it another's not who's in your core personal network-it's who they know. THOSE are the people you want to meet and the connections you're interested in cultivating.

You need to realize that not everyone you come across as a result of your 'People-Searching' is going to be equally 'connected' to others, nor as valuable to you in your people-search. Some folks-for different reasons-aren't deeply plugged into the social networks, while others are. You'll need to connect with the latter.

You want to look for those who are more plugged in-for they are more likely to have a larger group of social networking contacts. This can help you to expand and extend your personal online social network, and thus increase your exposure to new career opportunities.

So set up a mini-file on each of these people in your core network who know you well, including names of their companies, and any other information you discover that could helpful down the road.

Identify and Add Value to New Influencers

Now, take your list of personal contacts, friends, or family and pay a visit to LinkedIn. One at a time, search for their name, and, if you find it, make notes of how many other connections they have.

Then, assuming you're allowed to see your friends' connections, click through and do the same thing. Note that on LinkedIn, you can choose to have all your contacts viewable by anyone, or you can restrict that view.

If you can view the people connecting to your friends' contact, you'll also be able to see detailed info about them, including their employer. If the firm that they work is of interest to you, add it to your potential employer list.

You can further extend your social network by doing the same thing as above, and following your contacts' contacts to their contacts. Now you're reaching a third degree of separation! You are looking for folks who have a good number of connections. As a general rule, you want to look for people on LinkedIn with at least 50 or more connections.

That's an indication, although not an absolute guarantee, that they're more tuned into social media. That may mean that they understand the concept of networking and are likely active networkers to some extent. Therefore, y can potentially be of greater help.

Although not a given, these more-connected people are also more likely than others to belong to other social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and other applications. This becomes important because they have many more potential connections for you, and they are more tapped into what's going on in their world in terms of jobs and opportunities.

Beyond LinkedIn

As you work through this process of identifying potential influencers on LinkedIn, you can take this a step or two further.

More actively networked people may have profiles on other social networks, and this can be an additional source of new contacts for you.. There is definitely overlap. Each social network has different types of people it attracts as a result of the type of interests its members have.

As an example, you will probably find some of your family's and friends' contacts on one social networking site, others who are on two sites, and yet other friends on one or two of these sites or perhaps completely different sites.

Using this approach to gather, identify, and expand your social network of contacts in this manner, can keep you so busy that you might not consider using other resources.

However, if you want to do an even more comprehensive job, particularly in finding other contacts working in specific companies that you are targeting, then lead generator tools can really help.

Online Lead Generation Tools

Lead generation tools/resources are more known to those of us in sales, marketing or business development roles, as opposed to the rest of the public.

As your livelihood is dependent on your ability to find the right people in target accounts, becoming more effective at doing so will improve your chances of reaching an appropriate decision maker and obtaining a good come in the form of a job or referral.

The Internet has fueled the growth of these tools, leveling the playing field for all who are willing to put in the effort. Like anything online, there are other sources we've not yet uncovered or used. But these tools can be a big help to finding new potential contacts, influencers, even hiring authorities to add to your growing personal social network.

Two such tools are Jigsaw and NetProspex.

Unlike the general-purpose LinkedIn, there is a small cost to access the above databases-$25/month at last look. But you can sign up for a month, do your research on any number of companies, and then end your subscription. You can always jump back in later in three months if you need this service again.

The beauty of these tools is their simplicity. For example, if you want to find out if there is a VP of Sales in Company X, simply type in the company name and the appropriate job title, and see what comes up.

The results might be one or several individuals or none at all. And they may or may not be who you are looking for. This functions just like a Google search, only with far greater precision.

You also could expand your search to all potential hiring "Managers" by typing in that term. You may find HR Managers, Staffing Managers, or Sales Managers. It's a broader group, but you may discover related hiring authorities or influencers in other parts of the company by doing that sort of search.

Lead Generation Tools are Fluid

These three resources are highly fluid and changing. As with LinkedIn and other social networks, new members join everyday.

Jigsaw and NetProspex contacts are "user generated". This means that people who use these tools to find leads are able to add, change, and update the information, including adding new contacts they have as well as changing the status, titles, phone, and email contact information as they come across it. As a result, the information you can find here is changing and growing all the time. You may not find a contact you need today, but next week or month, there may be five you will find there.

Being user generated, not all the information is up to date. Just like you, people leave companies, change jobs, or get promotions.

So, yes, while you 'pay' for each name you download-Jigsaw charges $1 per name-and get access to their contact information (phone number and email address), the information you seek don't always pan out.

Be advised that the contact information may not always be accurate. The phone number may be the main company number. The email address may no longer work or be valid. The contact may have left the company altogether. But in those cases in which you get a 'dud', just update the Jigsaw database and you'll get a credit. Simple enough.

When starting from ground zero with few to no contacts in a company, having the ability to find people at your target companies that might be of help to you in your search is huge. That's the value of lead generation tools like Jigsaw and NetProspex.

Jigsaw versus. NetProspex

Jigsaw has been around longer, while NetProspex is more of a newcomer but growing fast. One of the best elements of NetProspex is that their data is kept current. Their approach is to do as much work as possible to verify the accuracy of the contacts in their database. They also focus on not having any lead older than two years back.

Unlike Jigsaw, where you will find contacts that were created and inputted by someone anywhere from today to several years ago, NetProspex leads are more current. Therefore, this site can be a more accurate source of lead contact information. However, it's a newer site, so they don't have the several million contacts you can access on the Jigsaw database. NetProspex will catch up, though.

Remember that like any database, the information is never 100% identical. Sure, there will be overlap. More current information overlap is a good thing. And finding new folks in one database that weren't in another is even better.

Other Research Tools

The objective is to find a few good resources that can help you start building out your personal social network.

There are many other places to look, too. Some of these other resources include the obvious, like search engines.

Corporate Websites, Press Releases, News Archives

Don't discount visiting corporate websites. See if they have a "Press Releases-News Archives" section. This can be a useful source of information to mine and can turn up influencers or people in decision-making roles, simply because those are the types of people usually quoted in articles/press releases.

It takes time to read or scan through this sort of stuff, but again, this is part of your research. There is no easy way around research. Once you've done a bit of experimenting with it, you will come to appreciate its value.

Trade Publications

Every industry or market has one or sometimes several key trade/magazine publications. If you're in the industry, you can often get what's called a 'controlled circulation' subscription for free. Simply fill out the 'bingo card' and mail it in or fill it in online.

Better yet, check with your local main public library or university and see which ones they may subscribe to. It's often just the 'main' ones in larger markets, but you never know. And it doesn't cost you a dime. Ask for the business librarian if they have one, as they'll be more in tune with that aspect of their periodicals...which is what these publications are called.

In addition to being a solid source of information on a specific market, many times these periodicals have a 'People in the News' section about recent promotions and job changes. Look there, and read through these articles as a potential source for finding possible influencers and hiring authorities to add your personal social network.

And with many publications now putting their content online, do some research to see which ones may offer you free online access.

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