When it comes to job searching, networking is a key factor in success. Ideally, you make initial connections with people through LinkedIn (maybe even after meeting them in-person or at some kind of group online event). This is a great start. To really capitalize on a networking relationship, having a networking meeting can be extremely beneficial.
What Are Networking Meetings?
So what exactly is a networking meeting? In the good old days, I remember hearing people talk about doing informational interviews. In short, if you were interested in having a certain job, or working with a certain company, you would contact and organization or individual and ask if they would meet you for an informational interview. Here you might learn about the company, what they are looking for, skills to acquire, and more. It also gave you the opportunity to start to build a relationship with a company--or a possible advocate in the person doling out said information.
Fast forward to now. These days, a networking meeting is typically you and another person deciding to spend a half hour-ish together, (with the pandemic, usually virtually using Zoom with cameras on kind of like if you were having coffee) and chatting a bit. If you're job searching, the typical focus will be on how you can make progress in your job search. Someone may to agree to a networking meeting because you have things in common (like field of work, background, professional goals), because they are generally committed to helping people when they are job searching, or because you have a mutual acquaintance to asked that person specifically to meet with you to help you out.
Networking Meeting = Informal Interview
Whenever you have an opportunity to meet one on one with someone, remember that you are taking part in a type of informal interview. Whenever I meet with someone who is in career transition, my goal is to help them figure out their next steps, offer advice (if they ask and are interested) and give them ideas on next steps they might take, including who else they should speak with next.
While I go in with this idea, the amount of help I'll provide also depends on how this networking meeting goes. Ideally, we have a good, productive conversation, and I think to myself, "I totally want to help this person more." If the meeting goes well, I'll refer them to specific resources that might benefit them (like a networking group they might want to join, a company to check out, someone to follow on LinkedIn) and even put in a good word for them to have a networking meeting with someone else who might get them closer to their goals. In addition, if it goes well, this is a person who I'll refer to others for openings, pass on job opportunities, and maybe even hire someday. If the meeting doesn't go well, I'll share a few resources, but may not be willing to help them as actively moving forward.
Remember, interaction you have with people will impact their desire to help you going forward.
Types of Networking Meetings
Here are a few common types of networking meetings:
Networking Meeting Best Practices
Here are a few best practices for networking meetings:
The True Power of Networking Meetings
When people talk about how they "networked" into a new job, typically that means that they leveraged their initial connections, to help make inroads with new connections, who helped them get closer to a new position. The holy grail of networking meetings is when the person you meet with agrees to introduce you to someone else they know who could help you, and that process repeats until you're talking to a hiring manager or influencer who can help you get an interview for a job. Having good networking meetings is a critical step in that process.
What Do You Think?
What are your job search networking tips and tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Change is Constant
Businesses are always changing. They constantly update strategy to stay viable long term. Changing staffing levels is one way they evolve to meet needs. While changes may bring great opportunities, they could also mean layoffs are imminent.
Here are a few signs that your employer may be closer to reducing staffing levels.
From the dot.com bubble, to the 9/11 attacks, to the subprime mortgage crisis and beyond, economic conditions impact the viability of individual businesses.
Most recently, during the pandemic, we saw some businesses boom (like video conferencing) while others struggled (like hospitality). Consequently, for those organizations that were floundering, job eliminations followed.
Some were hit right away, while others lagged. For example, a company specializing in planning in-person events was impacted early pandemic, but the vendors who supported them with software felt the aftereffects.
Not all companies are successful--even in a strong economy. Companies might miss their sales targets for a quarter (or longer) or start to lose market share to a competitor.
To adjust, they may start with small cost cutting measures, like having fewer snacks in the breakroom or downsizing employee events. On a bigger level, there may be hiring freezes, no raises, or stopping performance bonuses. There could even be temporary pay cuts or the elimination of some benefits (like employer contributions to a retirement plan).
Since salaries are one of the biggest line items companies have, eliminating staff is one way to address financial troubles that shows a big, more immediate impact to the bottom line.
Changes in leadership, whether a CEO or a frontline manager, can impact an employee’s future. When a president is replaced, a VP of a critical department moves on, or a manager leaves due to personal reasons, new people fill those gaps.
New leaders typically review the current state, assess staffing levels, revisit company goals, and make changes. This may include them bringing in their own people, restructuring departments, halting unsuccessful projects, or starting new initiatives. In some cases, they may bring in one or more consultants to make recommendations—including the jobs that will continue, their scope, and who will do them.
When companies have new owners, changes are inevitable. Duplicate teams will combine and some positions may be consolidated or eliminated. Differences in company values may mean that a department present in one company is no longer valued in another.
Regardless of the circumstances, one thing is certain. The organizations in question will determine changes that need to be made and move forward in a way to make the company stronger—which may or may not include a job for you.
Occasionally, companies revisit their goals and decide to switch directions. For example, a call center might start expecting all agents to be able to answer all call types, then shift to having specialized teams, then decide later to outsource, or eliminate a service altogether.
Shifts take place to minimize costs or capitalize on a potentially lucrative market. This also means that the job that you have that was once seen as essential may later be deemed out of scope.
On an individual level, changes to your job (especially if it becomes less challenging) may be a hint about the future of your role. If at one point you led projects, and now you find yourself being left out of key meetings, take notice. See if this is an isolated incident or a pattern.
This may also be a downstream effect from changes elsewhere in the organization. For example, a new manager may observe you doing your (now less challenging) job and see a misalignment between the value you bring and the salary you receive. Whether this is due to a new boss who isn’t your biggest fan, or one who has a former colleague they want to bring in to replace you, it’s important to pay attention. Changes in responsibilities may put you in jeopardy as the organization evolves.
Depending on company culture, the amount of voluntary and involuntary turnover varies. While some companies have employees who have been there well over a decade, others may have the bulk of their staff there less than a year.
A larger, more established company has a better chance of having more longevity, while a tech startup may have more people regularly coming and going. Some may quickly decide if an employee is an organizational fit and take action. Others will have a structured (and often lengthy) procedure for attempting to correct performance before terminating. An organization’s mission, values, and day-to-day practices impact the likelihood that someone else will decide when you move on.
All of The Above
Sometimes, a layoff is inevitably caused by a series of events. It may start as an economic downturn, followed by the company’s financial issues, then a leadership change, a resulting reorganization, and ending with the company being sold.
What Do You Think?
What indicators have you noticed the precede an involuntary job loss? What steps have you taken to address your suspicions? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The Battle: Hopes vs. Fears
Finding yourself in between jobs is a great opportunity to rethink what you want and shift your career in another direction. Unfortunately, along with the excitement of limitless possibilities comes the persistent fear you will never find work again.
Through this process, the part of you that feels bound for greatness is constantly bickering with that voice telling you to shut up and take the first job you can get so you don’t end up financially destitute.
How can you keep these two competing ideas from undermining your job search and your overall career success?
Getting the Dreamer and the Bill Payer to Play Nice
A key first step to job searching is figuring out what you really want in your next role. Chances are, there have been good parts and bad parts of each of your previous jobs that inform what you want in the future. There are the basics, (health insurance access, a competitive salary, core responsibilities) and the finer points (career development opportunities, interesting projects, and an industry you love).
Unfortunately, discussions about searching for work tend to skip right over the lower levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (food, shelter, security, and safety) and jump right to self-actualization. In truth, we have to meet those core needs (which typically depend on a consistent and sufficient stream of income) while also striving to getting closer to meeting our full potential (which will contribute to our overall well-being).
While in career transition, that means balancing our need to make our interim sources of income (unemployment and any other money we can lay hands on) are able to bridge us from our last stable income stream to our next with as little undue anxiety as possible.
A core challenge of managing yourself during a job search is that you don’t know how long unemployment will last. In my six periods of career transition, my shortest was a month, and my longest was closer to six.
In reality, you’re unemployed a week at a time, not knowing when you’ll head back to work and a steady paycheck. It’s a balance between keeping the faith, and deciding what your plan A, B, C (and sometimes up to J) should be depending on how your job search goes.
In my most recent period of career transition, I started by figuring out what I wanted in a role. I wrote down the non-negotiables, the nice-to-haves, and the definitely-nots. I started job searching, networking, and applying for roles.
I also thought about timelines, and how I would modify my goals depending on the length of time I went without a long-term full-time job.
Job Searching Guidelines and Timelines
Here are my personal job searching guidelines factoring in timelines.
Adjust As Needed
I wrote guidelines based on my personal situation and what I thought made sense for me. Your timeline may differ. In addition, as new information entered the equation, I adjusted my plan. For example, during a previous period of career transition, I ended up finding a short-term contract role that was well-aligned with my overall work goals, so I took it. It didn’t necessarily align with my general guidelines as stated, but it made sense in the overall scheme of my career goals and job search timeline.
What Do You Think?
How did you think through your job search goals while in career transition? How did you adjust your plans based on the length of your unemployment?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is an adaptable learning & development leader, innovative instructional designer, and job search coach.