One of the biggest networking mistakes you can make is to not be real. It makes you seem like a threat, a crank call, or a con artist. Let me demonstrate.
One September night my wife Laura got a call. A woman called Laura’s cell phone, and Laura’s number is rarely given out. The caller said, “I’m a Girl Scout raising money for a trip.” Laura heard something about cookies and knew that Girl Scouts don’t sell cookies in September. The Caller-ID was blocked. The woman never identified herself. Hmm. It sounded like a crank call or a con job. So Laura firmly told the caller, “Girl Scouts don’t sell cookies this time of year, I’m not interested.” Laura hung up.
A minute later Laura’s cell phone rang again with the same blocked ID. Laura let it ring. No reason to encourage crank calls. When she got a voice message she listened. An upset mother, who never identified herself, told Laura that she had no excuse to be so rude to her daughter.
So now we are trying to figure out who we offended. At this point we are not even sure cookies were mentioned. Maybe Laura just assumed she said “cookies”.
The Job Search Application
You are a potential crank caller or con job when you call a hiring manager you don’t know.
That Girl Scout made a few critical mistakes:
- She didn’t identify herself
- She didn’t identify the person who sent her
- Her starting point was ambiguous
- She was calling at the wrong time of year
- She was “not human”
Number 5 is the real problem. By having a problem with the first 4, she guaranteed that Laura did not see her as a human, but as a threat, crank call, or con artist.
When you are calling to network, be very clear who you are and who sent you. Let the person know exactly why you are making this particular call. Realize that they probably do not have a job for you – it is the wrong time of year.
To turn yourself into a human. First say in 10 seconds or less you are job hunting. Less is better. They will tell you if they have a job opening. Then give them something they can easily help you with. Ask them to recommend a business association, certification, trade publication, online community, or to link to you in LinkedIn. Get their email so you can send them contact information in case they think of something else.
Thank them for their time and hang up.
Send them a thank you email. Now put them on your list. Make a few notes so that they are human to you too. Figure out what would interest them that you can do for them every 2 to 3 weeks. Every time they see an email or hear from you, you become more human. Every time you help them, they want to help back.
Don’t be a Phantom Girl Scout. Be a human. Get them to like you and want to help you.