I know a lot of you opened this article on the name alone, and yes it’s a big claim. But I will do my best in the next five minutes to show you how building a world-class network in 30 days is achievable ó regardless of your area of recruitment focus. I must clarify that to actually build an ongoing, sustainable network takes years, or even a lifetime, and no network is ever really finished (Harvey Mackay, in his book Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty about networking will support this). So what I would like to share in this article are the first key steps in creating and building a world-class network in new markets and industries. I’ll use an industry example to outline how each of the steps can be executed. Let’s say we are looking to build a new network in a space we have never recruited for: voice recognition technology. Let’s also assume that we are looking to build a network from scratch where we have no previous expertise or contacts. Here’s how it’s done. Step 1: Do Your Homework To quote a timeworn phrase, you will need to work smarter rather than harder in order to do this successfully. But the leg work you do upfront will pay off tenfold at the backend, as ultimately we are looking to build a solid network quickly and easily without huge chunks of our day being absorbed by the process. If our target network is in the field of voice recognition technology, then the first thing we need to do is find out who all the experts and public luminaries in this field are. The intent at this stage of the game is not necessarily to headhunt these individuals (that might be a bonus byproduct), but more to leverage their knowledge, wisdom ó and ultimately their rolodex ó to get you access to others in the field. We need a solid base to start from and the best people to create that base for us are the industry-known experts ó and it’s is always best to start at the top rather than the bottom. Since these people are luminaries in their chosen profession, they have likely been authors or keynote speakers at conferences and are easily searchable on the web or in bookstores. Step 2: Leverage Your Existing Network Now that you have a better understanding of the voice recognition space and some of its players, you can start thinking about how to leverage your existing network. I would think that the majority of us have, at least in some way or another, an existing network that might span a diverse set of industries or specialties already. Even though it’s possible none of the people in your existing network have any expertise or connections in the voice recognition space, I still recommend contacting them first, as they will be more than happy to point you to people in their own networks who could lead you closer to your objective ó even if it is only one step closer to the people you ultimately need to find. Remember, the name of the game is networking. Alec Baldwin, in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” said: “ABC. Always be closing.” In the recruiter’s case, it’s ABN: Always be networking. With the advent of social networking solutions now available for recruiters to leverage (Spoke, LinkedIn, Ryze, Orkut, Friendster, Classmates.com, etc.) it makes sense to use these tools to see who in your existing network, even if they are five degrees away, is connected to the industry luminaries and key players you’ve already identified in the voice recognition space. Once again, the upfront research you do on who these players are will give you a clearer objective on who you need to connect with. Step 3: The First Connection Now that you have identified these individuals, you now need to spend a little more time learning about their background and expertise, so that when you do contact them for the first time you come across as knowledgeable about their professional achievements and accomplishments. Let’s look at worst-case scenario, where you cannot get personal or professional references to some of they key people you need in this new space. You are going to have to go in cold! It’s critical that you spend some time thinking about this step, because when you have a small group to connect with you can not afford to blow your first attempt. You also need to be very empathetic at this point with the person you are contacting and understand why they might not know how to react to a total stranger reaching out. This is the most important question you need to ponder, and your own style will dictate what type of script (not in the parroting sense) you will use. Rather than giving you a specific example how that email or phone call might proceed, I’ll suggest to you that most people are willing to help another human being if the request is not unreasonable (i.e. it does not take up to much of their time, does not put them in danger, does not require them to do something out of character, is not illegal or immoral, etc.). Some people respond better if you take the “I’m new and need your help” approach, while others warm up to the “you are the industry expert” approach (be careful here, as if you overdo the “ego” approach it becomes transparent quickly!). You should have very clear, concise objectives in mind for the phone call or email before you execute, as this is no time to ramble. You need to be confident but not pushy. You need to build trust and rapport very quickly, be it over email or the phone. This once again is more of a personal style thing, but I never leave a voicemail message with someone who does not know me unless I can say I was referred by someone else. If you go the email route with your first contact, then you need to think about what the best subject lines are given the spam filters that exist today. Putting “I need your help” as a subject line will not cut it the majority of the time in this day and age. If you make your first connection via the phone, it’s critical that you take away at a minimum one thing from the call: the person’s email address. This way you can send them further data and continue to keep in touch without the first call intruding too much on their time. Think of the telephone the way most salespeople do: It’s used to secure the appointment, not to make the sale. Your phone call and the outcome should have the same approach and simple as:
- Identify who you are and why you are calling.
- Convey the nature of your request of that person (to network, connect with an expert, etc.).
- Secure permission to email them in future.
- Get off the phone.
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The same steps can be achieved over email (my personal preference as first contact, but not all the time), but in this case you’d remove steps 3 and 4, of course. Your email should be to the point; it should not be longer than two small paragraphs. Don’t include job descriptions or anything else at this stage. Number three on the above list is critical, as I will point out in a follow-up article how to maintain and manage your network by letting technology automate a lot of the process, since we all know that successful networking can be a heavy time commitment especially once your network gets bigger. If you do your homework, leverage your existing network, and think carefully about your first connection, you will be well on your way to creating a new network within 30 days. I have built a career (even outside of recruitment) around these three principles, and I believe nearly all successful recruiters have leveraged some or all of these points in a professional way as well.