Networking letters are written to your personal and professional network and they are one of the single most vital components of your search campaign. It does not matter who you are, what you do for a living, or where you do it, you have developed a network of contacts over time, whether deliberately or not. Networking is a natural and inevitable.
Now, you can use those network contacts to take an advantage in identifying employment opportunities, getting interviews, and shortening your job search cycle.
Who are your networking contacts? They can be divided into several categories..
- Professional network. This network includes coworkers, colleagues, supervisors, and managers from both past and current employers. If you are a senior executive, this network might also include bankers, investors, business partners, vendors, and others within your professional community.
- Community network. Business professionals from your local community, bankers, lawyers, real estate brokers, and others you have some personal relationship with can be an important part of your network.
- College/university network. College alumni, professors, and administrators can be a priceless source of leads and contacts for your campaign.
- Association network. Professional and community associations to which you belong are an extremely valuable networking source.
- Personal network. This network includes friends, neighbors, and relatives.
A Networking letter can often be the most imaginative missive you write. Because you are writing to individuals whom you know either personally or professionally you can "let your hair down" and develop a letter that is a bit more informal than you would write to a stranger. In turn, you can be more original in your presentation, tone, language, and style.
The message you wish to transmit in your networking letter is, "I need your help." You are writing to these individuals for their assistance, guidance, referrals, and recommendations not for a job. (If they happen to have a job opening themselves, however, they will probably mention it as a natural response to reading your letter.) If you approach your contacts in this manner, you are very likely to receive a positive response. The key to successful networking is to ask only for what your contact can give you.
Everyone can give advices, and most people enjoy helping friends and associates. But if you ask for a job, and it's not in your contact's power to give one to you, you'll create a "dead end" with that networking contact.
You want at least one of three things from each of your network contacts:
- A recommendation or referral for a specific employment opportunity.
- Information about specific companies.
- Additional contacts you can add to your network. The whole trick to networking is to expand your contact base by getting new names from your existing network. Leverage their contacts to your advantage.
CharacteristicsNetworking letters are characterized by the following:
- Familiar tone. Because you are writing to people you know, your letters should be hard-hitting, powerful, and results-oriented, yet written in a less formal manner than you would write to a stranger.
- Request for help and contact information. Remember, the two most valuable results of your networking efforts are (1) specific leads that you will receive from the network and (2) contact information for people and companies you can then add to your network.