I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of books on various job search topics and often say to myself, “I bet this is mostly a rehash. I’m not going to spend time on this topic – I already know how to do that.”
Well, I just found a book that I think is worth reading even for career counselors who think they know how to do networking interviews. The book is the Twenty Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. and Nathan A. Perez (available on Amazon and elsewhere).
Why this is from the front-lines ?
Ballinger and Perez are members of a search firm that provides top-level executives to companies. They see a lot of individuals who are networking! The book is written in the spirit of giving back because they see so many executives who are not doing a good job of building their networks during job transitions. And if executives aren’t doing it well, that is a sign most are probably not making this technique work well for them! Also, they point out that the basics of this well-respected job search skill have changed – note, for instance, that what used to involve an hour now needs to happen in 20 minutes. Otherwise, Marcia observes the individual loses the attention of the person he or she is networking with.
The Three Most Important Points:
- Prepare-Prepare-Prepare — The book is focused on building your network when in career/job transition. It struck me that there are many other types of interviews within the job search process (job interviews, informational interviews, negotiating after the ask, etc.) How to prepare for each of these probably needs to be updated!
- Emotional Challenges — As I read through the early parts of the book which recapped myths about networking and made the argument that 20 minutes is the appropriate timeline, I kept thinking, will they write about managing the emotional difficulties so many people have after being downsized/rightsized/pushed out or whatever. Ballinger and Perez approach this topic from a new direction: They start by describing how someone wants to appear when networking (i.e., someone who is positive and competent and focused and would be an asset to a company in need). They make the point that frustration, passivity, and confusion are not on the list and suggest that if that is where you are you should postpone networking for a bit longer.
- A Structure Check List — The book describes in detail how the person doing the networking should structure the conversation. This involves researching the person who has agreed to meet with you and devising questions related to their experience and where you might want to go in your career. Such questions might be about experiences or programs the individual has been involved in or his/her view of the industry or function you share, etc. They also include thinking about possible ways you can help the person being interviewed. The discussion here provides excellent direction for this crucial part of the interview and certainly replaces the old approaches, “Tell me what you do.” Or “Let me tell you everything about me.” For me, this was the real “meat” of the book and was well worth my time and expense.
This is an exceptionally well-written book about a skill that everyone needs in the working world today. Workers are more mobile and as individuals grow and change old connections may no longer provide the information you need so constantly building a network is crucially important.
This book provides a report from the front-lines about how to structure the all-important networking interview in the early 21st century.