Have you ever wanted to work in a specific field but didn’t have any connections? You’ve constantly been told that you needed to start networking but weren’t sure where to start? We are going to cover everything you need to know about how to network from A-Z! If you are nervous about picking up the phone and calling somebody or approaching someone then we are going to crush that anxiety and make you start taking action! I spent years networking while trying to break into one of the most competitive fields – Orthopedic Medical Device Sales. Here we are going to outline what you need to do and say when you are networking.
As a side note, this article is mainly written for people who lack experience and are looking for a backdoor into the industry. If you have years of experience in an industry you are better off reaching out to a recruiter that works to hire people in a niche industry. However, I would also highly recommend these methods of approach to compliment your efforts.
The reason this works - Ever heard the term success is about WHO you know and not WHAT you know? Ever seen the statistics indicating that kids usually end up in the same working/pay class as their mom and dad? It’s true, to a certain degree you are a product of the environment and circumstances you grow up in IF AND ONLY IF YOU DO NOT DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I am not saying you are a victim to life and there is nothing you can do about it, quite the opposite. Here we are going to outline how to break into those circles where success mysteriously is bred via networking and ANYBODY CAN DO IT.
Before we begin, I want to emphasize that the main goal of networking is NOT to obtain advice/info. The main objective is to build a connection and sell yourself. Commit that to memory because when you act with a goal in mind you are much more likely to succeed. Here we go -
Ok, so you know what field you want to work in but don’t know anybody. How do you start networking? First, you need to identify the individuals you need to get in touch with. Technology has made this pretty easy today. The first step is to find who hires people for the job, people who are in the job, or people who have contact with people in the job. This can be accomplished very easily via several methods.
- In person company visits
- People you know
Now, before we move into reaching out to people there is something we need to address. The anxiety of reaching out to people. We all have it, it’s something that we are born with but that’s ok because it is easily overcome once you’ve done this a few times and realize that deep down we are all human beings and people want to help YOU. If you are nervous about reaching out to someone think about it this way. What if somebody reached out to you for help? Let’s say you work at McDonalds and you get a phone call from someone. “Hey Brandon, my name is John and I noticed you have been working at Mcdonalds for over a year now, Congrats! I have always wanted to work at McDonalds but I am a little lost and looking for direction. I know your busy but I would love the opportunity to take you to lunch/coffee to pick your brain and get your expertise. Would you have any availability in the coming weeks you could spare for a quick meeting?”
What would YOU do if you received this phone call? I’m willing to bet most of you would be happy to help. Maybe even a little surprised someone wants to work at McDonalds so bad. Would you meet with them? Of course, you would! You see, everybody loves helping people especially if they work in the role you are trying to get into. Chances are they had some struggles themselves getting there and would love to tell you how they did it. People love talking about their accomplishments. Now, you may meet some assholes. It is rare but I am not going to promise it won’t happen. If that is the case, just forget about it and move on to the next person. Even if you catch someone at a bad time (I’ve literally called some guys in the middle of dinner with their family) they’re usually fine with speaking to you at a more convenient time. Simply apologize and ask them when a better time to call would be. Now, onto how to find these people.
Linkedin - Simply do a search for the job title and your city in linkedin and a list of individuals performing that role should populate. Connect with that person as a friend so it will allow you to send a message.
Here is what you need to send:
I saw you have been with Superstar Co for x years, nice job! You work in the field that I aspire to one day do for a living and I wanted to ask for your help. I am a little lost and looking for direction. I know your very busy but I would love the opportunity to take you for coffee/breakfast/lunch at your convenience to pick your brain about the industry and get your expertise. Do you have any availability in the coming weeks to put a name with a face? Any help is greatly appreciated.
Here is the formula for a great initial email.
- Pay the other person a GENUINE compliment. If your making one up they will know. Look for something you genuinely admire about them.
- Get straight to the point
- Ask for their help.
- Get their phone # to set up a face to face.
I must emphasize that the goal here is to set up the face to face. Our main goal is to meet in person, build a connection, and sell yourself to this person so that when something becomes available they will think of you. Don’t get caught up speaking with them over the phone for advice. You will be forgotten within a few short weeks.
In person - Show up in business professional attire at the company. Be sure to bring several copies of your resume and a cover letter explaining why you want to work for them, just in case someone can pass this off to the hiring manager. Introduce yourself and tell one of the front desk people or whoever else is your first point of contact what you want. It would go something like this – “Excuse me, may I ask for your help? My name is Brandon cobb and I am interested in working in the “superstar” department for your company. I have already applied online but have been told hiring managers like people who take initiative and show interest in the position so here I am. Would you be kind enough to give me the name and contact info of the hiring managers for this position so I may reach out? Do you have the contact info of the people currently working in this position I may reach out to for advice?
Clubs – There are tech clubs, computer clubs, real estate clubs, just about anything you could ever imagine filled with people who share your passion. Chances are if you go to these you will meet someone or at least somebody that can put you in touch with someone. I am avid believer you can find just about anything by doing a web search so get to it! One hot link that is great to meet others with similar interests is:
People you know – I bring this one up last because although it is a great way to get in touch with people it is highly unlikely that they know somebody in the city where you work. I cannot stress enough that the main goal of networking is to find people, build a connection, and sell yourself. Never the less, it never hurts to use this option as well and at the very least you can have a phone conversation with them. Ok so here’s how it goes.
If you do not know somebody in the industry, then you need to ask ALL your friends and family if they know somebody you can get in touch with. I guarantee you the chances of somebody knowing of someone is nearly 100% if you ask ALL your friends and family. Each person you ask has a huge web of people they can contact. Even though they may not know somebody personally they may know somebody that knows somebody. Ya follow? Each person’s web of contacts is somehow connected to another person’s web and its pretty easy to find people just by asking around. What does this conversation look like?
May I ask for your help with something? I know I need to network with people to get break into this superstar job but I don’t know anybody in the industry. Do you happen to know anybody in the industry or know anybody that may know someone?
That’s all there is to it. Do this with ALL your friends and family. The reason you should start with this method is because when you reach out you already have a connection with them via the person who set you up. It makes the phone call and conversation much easier. Once you have found someone, ask if they will call and give them a heads up that you will be reaching out. Once you do this you will no longer be a random person calling and the conversation will feel much warmer.
Alright now onto the face to face meeting. The main goal when you first reach out to someone is to set up a face to face meeting. I recommend somewhere to have a cup of coffee like Starbucks, Panera, anywhere with a private setting. Always have an empty coffee cup or drink waiting on them. It shows you appreciate their time. Remember you are always selling yourself so you need to have a strategy once you set up the face to face meeting.
What do we want to accomplish when we set up a face to face meeting?
- Obtain advice you need
- Ask about future opportunities
- Sell yourself
- Build a connection with that person
Obtaining advice – Here we want to ask good questions. Questions that show we have done our homework on the industry, have a reason why we want to work in it, and show that we are passionate. Here are some examples of great questions:
- What are some of the biggest obstacles you face?
- What has contributed most to your biggest successes?
- What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out or trying to get the job?
- What have been the biggest changes or trends you’ve seen in the industry?
- Where do you see the future of the industry going?
- Who are the biggest competitors and what is their market share?
- Where do you see most of your company’s growth coming from?
- Who is the best performer in your department and what do they do to stand out?
- What advice would you give someone in my position?
Asking about future opportunities – It’s important that you find out if their company has any future opportunities they plan to fill. If they do not currently have any positions, then you need to understand how the need to create a new position develops. Good questions to ask are:
- Do you have any opportunities for new positions in the future?
- How does a need for a new position develop?
- How did candidates who were hired stand out?
- What are your company’s biggest goals and initiatives right now?
- Do you mind if I keep in touch with you until a position becomes available?
Selling yourself – this is a deep subject. Entire books have been written on sales but here are the basics. This is what the basic sales process looks like:
Access – gaining access to your customer.
Needs assessment – uncover pain points and needs of your customer.
Value proposition – Explaining how the benefits of your product satisfy the customers needs.
Closing – asking for the business.
When you start meeting people and asking great questions, you start to understand the necessary skills to perform the role. Once you know what those skills are then you can go into each meeting thereafter ready to highlight indirectly that you have those skills. These skills are the needs of hiring managers.
How does the benefit of your product satisfy the customer’s needs?
How to sell anything formula: Show how your product’s benefits solves the customer’s needs.
Customers need: My floor gets dirty and needs to be cleaned.
Product benefit: Our Swiffer sweeper can clean your floor.
Customers need: I want to feel special, accomplished, and important.
Product Benefit: People who wear our Rolex watches are perceived as accomplished and wealthy. Buy one and you can be too.
The only difference here is that YOU are the product. Once you have found out what skills the hiring managers are seeking you create stories on how you exhibit those skills to sell yourself to hiring managers. Here is what this looks like.
For example, when I was meeting with Medical Device Sales reps I would ask them the questions we highlighted above and I would get answers like,
“It is definitely not a 9-5 job. There is a lot of studying and your life really is your job. I had hobbies before and don’t anymore.”
“This industry is like the airline industry, nobody hears about the thousands of planes that take off and land everywhere, they only hear about the ones that crash and burn. That’s why these guys have an obsessive instinct to always make sure the product is there and back up products are available.”
“Some of these guys play on the doctor’s emotions to get the business. Saying things to make the doctor feel sorry for them. These guys may make sales initially but in the long term they never last.
“Some guys will do anything to get the sale. Even go as far as lying and affecting the patient’s well-being. They may do well in the beginning but in the long run it catches up to them.”
What these reps just did was give me the skills necessary to perform the job. I can now take that info and craft myself into a valuable product for hiring managers to “buy/hire.”
After hearing this valuable info, I craft my stories and conversations around those skills. When you exhibit the values and skills necessary to perform the role without the hiring manager ever mentioning anything about them you come off as having the “it” factor, you stand out. Based on the above statements, here is the lingo I would steer the conversation toward in an interview or initial interaction with a hiring manager.
Here is how that would look -
Skill - “It is definitely not a 9-5 job. There is a lot of studying and your life really is your job. I had hobbies before and don’t anymore.”
Selling myself - “I find the science in this industry fascinating, I love learning about the anatomy of the body. I’m lucky because I have nothing on my plate but time. No wife, no kids, just a desire to go out and build something. I want to be the guy working smarter and putting in more hours than the competition. I am going to outwork them because I have the freedom available to me to do so. It will take years of consistent effort but I know I will eventually come out on top.”
Skill - “This industry is like the airline industry, nobody hears about the thousands of planes that take off and land everywhere, they only hear about the ones that crash and burn. That’s why these guys who are successful have an obsessive instinct to always make sure the product is there and back up products are available.”
Selling myself – “I understand that to succeed in this industry you must have an obsessive tendency to always make sure the surgery goes PERFECT. One mistake - forgetting a key product, not showing up on time, or not educating the staff properly could cost me and more importantly my team the business.”
Skill - “A lot of these guys play on the doctor’s emotions to get the business. Saying things to make the doctor feel sorry for him. These guys may make sales initially but in the long term they never last.”
Selling myself – “I know a lot of reps play on the doctor’s emotions in this business. That is not my MO. I maintain a professional integrity and always do what is best for the patient.”
Skill - “Some guys will do anything to get the sale. Even go as far as lying and affecting the patient’s well-being. They may do well in the beginning but in the long run it catches up to them.”
Selling myself– “If the doctor asks me what I suggest he use, I am going to shoot him straight. If I think a competitor has an advantage I will let him know. I’d tell him that if it were my mother on the table I would use this competitor’s product because it has this advantage and will produce this result. I may not make the sale in the short term but in the long run I will show integrity, he will see me as a consultant rather than someone trying to sell him something, and purchase more from me.”
Ok, so now we have obtained their advice/expertise on the job, qualified any future opportunities, and sold ourselves on why we would be good for the job. Now we need to build a personal connection with them. Sounds difficult, right? Not so, if fact I’m willing to bet you already do this but don’t even know it. Ever ask someone where they’re from and find out you have something in common? Bingo, that’s what you are looking for – personal connections. It’s important to try and build a personal connection with someone for many reasons. Once you have become even mediocre in this skill you will notice other areas of your life improving. Why? Because success is far more about WHO you know rather than WHAT you know, remember? Who you know is determined by the value you provide to that person and your personal connection with them.
So what does an initial conversation look like? Networking is more of an art than a science. The beginning of the conversation should start with you introducing yourself, explaining your back ground, why you want to get into the industry, and why you reached out to them for help. The meat of the conversation will be you asking great questions and LISTENING for opportunities to connect while selling yourself when you can speak. When great opportunities to connect appear, you can steer the conversation into a short tangent on that topic then back on topic. Think of it like you are sprinkling in personal connection topics into your advice discussion, slowly veering off topic then quickly back on topic. Finally, ask if you can continue to keep in touch with them and follow up with a phone call every couple months. A great reason to call is to ask a question that came up since the last time you spoke. From there you can follow up with how things have been going and talk about any of the personal connections you had.
There you have it, the nuts and bolts to networking. Now be fearless and get out there! If you have questions or feedback please comment below! I would love to hear from you!