Sourcing Opportunities (Positive and Productive Networking)

images1Over the next several posts we are going to look at how to find opportunities through various means and will start that discussion off today with how to network in a positive and productive manner.

There are many articles that talk about why you should network but very few give step by step direction on how to start and carry out an effective networking campaign so that is where we are going to focus our efforts.

Although networking as a whole is by far the most productive way to look for a job, not all networking is created equally. There are three distinct ways to network for a job – online via social networks, in a group setting via job-search groups, chambers, and professional associations and informational interviewing through one-on-one meetings. Statistically speaking, informational interviewing is by far the most effective networking source and I have found that the other two (online and group networking) can be best utilized to support your informational interviewing efforts.

There are a lot of ways to really mess networking up and very few ways to get it right. With that in mind, here are nine things that need to happen to sustain a long-lasting networking campaign that is positive and productive for both you and the people that you come in contact with.

1. Learn the four laws of job-search networking. There are many things to consider and take to heart before starting to network and we have identified four things to remember that will help lay the groundwork for you to be successful in your efforts.

  • Networking is not asking for a job, it is a process of gathering information that will assist you in your search.
  • People want to help in your search but in order for them to do so you have to present yourself professionally, respect their time, and ask relevant questions in an appropriate fashion.
  • People will not be interested in helping you if you show absolutely no interest in them.
  • Always willingly, sincerely, and truthfully offer to return the favor and ask how you can be of service to them both now and in the future.

2. Get your tools together. As with anything in life, the better prepared you are the likelier you are to be successful. When it comes to networking, here is a short list of what it takes to get you ready to truly receive the full benefit:

  • Knowing what you want to do
  • Knowing how you fit into that function
  • Knowing what your value is in general and to that function specifically
  • Having a good résumé
  • Having job-search business cards
  • Have an effective elevator speech
  • Having a professional email address and phone with voicemail
  • Having a list of companies you would like to work for
  • Having a positive attitude and a servant’s heart

3. List and categorize everyone you know. If you go by what statistics say, the average person knows 250 people, but I believe that number is actually much higher. Before you dive head-first into making calls, it is important to make a list of those that you know and then put them into one of three categories so that you can be organized and efficient in how you work.

  • The first category (A) is people that you know the best. They are people that you can laugh with, cry with, and tell your deepest secrets too and they will think no less of you.
  • The second category (B) is people that you know very well but you would be very hesitant to share absolutely everything with them.
  • The last category (C) are people that you know but might call them ‘MR.’ or ‘Mrs.’

4. Know what to say and how to say. This is last step before the rubber truly meets the road and where you will either be successful or fall flat. Not knowing what to say and how to it and can spell doom for your efforts and is a major contributor to those that fail at networking. Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  • You need to be able to articulate where you have been and where you want to go (i.e. your elevator speech) and why people should be interested in you and more importantly why you are interested in speaking to them (each person will be different).
  • More important than how you position yourself is the types of questions you should be asking. You NEVER (and I mean never, ever) want to ask for a job during the networking process. That puts your current and new contacts in an awkward situation and will lead to doors closing before you are able to gather the information you need. Here are the types of questions that are appropriate and relevant for networking for opportunities
    • Who Questions
      • Who do you know in ___ company/industry?
      • Who do you know who knows people in ___ company/industry?
    • What Questions
      • What would you do if you were me?
      • What do you feel I would be good at?
      • What do you think about my résumé/elevator speech?
    • Where Questions
      • Where do you think I might uncover opportunities
      • Where do you think I might be successful?

5. Call your contacts to get feedback and find out who and what they know. Most of the people on the list you created in step number three will already know that you are at least poking around for a new job and many have probably offered assistance.  If you know how to make the ask to your friends and family they should be more than willing to help you out in a number of ways.

Strongly consider starting with your ‘A’ listers because you will make mistakes and you will mess up and it is much easier to do that with someone you are completely comfortable with. As you improve your ability to flow smoothly through a phone call and meeting move onto your ‘B’ and ‘C’ list contacts and then onto the new contacts you have been able to develop through those you already know. 

6. Call your contacts contacts and set a time to speak with them. This is where many stumble in the networking process because they are hesitant about calling someone that they don’t know. A long time friend, Hal Hassall (, has developed a Golden Script (below) for networking that has a money back guarantee and helps take the awkwardness out of making that call.

Hi (—), this is (—)….

      (pause and take a breath)

My friend (—)  suggested that I call you immediately….

      (pause and take a breath)

I am making a career change and (insert your friends name) thought you might be willing to share your insights….

      (pause and take a breath)

I know what I want to do and how, but simply need to understand where to best look for opportunities in (your job function)….

      (pause and take a breath)

May I come see you for 15-20 minutes this week to learn your thoughts….

      (pause and take a breath)

Please give me a call at (insert your phone number) so we can schedule a time that works for you.

7. Meet with your new ‘friends’ and manage the meeting for maximum benefit. Remember, when you contacted your ‘new’ friends you promised no more than 15 minutes of their time and you really need to stick to that. The last thing you want is a reputation of someone who does not keep their word. Here is a basic formula that you can follow to help ensure you stay on time:


8. Repeat the process. Now that you have contacted your contacts contacts, it’s time to go to the third level out and call their contacts. Use the golden script, use the same who, what, and where questions, and try to develop new contacts and keep the process going.

9. Track your progress and follow-up. As you move along in the networking process make sure that you are tracking who you are speaking to, when you spoke to them, and the results from that meeting (information gained, connections made, etc) so you can make sure you are not doubling your efforts and following up in an effective manner.

Everyone you speak to should get a hand-written thank you note about a week after you meet with them and an email as you move forward in your search to let them know your progress as you utilize the information that they provided.

What you get and what you find.  You will find that in a very short time you will have a large and continually growing number of contacts that are keeping their eyes and ears open for you and also doing their best to help you land a new opportunity. In most cases, your first and second level contacts will not lead to opportunities; it will be your fourth and fifth level out.


Networking is a vital part of a successful job-search and if done correctly, can not only help in your current job-search but also lead to new opportunities down the road.

Until next time, good hunting and good luck!


25 responses to “Sourcing Opportunities (Positive and Productive Networking)

  1. Oh Matt! I love the Hiring Zone graphic! Did you do that yourself? It’s so right-on. Also just wanted to say that I enjoyed the Generational Implications talk given by Deb Tobey. Both Mindy and I are still talking about it! Thanks for all you do.

    • The hiring zone graphic was put together several years ago – it was a pain to do but I am glad I had it for this posting. Thanks for continuing to read and comment and for coming out to R-TAG this month!! Deb ( did a great job and have heard from several that the presentation started some interesting office discussions.

  2. Thanks for posting this article- it helps confirm my good instincts and encouraged me to continue the calling I’ve started.
    (and to stay organized with it!)
    A well-timed boost.
    Cheers! –Krista

  3. Excellent information! you are correct in that there is much information to be found on the importance of networking but very little on how to do it well.

  4. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to future posts.

  5. Great information Matt! I love the specific steps and script to help those of us less experienced with informational interviews get started. Thanks for the specifics!

  6. Alisa Bondurant

    Amazing resource. We teach a workshop here at the Idaho Dept. of Labor on how to tap into the hidden job market. I am giving everyone a copy of this article.

  7. Jennifer Caprile

    Wonderful article! I just finished a presentation in our Job Search Workshop that this article supports! Thank you and look forward to using it as resource for my customers!

  8. Great stuff! Thank you!

  9. Thanks for the information. I am just getting started with networking and have been wondering what to say. This helps tremendously.

  10. Great article. However, how do you network with strangers when you don’t have a referral?

    I’m a marketing communications professional and I’m seeking a career in the renewable energy sector, which is a relatively new industry. I’ve asked and no one in my professional network has contacts at my target companies.

    Do you have any tips for someone like me who is trying to switch industries and build a new professional network from scratch?


    • Hey Kip –

      Great question!! Here is what I would do –

      1) Find professional association’s in your area – they are going to be the best place to start to start building relationships off of which you can get referral (if you do get involved it is always a good idea to volunteer there)

      2) Utlize LinkedIn to find out who you know that know people that you should know

      3) Ask people that you know, “Who do you know that MIGHT know someone in/at XYZ?”

      Hope that helps!

  11. Great article Matt. I liked the 6th point – Calling your contacts, very much.

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  14. Thanks for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will certainly apply some of these pointers to my skill set

  15. Hi Matt,

    This article is right on. I will send it to all of my clients today! Thank you for the great work that you do.

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