Informational Interviews: A Case Study of Networking Success, Part 2

Jun 16, 2020 | Job Search, Networking

Part 2: How to Carve Out This Competitive Advantage 

Here at ECP we like to describe our team of professionals as – cutting edge yet old school. While we embrace what’s new to the industry, we also rely on our cumulative years of time-tested knowledge to help Get You Hired Faster. Ultimately, we are all in favor of doing what’s right for the specific circumstances around each of our clients, whether new school or old school. 

In this two-part series, we are examining successful networking techniques of our client Clay R. (named changed for privacy), and how time-tested approaches still play a pivotal role in today’s job search. 

To briefly catch you up, Clay works for a media/entertainment company with an impending restructuring. He was scheduled to attend an important industry conference, and ECP advised him to use the conference as an opportunity to capture attention for himself and develop new career opportunities. We armed him with high impact marketing communications materials, and a clear but flexible direction for strengthening and expanding his outreach efforts and visibility with key potential decision makers.

This multi-pronged approach involved identifying, finding, contacting AND, most importantly, aggressively following up with executives whose organizations might need and benefit from Clay’s unique experience and capabilities.  

In Part 2 of the Case Study, we explore how successfully Clay increased his visibility utilizing a strategy of networking his way into informational interviews.

Picking up where we left off in Part 1, Clay vigorously embraced our recommended approach, far surpassing both our expectations and his own. 

So, what did Clay do? 

Clay initially used a major industry conference as launching pad to turbo charge his networking efforts. The results were surprising to Clay, but we were confident all along with this time-tested strategy. What do we mean by this? 

Well versed in Clay’s abilities and track record, we were keenly aware of his natural relationship building abilities (he’s a warm, friendly guy and not the least bit shy); and figured that if he put these attributes together that more people would be receptive to his outreach than not. 

As we do with all of our clients (even folks who might be less gregarious than Clay), we instructed him to reach out and introduce (or reintroduce) himself to everyone he could during the multi-day conference. He passed out lots of business cards, struck up numerous brief conversations, invited people to meet him for coffee or drinks before after each day’s events, AND especially made a point to try to set up more formal meetings for after the conference.

As we suggested, Clay took the approach in many of the relationship building (or rekindling efforts) to treat the meetings as informational, fact-finding conversations. Per our recommendations, he framed his requests for get-togethers as opportunities to “learn about what’s happening in your firm … what new directions the organization might be heading … what opportunities the company is pursuing … what challenges you face … what the firm’s hopes, dreams and worries are … AND HOW I MIGHT HELP YOU IN ANY OF THESE AREAS.

The Results:

Clay shook many dozens of hands. While he got the brush off by a few people, he also had several conversations with folks who were very interested in talking. He planned quite a few follow up calls and/or face-to-face meetings.  Some of those ensuing conversations are, according to Clay, have been maturing into full-blown interviewing situations and career opportunities.

The confidence from the conference energized Clay. 

Upon hearing how his success and positive feedback (which we expected) was energizing Clay’s search efforts, we applied it to other networking tasks in his custom action plan. Specifically, we told him that his successful networking techniques while at the conference could be replicated using his email, LinkedIn and phone to make additional connections.

We suggested that Clay make a list of every organization that he had done business with in the past, competed against, admired, etc. AND that he find a few executives in each of those organizations to make the same kind of introduction he had done at the conference. Knowing the potency and breadth of LinkedIn’s network, we counseled him to use it as one of the search and research tools in a his arsenal of tools to find people who he already knew AND people who by virtue of things such as their title might reasonably be assumed to be an area of those companies that could use Clay’s talents. 

What did Clay do?

To our delight and to his own benefit, he rode the rising tide of confidence from his successful networking from the conference. He then jumped onto his proverbial surfboard to keep riding the wave. In this ongoing effort, he has REACHED OUT TO DOZENS OF PROMINENT EXECUTIVES at firms in his current industry, as well in adjacent or similar industries. These firms include many household names in the media, entertainment, telecommunications, content development and delivery sectors, including studios, networks, cable companies, sports broadcasters, etc.

In each instance, Clay has leveraged the ECP Business Intelligence Report BEFORE reaching out to existing or new contacts, to provide a springboard into conversations, gathering knowledge about new developments, breaking new, product and service launches, M&A activity, new contracts, competitive pressures/opportunities and a host of other facts and tidbits of news. 

Rather than focusing on what he needs (“I need a new job”), he instead has focused on what his contacts and their organizations need. Rather than centering his conversations on his job search efforts and career goals, he has kept his own and his counterparts’ attention on discussing what their firms need AND how he might fill that need.

Again, as with his efforts at the conference, Clay (and our team at ECP) have been impressed, though not entirely surprised by the positive response he has generated for himself. He has developed numerous promising situations, several of which seem to be maturing rapidly into potential job offers. In one case, the opportunity resulted in an almost immediate invitation from one of the highest profile firms in sports entertainment to fly out to their headquarters for a meeting with several very senior executives. 

We are still awaiting word from Clay on how these situations will play out, both Clay and our team are confident that one or more opportunities will culminate in a new job offer. 

Treating his job search and networking efforts in a consultative way, Clay has positioned himself as a problem solver and an answer to the kinds of challenges that these firms are looking for.  

Rather than trying to find a posted job ad that MIGHT be a fit for him, Clay has OPENED THE DOOR TO BE AN EQUAL PARTY IN ACTUALLY DEFINING AND CREATING JOB THAT ALIGNS THE NEXUS OF WHAT HE CAN WITH WHAT EACH THESE FIRMS NEEDS.

In Clay’s own words, 

“What I’ve discovered through this process of exploration is that there are probably many companies out there right now that need someone who can do what I do who might not have posted an help wanted ad or even gotten around to defining a position. In some cases, my timing has been lucky – I reached out to an executive whose team was already thinking about new needs [our ECP team thinks some luck was at play, but we also think Clay isn’t giving himself enough credit for creating his luck by doing diligent research] … in other cases, I’m pretty sure that just by striking up a conversation I actually stimulated thoughts at those firms about new things they could be doing, and where I could make a big contribution for them.

This is all a bit unexpected, but you told me if I gave the process a try and really put some effort into that I might surprise myself. So far, it is working far better than anything I hoped for or expected. I actually think I am close to creating a new role for myself in a couple of firms. All because I took a chance and, as you said, stepped outside my comfort zone….

I’ll share [for the benefit of your other clients] that the process works. I had some trepidation at the beginning. But you encouraged me to give a try. I’m glad I did. The approach of these informational interviews has made a huge difference. Rather than seeing me a desperate job hunter, these firms are seeing me as a valuable solution to things they want to do. They are really interested in exploring with me how I might help them. Needless to say, I’m delighted and excited for what comes next. Also, this has been a great confidence builder.

One last thing, you guys told me to ask lots of questions and to be a good listener. Wow, has that worked well. I think you used the analogy of seeing myself as a physician – someone who has to really listen to her patient before reaching a diagnosis and proposing a treatment. Well, that seems to have really changed the nature of these meetings. Everyone seems to respond to that approach.”

On our latest update from Clay:

He called for advice about reference checks and background investigations, as two of the firms with whom he has been talking have said these are the next steps. In our experience, these are usually buying signs – firms don’t generally bring this up until they are ready to make an offer. We’ll update this series if any news breaks to let our readers see how everything has turned out.

We will continue to preach on these techniques until our typing fingers get sore, and our vocal cords start to ache; we think there’s no substitute for the real world experiences AND successes of our clients. 

We sincerely hope that this article (and our many others) has sparked some fresh thinking on how to conduct a successful career search. We can’t promise that your results will match Clay’s, but we are fairly certain that this case study of his Networking Best Practices really could inform your efforts.

Ready to jumpstart your job search? Contact ECP today, and #GetHiredFaster! 

 

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