For the vast majority of job seekers, networking is the most distasteful part of the job-hunting ordeal. Asking others for their help makes you feel like a supplicant begging for alms. It is embarrassing. That’s why so many lawyers, not exactly a cohort of extroverts (Michael Avenatti aside), abhor networking and either don’t do it at all or are very tentative about it and, consequently, do not get the full benefit of what might have been.
Now there’s a solution. It’s called the Contacts Roadmap, an essential job-hunting tool my company developed over years of advising legal career transition clients.
If you want to maximize your networking contacts and feel confident while so doing, you need to present them with a clear and directed idea of your career aspirations. If you can do this, you substantially up your odds of energizing—and even enthusing—them to work vigorously on your behalf and connect you with job opportunities and their own contacts among prospective employers.
A resume alone doesn’t cut it. Networking contacts need something more. You are putting your future in the hands of people who may not know enough about you to be helpful, and/or may misinterpret who you are, what you can do, and where you want to go. You cannot rely on them to extract all of that and draw the right conclusions about you without clear guidance from you.
You need to educate them about how your background and interests translate into a new position or career direction. Without that grounding, they cannot be expected to exert themselves on your behalf. At best, they might feel that they have satisfied their duty to you by referring you to someone or to an organization for which you are completely unsuited. Alternatively, they are likely to misconstrue who you are professionally and send you off in wrong directions.
The Contacts Roadmap
The “Contacts Roadmap” is designed to overcome all the negative things that can occur between you and a networking contact. It provides your contacts with clarity and direction. It removes ambiguity and confusion that might negate their ability—or motivation—to serve as good conduits to both a wider circle of additional good contacts and actual job opportunities.
The Roadmap is a document you provide to your networking contacts so that they can –
(1) zero in with precision on where you could – and would like to – work, given your background, interests and aspirations;
(2) respond quickly and effectively to your request for advice and assistance because it minimizes their need to think long and hard, and perhaps incorrectly, about where you might fit; and
(3) act with enthusiasm and energy about you and your candidacy.
Key Roadmap Elements
A Contacts Roadmap should contain the following four sections:
Section 1: Examples of specific positions that interest you. Include job titles and, if a job title is not sufficiently descriptive of a position, elaborate on it. Make sure to note that job titles are not necessarily the same from one employing organization to the next, so include as many alternative job titles that might describe the same or similar duties and responsibilities. For example, “General Counsel,” “Chief Counsel,” and “Chief Legal Officer.” Do not assume that a busy networking contact will make these “comparison leaps” on his or her own.
Section 2: Geographic Preferences (if any) where you would like to work. Do not be so specific that you unnecessarily limit your options and those of your contact. You don’t want to forego opportunities so enticing that you would reconsider your locational preferences if they were presented to you. If the position(s) you seek require you to be barred in a jurisdiction, note your bar status in the jurisdiction, e.g., “I am a member of the North Carolina bar,” or “I have taken the North Carolina bar examination and am awaiting the results.” Or “I am scheduled to take the North Carolina bar examination in July,” etc.
Section 3: Examples of specific employers where such positions are found. Again, do not be so specific that you misguide your contact into assuming that you only want to work for Jones Tool and Die Company and not other companies in the same industry. Emphasize that you are providing examples.
Section 4: Why it is logical for you to be interested in such positions. This is where you bring Sections 1 – 3 together by providing details of your background that qualify you for the positions, locations and employers you have included in the first three sections.
The Roadmap has value in addition to the strong bonding relationship with a contact it can cement for you::
It can serve as your job search planning tool, clarifying your self-analysis and thinking about what you want to do and where you want to do it; focusing your networking strategies, allowing you to zero in on the precise people you need to approach for advice and transition assistance; and assisting you in building your resume(s) with sharper, more focused goals in mind.
It can serve a dual purpose by arming you with a powerful document to give to your references, which will not only impress and enthuse them, but also can be used by them for talking points when contacted by prospective employers.
It can keep you on track and away from digressing during your job search.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, it is a great confidence-builder, making it much easier to overcome your natural reluctance to ask for help.
The Subliminal Advantage
A Contacts Roadmap earns you “subliminal points” by sending a very positive message to your networking contacts about both your organizational skills and your strategic planning capabilities. These are characteristics that s/he may convey to prospective employers or his or her own referral contacts. It is by far the most user-friendly item that you could possibly provide to someone whose assistance you are seeking.
Don’t go job-searching without it.