Everyone in an active job search needs a resume or CV. Many people need a bio as well, especially when looking to become an independent consultant or do something entrepreneurial. But, did you know that you also need a Networking Brief?
“A Networking Brief? What’s that?” you might be thinking.
A Networking Brief is a concise document that helps facilitate networking discussions by letting the reader know the highlights of your background and qualifications, along with insight into what you’re targeting in your search. It’s a little bit resume, little bit bio, little bit targeted marketing document.
Okay, so why do you need one?
First, you have likely read or heard people say that when networking with someone, never ask if they have or know of a job for you. If you ask and the contact’s answer is “no” (which it often is), conversation typically shuts down prematurely. And, if I am your contact, I now feel badly that I cannot help you and that is not going to make me want to refer you to my friends and/or colleagues. To avoid this impasse, keep the conversation focused on gathering information and getting names of other people you can talk to. That’s why we often refer to networking meetings as information meetings.
Second, the resume’s main job is to get you an interview. When you say to a contact, “I’d like to have a networking conversation with you” and put a resume in front them, you are essentially saying, “Do you have a job for me?” or “I want to interview with you.” You are sending contradictory messages.
On the other hand, when you pull out a copy of a Networking Brief and speak to the information it contains, the focus of the conversation stays on people you should talk with and companies you should look into. So, what type of information is on a Networking Brief and how does it work?
A Networking Brief is a one-page document. It can display all of the information on one side of a sheet of paper or it can be printed front and back. The document can contain 1) contact information, 2) target or goal, 3) core skills and areas of expertise, 4) profile, 5) organizations you have worked for or with, 6) ideal organization parameters, and 7) target companies.
Like your resume, the Networking Brief is a marketing document. As is the case in so much of job search today, there are no hard and fast rules. Your Networking Brief should be customized specifically for you. You may not necessarily want to include all seven of the sections mentioned above, but let us take a look at what each of those sections might contain and how that information can help your networking conversations go more smoothly and be more productive.
Contact Information: Your name, email address, and phone number. Street address, City, State, and zip code are optional.
Target or Goal: Provide two or three examples of titles or roles you are targeting. This gives the contact an immediate focus on what you are ultimately looking for.
Core Skills / Areas of Expertise: In one- or two-word bullets, list the core skills and areas of expertise you are marketing. These can be listed in two or three columns. You may even want to categorize them (for example Management Skills, Financial Skills, etc.) or relate them directly to the Target Functions you listed in the section above.
Profile: Bulleted phrases or sentences that provide an overview of you as a professional. Some of this information may be extracted from the summary section of your resume. Be sure to include several accomplishments that demonstrate that you are good at the skills and areas of expertise.
Organizations: Provide a sampling of the names of organizations where you have worked. You do not need to include all of the organizations, and dates of employment and titles are optional. The intent is to give a quick feel for where you have been, and these organizations can add to your credibility as a professional.
The content in your Networking Brief up to this point through these first five sections serves the purpose of saying: This is what I’m looking to do in the future and here is some information that shows how I am qualified to do that. It’s a quick and effective way to provide your contact with vital information about you as a professional.
The next two sections of the document provide information that will help your contact mentally sort through whom and what they know that will help you.
Ideal Organization Parameters: Again, ideally in bullet format, list components that would make an employer one that would be of significant interest to you (for example, industry, size, culture, location, etc.).
Target Employers: List 10 to 30 organizations that you would be interested in learning more about. Note, I did not say companies you want to work for. These are organizations you simply want to explore and think you might want to work for. Group the organizations by common factors. That way, your talking points in a networking meeting can be, for example, “I’m interested in these companies because they are all marquee firms in my industry, and I’m interested in this group because my research shows they are progressive and fast growing”. You then want to ask: “Do you know anyone at any of these companies that you could refer me to so I can learn more about them?” No matter what the answer to that question, you still want to follow it up with, “Do you know of any other organizations like these that perhaps I should investigate?”
The Networking Brief is a powerful tool to keep your networking discussions focused on why and what your contacts know that could be helpful to you, rather than whether or not they have, or know of, the right job for you. Remember, it is intended to be a discussion aid, not a stand-alone document.
I hope you will develop and use a Networking Brief. Be sure to make this wonderful tool your own by customizing the depth and breadth of information in the various sections as well as the formatting style. Keep in mind that this is not a resume and you don’t want it to look like one. I’m confident it will make your networking meetings more focused and productive.