How Strategic Conversations Can Pay Off

When Catherine arrived for a networking appointment at a new start up in town, she had no idea it would soon lead to the job of her dreams.

Having moved back to Boston from the West Coast where she worked in positions in communications and marketing, Catherine had been unemployed for a few months. With no real prospects in sight, she realized her job search strategy of surfing online job ads and telling friends she needed a job, was not working.

She heard from a career counselor that 87% of job seekers find jobs through networking, sometimes referred to as “the hidden job market”. With that reality in mind, Catherine realized she had to expand her strategy and focus on meeting key individuals who were employed in her field of interest. But, first she needed to know how to find these contacts and what to say if she met with them.

Here’s how she progressed to success:

  • Prepared a “story line” that described what she was doing and why she wanted to meet. She decided on: “I’ve moved back from the West Coast and want to talk with professionals who work in communication and marketing.” (To avoid limiting herself to any one job, Catherine decided to keep her focus broad, instead of mentioning any particular title.)
  • Contacted Career Services at her college and requested contact information of fellow alums in Greater Boston who had jobs in her field or worked in organizations that employed people with her skills.
  • Sent out an e-mail to friends and acquaintances requesting an introduction to anyone who worked in her field. (Catherine heard that e-mail or phone introductions were essential and worked more effectively than cold calling.)
  • Thought carefully about the skills and abilities to highlight in her conversations with contacts and the questions to ask, such as “What are the biggest challenges you’re currently facing in your work?”
  • Inquired about local professional association meetings and if she might attend as a guest. Asked for an introduction to a colleague for additional strategic conversations.

This strategy brought Catherine to a meeting with the COO of a communications start-up company. As is true with most new businesses, there was a lot to do, but not enough time or staff to get it done. The senior team was aware of the need for more talent, but had not dedicated the time to do a search.

Then one day, in walks Catherine who had been introduced to the COO by a mutual friend.

It was Catherine’s question about a current challenge that moved the conversation to the status of a job interview. Before she knew it, Catherine was meeting with the CEO and discussing how she might approach a certain issue they were facing. In two weeks, Catherine had a job offer.

Today, she continues to work for the company and has received consistent promotions. What strategic conversations might you arrange today.