Do You Have The Right Script For Your Next Networking Contact?
When you’re looking to meet with a CEO about a job, write a good script for a discussion about how you can help the company. That will lead you to a talk with the CEO.
Question: I managed to network my way into a company that I am very interested in working for and was introduced to the CFO. She responded saying she is not the hiring manager for the position I am interested in (which is for a VP of marketing) but to send along my resume, which she will route to the CEO.
Luckily, having read your columns diligently, I know better than to send my resume off to someone with whom I have no relationship at all and then sit on my hands hoping for a call. I also know an informational interview is considered a joke, but I am at a loss at this point what I should ask her or talk to her about.
The CFO wrote back to me last night. It will appear very rude if I don’t respond quickly. Please help.
Nick Corcodilos: People tend to have a cognitive script for dealing with resumes. They “route” them—to HR, to another manager, to somewhere. At that point, their script ends. They don’t take—or want—responsibility for what happens next. They don’t know you and they feel no obligation. Their goal is to get rid of your resume, and they’re done. (See “Please Stop Networking!”)
You need to trigger a different script for the CFO about how you can provide value to the company. That entails a discussion between peers—not the processing of a resume. You want the CFO to talk to you, to share insight and advice, and to give you guidance. You want the CFO to direct you to someone specific, but to do that, you must justify that referral by articulating why that would pay off. That means you must understand what the company needs.
What I’m saying is, you’re moving this too fast and too suddenly. If you’re at a loss about what to say, it means you’re not prepared. Like the CFO, who is limited by “the resume script,” you’re limited by an inadequate script about how to “get an introduction to someone high up in the company.” Well, you got it. The script has ended. What script do you use now? You clearly don’t have one—but you should have had it ready to go!
Let me make an analogy. Imagine walking into your CEO’s office to propose a new marketing project that requires a big budget. Are you going to hand him your resume? Of course not. Are you going to say, “I want to start a new project. Will you pay for it?” Or would you have a discussion about the problems and challenges your company is facing with branding and product positioning, and then offer your ideas? Which approach is more likely to get you what you want?
A substantive discussion with your boss or with the person who will introduce you to your next boss requires that you prepare by talking with other people connected to the company—employees, customers, vendors, consultants, and people who know what makes the company tick. You must study the marketing department you want to work in. You should be able to say something like this to your new contact:
“I recently spoke to [so and so] or read [such and such], and it seems your company is facing some challenges doing XYZ. I’ve done a lot of work in [digital marketing, etc.] and [briefly describe your field or business]. I think I may be able to help you with XYZ. I’m not sure applying for a job at your company is the right thing at this point. I’d like to assess how I could add value to the business, and I’d like your insights. Then, is there someone—perhaps the CEO or president—that you recommend I talk with, to share some of these ideas and methods?”
See what I’m doing here? I’m not using a resume script or an “applying for a job” script. I’m talking about the company’s business. And you’re not just fishing for an interview. You’re offering a substantive discussion about the business and how you can help it be more successful. Take time to prepare for this communication. Write a good script for a discussion about how you can help this company, that will lead you to a talk with the CEO.
For more about getting in the door, please see “Three Keys To Productive Networking.”
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