One of the worst things that anyone networking can do is to ask if you know of any jobs for them. I can assure you that the most likely answer will be something to the effect that two weeks ago they came across something that was right for you, but they can’t remember who it was they heard it from.
The analogy I would draw for you comes from my experience at a small staffing company back in the early 90’s before the Internet. (Yes, there was a time before instant communication!)
This little company was ahead of their time I suppose. They placed senior executives of all types in temporary and permanent jobs. Their key leg up, or so they thought, was a database of 16,000 executives who had registered with them. The problem was that although searching the database based on key words brought up candidates, rarely did any of them represent a perfect fit, or even a decent fit. What was worse was that most of them also weren’t either available or interested.
Finding a job that fits your requirements is a lot of hard work. Probably harder than the work you will do when you finally find that job. As you get further along in your career, you become a more and more sophisticated key that only fits certain locks.
Just as those who do search find the process of identifying candidates difficult (and no the Internet hasn’t solved everything), us mere mortals who would like to find something to do out in the world that will pay us a decent amount of money and not kill us is also difficult.
That said, when you are out and about networking, you need to learn to ask specific questions.
To get your gracious host in the spirit of things, ask if they know any recruiters who place senior financial executives. Recruiters are not your real target, of course, but everyone knows a few well respected recruiters and they will gladly share their names with you.
The next phase requires you to have a target company list. Coming up with a target company list isn’t as difficult as it may sound. First of all, it is not necessary that the companies on your list have any openings. Secondly, they are likely to be large companies, and as many of you may know from my past comments, large companies tend not to hire senior folks. They prefer to grow their own.
The target companies should be well known brands. A short definition of their business is needed, just as you might do on your resume if they were a place where you worked. Contacts often don’t know anyone at the companies on your list, but they do know other people who work at competing firms. We may scoff at industry experience as being entirely needed in our generalized area of expertise of accounting, but people from industries where you have worked always find you more familiar than those folks from other experiences.
Phrases like “mid-sized manufacturing company” don’t work nearly as well as naming names. Although your contacts may know that a firm is a manufacturer, they may not know the size of such companies. Not wanting to be embarrassed by you pointing out that they are too small or too big, they will just say nothing.
No one but you can easily come up with an appropriate target company list. I may not know what you do or how you do it, but if the company name is familiar, I can quickly gain a sense of other appropriate firms and I will leave it to you to sort out.
Ask me a broad generalized question and I might rattle on forever and tell you nothing. Ask me a specific question and I will generally deliver a specific answer.