As a career consultant, I am often asked what people can do to speed up their search, since looking for a job can feel endless. My answer is always the same; you can dramatically improve the odds of finding a position by networking earlier, more widely and strategically. It is not the most popular answer – people are often uncomfortable networking if they have not kept their network alive before their search – but it works! There are four main principles to follow in order to get it right:
- Networking is more than just connecting on LinkedIn
- Work your current connections strategically
- Broaden your connections
- Create a target companies list
Networking is more than just connecting on LinkedIn
LinkedIn and other social media platforms are great tools to help you target and reach the people who could lead to your next opportunity. However, sending a connection email to the people you want to reach is just the beginning. The end goal is a conversation – in person or by phone/Skype – where you can reestablish your personal connection, catalyze their desire to assist, and gain information or referrals. So, avoid the broadcast emails and get the most payback for your effort by actually talking to people!
Work Your Current Connections Strategically
With your core contacts, consider multiple ways that each could assist in your search – beyond asking if the fact there might be a position at his/her company. For those situations, you would definitely ask to talk about any inside information that can be geared towards the hiring manager, culture, or group – and hope for an offer to walk your resume into the key hiring team. You could double the impact of the connection if you include questions around other information or ideas that person might have that could help, for example: (1) companies they might include on your target list, (2) recruiters they have used successfully, (3) professional organizations or meet ups they have found useful and (4) other people you should meet. Asking questions like these also makes it more comfortable for your connection in case they have some hesitation about presenting you directly to an opening.
Broaden Your Connections
The broader your network, the faster you hear about, and are connected, to new job options. Your close contacts will refer you to theirs, who often know each other well, so you can get a bit circular quickly. To go wider, you need to find new chains of connections. Good targets are networking events, meetups (try meetup.com), alumni meetings, or professional talks/conferences where you can meet people outside your immediate connections. Look at your local business or non-profit news targets to find what’s happening each week in your area. If you go to an event, open conversations by asking how you can help others – this often makes them more willing to help you.
Talk with people you meet at parties, or other social situations. I know several people who have gotten jobs through connections they have made on a plane, in line, or at the gym. Carry networking cards with your email, phone and LinkedIn address, the work title you identify with and a few key strengths (easily purchased through Vistaprint.com, Staples.com, or Moo.com), so that when you ask to set up a time to talk with them after the meeting, they will remember how they met you.
Create a target companies list
Your goal is to surface opportunities that are beyond what you can find in posted openings. Using your network or new connections to get you conversations in companies that interest you because of their mission, industry, products or culture – even if they do not currently have a posted job – can open up possibilities. These companies may intend to hire in the near future or think you can contribute enough that they would be willing to hire now or create a temp-to-perm opening for you. It also helps people understand the type of companies that interest you, and suggest companies you might not be familiar with to add to your list. Find these target organizations by watching the business press, talking to vendors, LinkedIn, Google and job sites and then find a connection!
If you apply yourself to networking, not just to open positions, you will increase your chances to be employed quickly, and make new connections in the bargain. Persist, don’t resist!
About Keystone Partners:
Keystone Partners is a leading career management and leadership development consulting firm headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Keystone works with organizations in New England, the Research Triangle, and around the world to efficiently and effectively address their career management and development needs.
Keystone Partners’ divisions include Keystone Associates, which provides comprehensive career management services through executive level; Essex Partners, a premier career consultancy exclusively for senior executives; and Camden Consulting Group, leadership and talent management experts who help leaders and their organizations learn, develop, grow and thrive. Keystone Partners is also a founding partner of Career Partners International. For more information, please visit www.keystonepartners.com.