I’ll begin this post with an obvious truth: Most of us don’t like to network. But the reality is, it’s a critical part of any job search and something you need to incorporate and get better at.
Here are some facts about networking that should help.
Networking can land you a job.
That gets my attention. All research shows that networking – actually getting out and talking to people – is more likely to get you a job than most other elements of the job search. By other elements I mean a resume, applying online to jobs, reading job search articles, etc.
Referrals (which come from networking) are the number one source of job hires.
Person-to-person connections matters. Networking is way more effective than sending endless resumes to anonymous job boards through the internet. It’s more effective in getting a job than even a strong resume. Getting out of your comfort zone and meeting with people or going to a networking event will allow you to talk with lots of people and as Luke Vernon, founder of the Luke’s Circle job site, says, “You want to become top of mind to as many people as possible.”
The more networking you do, the easier it gets.
That’s good news and it’s true. Your first networking event or the first coffee you set up might feel uncomfortable. But remember you’re new at. Anything you’re new at seems awkward at first.
You don’t know what to say. You feel judged. You might also feel “less than” because you’re looking for a job. So your monkey brain starts saying things like: Why don’t I have a job; why is everyone else employed; what’s wrong with me, maybe I don’t have anything to offer.
STOP. If you let that thinking continue your confidence will disappear and you’ll never be able to present yourself well. Take a deep breath, try to relax, and know that the person you’re talking to does not want to see you fail. She is not trying to trip you up. In fact she’s probably trying to help – most people want to help. (More about this later).
Finally, keep in mind that the anticipation of a networking event or meeting is often worse than the reality. Think back, say, to a high school dance or a first date. Now that’s awkward. With that perspective networking is not so bad.
Networking can be easier than the job interview.
With a job interview there is a lot of pressure on you to perform. You’ve got one shot at this job so that monkey brain can start up again: I’ve got to nail this. This is my one chance. I’ve got to look good and act perfectly.
In networking, the personal expectations are a bit broader and not so intense. At a networking event or when meeting someone for coffee, you’re often not going after a specific job so the pressure is less.
The purpose of a successful networking meeting is to have people know who you are, to get a sense of your personality, what kind of job you’re looking for, and what value you provide to an employer. That last point is critical. Employers want to know what you can do for them. That’s the issue – it’s not that you need a job. The sooner you’re clear about this, the quicker you’ll get a job.
Also keep in mind that a networking event is a two-way street. It is not all about you and your need for a job. With every person you talk to make sure to ask: “How can I help you?” That will be a memorable statement and they will be much more likely to try to help you in your job search.
People want to help.
Most people have empathy for job seekers. It’s the old “there but for the grace of god go I” feeling. Think about it.
Everyone has been unemployed at one time or another in their life. And they probably don’t remember it fondly.
They can identify with what you are going through and they want to help if they can.
“Personal” connections are important – use them.
To many of us, personal connections sounds like you know the person well. In the job search process this is not true. You don’t need to know a person well to ask him/her for help.
Here’s how to find a connection at a company that will likely raise your job application above all the other candidates.
Let’s say you’re applying for a data warehousing job you found on IBM’s website. You believe you’re a good candidate but you know that many other people will be vying for this job.
Start asking around to find someone who works at IBM: talk to people where you work out, your friends, neighbors, relatives. During this talk-a-thon you discover that your neighbor’s brother-in-law, we’ll call him Joe, works at IBM and also knows someone in the data warehousing dept. You ask your neighbor if he would mind emailing Joe to see if it’s okay for you to speak with him briefly. Your neighbor will likely will do this for you and Joe will likely agree to speak with you because, remember, people usually are willing to help. I’m not making that up
It’s important to prepare for this call to Joe. Keep your call short, be appreciative of his time, tell him of your interest in the position and your qualifications. Try to do this in less than two minutes. Be pleasant and not demanding because you want Joe to like you or at least feel good about you. Why? Because you will then ask Joe if he is willing to contact his connection in data warehousing on your behalf or give you the woman’s name so you can contact her. He likely will.
Now you talk to Susan, the data warehousing person Joe referred you to. She’ll talk with you because Joe referred you. Keep your conversation brief, to-the-point, and be appreciative of her time. Ask about the position and if you can use her name when you apply for the job. Again, the answer will likely be yes. You can now send your resume to the IBM data warehousing dept. with a cover letter that mentions your contact, Susan Wilkinson, in the first sentence. That will set your application apart from everyone else.
The point in this explanation is to show you how it works; to show how you don’t need to know the contact well; and what a difference it makes if you have a “personal” connection at the company you’re interested in.
The bottom line is get out of your office and network. Do it all the time whether you are employed or not. Help others – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but they will be more likely to help you when you are in need.
The more you talk to people the clearer (and smoother) you will be about what to say, what questions to ask, and how to follow-up. This type of networking will pay off way more than sitting in front of your computer reading job articles and perusing job sites.
Go set up a coffee meeting now.
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