One of the topics I speak about to students and job seekers is networking skills. They want to know where to network, who to network with, and what to say when they network- both through social media, and in person. I am absolutely passionate about the power of networking, especially when it comes to finding a new career opportunity.
Survey after survey says most people find new positions through networking. Many jobs are never advertised, so the key to this “hidden job market” is networking. If someone you respect tells you a person they know has strong job qualifications and is of strong character, chances are you will interview them, even if their resume is average. In addition, the more people that know you, and think positively about you, the more likely you are to hear about potential new opportunities!
How do I network?
1. Network during business hours.
You build high trust relationships when you spend time face to face with others. People who can help you professionally are most likely to meet you Monday through Friday. Meet at a conference, a workshop, or even Starbucks. Save your computer research and job searching for nights and weekends!
2. Have a strategy for whom to network with.
Seek out hiring managers, recruiters and other industry professionals in companies that you are targeting. Connect to people who are in jobs that you would like to have someday. Then find out where they meet (professional associations, workshops, community activities and social gatherings, to name a few). Before you attend an event, research who will be there, then set a goal to meet them. I once secured a job interview and beforehand I researched whom I knew that also knew my interviewer. I found two friends that knew her. One sent her an email recommendation, the other left her a voicemail recommendation for me. I walked into the interview with a ton of confidence, knowing that I had already gotten two glowing recommendations, through networking.
3. Seek first to help.
If you offer to help others you will truly stand out from the crowd. When offered help, most people respond by ask what they can do for the person who made the offer! Many job seekers go to “networking” events to work the crowd and pass out business cards to everyone. I once met a Business major at a college recruiting event. I told her I was primarily seeking Engineers. The next day, she emailed me with a referral- a friend of hers who was a Computer Engineer. I went out of my way to offer her help the next day- critiquing her resume and introducing her to two of my LinkedIn contacts. She helped me, and I couldn’t wait to help her.
4. Use the right tools.
Whichever social media you use, it is important to keep track of your network, and the conversations you have. I suggest you keep a spreadsheet to keep track of whom you have met, where and when you met, and what was discussed. You need to be organized and keep track of organizations and where you are in the hiring process with multiple organizations at a quick glance.
5. Tell others what you’re seeking.
The more specific you are in telling others what you want, the more confident you appear and the more likely they provide you with helpful leads. For example, if you say you want a marketing position, it may be difficult to steer you to the right contacts. If instead, you say you are seeking an entry-level outbound marketing position in a mid-large sized company in the communications industry, you trigger thoughts of job leads and specific individuals to connect for introductions.
If you follow these suggestions, and really do “keep in touch” you will be far ahead of those who don’t make a plan for where and when they will network, and what they will say when they arrive. You will hear about opportunities that others do not, and you will be able to take action!