If you are trying to integrate a job search into your networking, you probably feel like Han Solo trying to successfully navigate an asteroid field. Fortunately, your chances are a lot better than “approximately 3,720 to 1,” (although I wasn’t supposed to tell you the odds) – as many as 40% of job offers come through networking. To count yourself as a member of that lucky group, though, you’ll have to plan your movements carefully in order to navigate your network without smashing your Employmium Falcon straight into the side of a jobsteroid.
I’m now going to abandon this extended metaphor.
The internet is rife with advice for networking. You’re probably familiar with the basics – it’s more give than take, quality is more valuable than quantity, connect not just with people who can help you, but who you could help – but for the job searcher, networking takes on a new importance as well as a challenging new set of expectations. Here are some qualities successful networkers develop in order to find jobs.
OneThe best favor you can do yourself as a networker on the market is to identify exactly what you’re looking for. One of the most useful ways to do so is by coming up with a small, select number of companies or organizations for whom you’d really want to work. As TheLadders CEO Mark Cenedella writes, “By starting with the companies first, you’ll become an expert and an engaged outsider, which will allow you to come across in interviews heads and shoulders above your competition.” It’ll also enable you to focus on where you want to go, and therefore not just who you know but who you should get to know.
Another good way is to think about the kinds of jobs you want, and what those jobs do. Again, this tactic is likely to point you in the direction of your most valuable connections – if you want to be a graphic designer, you need to be talking not just to the graphic designers you know, but to the people you know who work with them.
You won’t do yourself any favors by pretending you don’t need a job, but you probably won’t be offered one just because you ask. So don’t! Let your connections, new or old, know that you’re on the hunt, but if you have to ask for anything, ask for advice. Remember how networking is more giving than taking? Asking for advice is likely to do two things: let your connection know that you respect and value them, and let you know if you’re moving in the correct directions.
One way you may find out you’re looking in the right direction is because that connection has an opening or knows someone who does – but they’re not giving you a job, they’re giving you the knowledge that the job exists. Even if they don’t, they’ll probably tell you a thing or two about how to increase your chances, but in addition to their pointers, they’ll be walking away with their ears open.
Identifying the jobs you want and procuring advice will go a long way toward finding you opportunities, both listed and unlisted, that line up with where you want to be. That said, you shouldn’t expect that simply knowing people will hand you an offer. Be willing to go farther afield. Dig into your LinkedIn connections to find the people you want to be talking to, but don’t approach them cold – get yourself introduced. Use that introduction, even (or especially!) if the connection isn’t to a hiring manager, to get a foot in the door and your name bouncing around the office, ideally with a lunch date or a fifteen-minute advice call.
The trick is to impress them when you’re on that informational call,” explains Lindsay Pollack for LinkedIn’s blog. “Before you speak to anyone for an informational interview, spend at least 30 minutes on that organization’s Company Page to learn about its products, services and current news.”
Staying strong and committing to treating your connections as trusted advisors will keep you from being a networking drain. It’ll also net you an ever-growing cache of insider knowledge about how to match the opportunities that are out there, while simultaneously helping your name come up favorably when openings need filling. Keeping up a steady, cavalier regimen of network broadening, when coupled with some healthy unemployment-enhancing activities, will go a long way toward making sure the opportunities you want will meet you halfway.