If you’re in the job market, you’ve probably heard that networking plays such an important role in landing that next position.
But… you might think that you’ve already got that covered.
After all, you’ve scanned your professional network, checked to see who might be at another company, and have already asked them for help to refer you personally for a job.
You might think that’s all there is to networking and the job search, or that you much prefer the ‘cold apply’ approach to everything you see online because you believe it to be a ‘numbers’ game.
But the truth is, there’s a lot more to it than you think.
If you’re reaching out to only the people you know, you’re just scratching the surface of how helpful networking can be for your job search.
In fact, there have been studies over the years that show the profound impact networking has on how people get jobs.
Although people know it can help, many straight up hate networking.
They say it feels awkward approaching people you don’t know well to ask for assistance, or even that it’s just uncomfortable having to strike up conversation with strangers, let alone requesting a favor in the first conversation.
And those are just examples from when you’re networking in person. Add in the dimension of virtual networking, building rapport and connection can be more difficult.
So, if you’re a job seeker, what are a few things you can do to up your networking game?
- Realize that it’s more about building a relationship than it is about being a one-time transaction. Networking is more than just thinking “Can this person refer me to the company?” or that it’s a thing you do only when you’re out of a job.
At its best, networking is all about building quality connections with others.
It’s a situation where you’ve built solid ground with a person where they are comfortable to vouch for you, introduce you to valuable contacts, speak to your work ethic, reliability, and expertise – and you reciprocate the same willingness to support them.
That said, you don’t get to that ideal level overnight.
Networking is something you’re going to need to work on as a regular part of your career development. It’s kind of like integrating regular exercise into your routine, if you hope to be in good physical condition.
So, yeah, if it feels a bit uncomfortable to go a bit deeper in networking, take it as a sign that you have some work to do in this area.
- Diversify the ways you’re connecting with others… especially those that can help you with your job search.
You can make your networking moves stronger by going the extra mile to get to know others and to seek out new ways to connect.
While it’s beneficial to keep in mind the ‘long game’, here are some easy things you can do right away to broaden your networking activities while in pursuit of a new job:
- Interact with speakers and attendees during and after events. Many of us make it a point to attend and ask questions at events to help with upskilling and career development. But what do we do to continue after the sessions? Reach out to speakers or panelists after an event to continue the dialogue and build upon the connection.
My friend and experienced recruiter extraordinaire 🌟 Joi “The Joiful Recruiter”🌟 White shared on a recent LinkedIn Live for The Move Up Mindset show that networking with the speakers, hosts, and panelists of LinkedIn Live and audio events are simple and effective ways to keep the conversation going. You’re able to reach out to the person who presented, quickly refer to the topic most recently discussed, and suggest a timely offline meet to continue the conversation.
- Expand your professional network beyond those you immediately know. Ask your 1st level connections for help with this. You might be sharing the news that you’re looking for new opportunities in a certain industry, but take it a bit further and ask who they might know within their networks that might align with what you’re interested in. Follow up to see if they can introduce you to others in their direct circles who share the same interest or have a direct hand in areas that you seek.
- Get to know people involved in the hiring process in a more meaningful way. Call me biased, but I’m a believer that every professional needs to know a quality third-party recruiter they can trust as part of their network. And it’s not just to know someone who has a direct link to companies currently hiring, but because they typically have educated insight on salaries, trends, and other key things related to career progression. Your ‘go to’ people don’t have to be limited to recruiters – certainly, hone in on the connections within your network that are involved firsthand with any aspect of hiring to help build your knowledge and insight.
Quite often, when we are introduced to people who may have an in-depth perspective, there’s usually a specific question asked.
Maybe they’re looking to see if you fit a certain job for which they’re recruiting, or if they know of someone else directly qualified but open to a new opportunity.
You can go a step further and engage in conversation beyond the immediate question, or choose to follow up at a later time with this person. Make sure you keep your request as easy as possible for the person you’d like to get to know better, as this will show you value their time but also to increase the likelihood they’ll respond back.
- Let the idea of possibility outweigh any feelings of fear or uncertainty. Networking can seem intimidating — so much that people will avoid it all together. Perhaps you just hate the idea of reaching out to people only for them not to respond back or to reply with a cold answer. Yes, there will always be people who will choose to be unkind or to ignore you when asking for help. But… realize that with anything new, practice and by pushing yourself to go beyond the usual boundaries that you may have set will eventually pay off. With time, if you keep consistent with the activities that help you meet new people and deepen the rapport, you’ll be forging those quality relationships with people in your network who care and can directly help you achieve success.
- Reciprocate the favor, adopting the ‘in service to others’ mindset. Remember that networking is a two-way street. One of the best tactics you can use to build trust and help solidify your connections? Offer to help someone else in your network first. Maybe that’s introducing them to one of your contacts, or helping them out with a project they’re working on. This small act can lead to much larger returns, and being of service and helping others is something everyone appreciates. Keep in mind that networking isn’t just about finding you a job. While the ultimate goal of many of these activities may be to land a new role, it’s important to remember that networking itself is a journey. Enjoy the ride and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that come your way.
➡️🌟What networking tips have worked for you? I’d love to know. Please share them with me.