As a career coach, I am continually amazed by all the articles and conversations meant for job seekers with advice so generic; it had to be written by a robot. Yet, when you are in a middle of a job search, you need honest, step-by-step information unique to the job you are applying to.
For example, in most career advice articles, authors tell anyone looking for a job that they must "network." Unfortunately, for many seekers, this term creates automatic tension in the job search since this word has so many meanings when it comes to job search.
The fundamental goal of networking is to establish connections with people in your field and create opportunities that lead directly to a potential job. The problem is that if job seekers already had these contacts, they would naturally use them. Unfortunately, most don't have connections, and "networking" means talking to strangers, something your parents warned you against when you were three!
Networking is more accessible than many make it out to be. Here are some steps to help you get started.
- Start with the end in mind. What companies interest you? What are the titles of the jobs you are applying to? This is a crucial step because it gives you your road map to help you start building your network. Spend time on job boards, LinkedIn, local business journals, chamber of commerce websites, Google, economic development organizations, and libraries (yes, local libraries can help you identify great companies in your industry you never hear of) to get job leads based on companies' job titles.
- Once these companies are identified, go directly to their corporate career website (smaller companies may still need to get this) and look at these job opportunities. Do this for all the companies you found in your research.
- Let the networking begin. For each company you identified, go to ALL your social media networks and do these two searches. The first one is just searching all your connections to find anyone who works at the company you are targeting. Follow this up by searching these same connection records for anyone with the job title you desire (try different titles). Your goal is to find any connection (friends, 2nd and 3rd connections) to which you can reach out and hopefully build a rapport. Most of the time, you will only know someone who may know that person at the company where you seek employment.
- Contact each connection. Use your friend's name when reaching out to this person. Introduce yourself, drop your references' names, and then ask them, "I am considering applying to a job at your company and wanted to know what you like working for XYZ company." This is so important! First, it gets them talking and gives you great insight into the company. Secondly, most people love to help others. Having them tell you about their experiences with their company gives them a chance to build rapport while listening. Mastering networking is listening and learning more about the person who can help you than they will know about you.
- Once a rapport is made, let them know your intentions. Tell them about the job you are applying for and ask them if they may either know the hiring manager or someone in human resources. If they do, you will have an excellent chance of increasing your odds of getting an interview.
- Keep this in the back of your mind. Many companies have employee referral programs that pay current employees money for referrals. Your networking call will be welcomed!
Networking may only come naturally to some. The challenge is connecting. Remember, the goal is to build relationships and create opportunities, so approach each interaction positively; try to learn more about the person you are networking with than tell your story and enjoy some fantastic results. Good luck!