Networking is an integral, and arguably the most important, element of a job search. Eighty percent of the jobs that get filled are never advertised, posted on the internet or otherwise made known to the general public. Effective networking by others is one of the reasons that your on-line job application disappears into a black hole. Think about it – if you are a hiring manager with 80 resumes on your desk that came to you in response to a job posting when an email from your colleague arrives saying that he has just met someone who is a great fit for the role – what are you going to do? You certainly are not going to slog through the pile of resumes on your desk. In fact, research has demonstrated, and companies know, that the best (and lowest cost) hires are employee referrals and as a result incentive plans for employee referrals have become common place.
Research has also proven that “weak-ties”, people you do not know well but with whom you have some affiliation, are much more productive than “strong-ties”, people who know you well. If you are in job search mode, people who know you well would know about your search and help. Weak-ties will get you into new networks with a whole new set of connections and contacts.
1. Target Specific Industries, Companies, and/or Functions
You need to have a starting point and therefore need to target specific industries, companies or functions. To do this you need to have developed your Personal Value Proposition or Brand Statement (see my blog Crafting Your Personal Value Proposition) which will focus your efforts. You need to start somewhere even if your focus changes later.
2. Leverage Strong
TiesWeak-ties are more productive than strong-ties but strong-ties are still productive and worth leveraging. You don’t know what you don’t know and need to ask the right questions. Ask your parents, relatives, friends, people you play hockey with etc. if they know people in specific companies or industries or know anyone who does. Frame your question in both the specific and general, for example “I am exploring career opportunities in retail and am seeking the advice and counsel (not a job) of people in the sector. Can you think of anyone I should speak with?”. The more specific you can be the more able people are to be of direct assistance to you – “with large retailers including Canadian Tire, Loblaw and Hudson Bay”.If they offer up a name, ask them if they would be willing to provide and introduction and offer to draft an email for them to use. Drafting the email makes it easier for them and therefore more likely to actually do it. It also allows you to control, subject to their editing, what is said.If they seem hesitant to make a direct introduction, ask them if you can use their name when making contact. If they agree put, “Referred by Peter” in the subject line of the email.
3. Identify Weak-Ties
University and even high school alumni can be powerful networking resources. At most universities and independent high schools there is someone responsible for alumni relations. Contact them and tell them what you are looking for and if they know anyone with whom you should speak. Most universities have local chapters led by an alumnus (not an employee of the school). Contact them and ask them for referrals. Review old alumni magazines and newsletters to see if there is an article on someone or an ad/announcement placed by an alumnus who could be of assistance to you.LinkedIn is a powerful tool for networking. Behind the “My Network” tab there is a dropdown menu that allows you to search for alumni. Use the “Location” feature in Advanced Search to narrow your focus. Scroll through your alumni and make note of the people with whom you want to network. Do not contact them through LinkedIn – find their professional email address (more on this in my next blog). Take note of the LinkedIn Groups they belong to and join the same Groups.
4. Target Non-Ties
Identify individuals who you would like to network even if you do not have an connection. Look for magazine articles or blogs written by thought or opinion leaders in companies or industries of interest. If you are targeting specific companies use LinkedIn to identify networking targets. They should have experience in the company or industry (about 5 years) so they will have knowledge and contacts.You should develop a list of40 – 50 networking targets – enough to provide critical mass but not so many that they are unmanageable.
In my next newsletter I will outline the process for reaching out to your networking targets.