4 Tips For Expert-Level Job Networking
I’ve been on the job hunt for the past few months since moving to New York and it’s been vastly different from searching in Houston and New Orleans. But the one good aspect of this hunt is that it’s forced me to confront my fear and dislike of professional networking. Not only did I consider myself to be bad at networking, I’ve also believed that hiring should be merit-based and that my resume should speak for itself, which worked in Houston. And my digital portfolio alone used to open a lot of doors. But New York is different. For those of you who don’t know, there are a lot of available jobs and also A LOT OF PEOPLE to fill them. To give you an idea, hundreds of people apply to any open job and I’ve even seen a job on Linked in with over 1,000 applicants! If you’re following my logic, this means many companies will never even see your resume, so it really doesn’t matter how good it is.
Luckily, the people around you are happier to help than you might expect. You are SURROUNDED by an already functioning network of professionals and all you have to do it tap into it, let people know you’re looking and make sure to follow-up. Below are 4 tips to help you get started, conquer the fear and make sure that you don’t waste any opportunities along the way.
Talk to Your Friends & Get to Know Your LinkedIn Network
Your network already exists, it’s the people you work with, the friends you brunch with or the guys your boyfriend hits the links with. Your first step is to let these people know that you are looking and what you are looking for. You could be looking for a job in a new city, moving agencies or trying out an entirely different industry. Whatever it is, these people need to know. And I mean ALL of these people (though be discreet with your current co-workers and only tell the ones you trust), meaning not just your best friend, your boyfriend, i.e, the people you feel the most comfortable with. You need to make sure that former co-workers know, you need to encourage your boyfriend’s friend to mention it to his wife, and you even need to tell that friend that you haven’t seen since study abroad. Trust me, most of them will be more than willing to help.
Next, you need to make sure you’re connected with all of the above people on LinkedIn. When you see a job on LinkedIn that you like or identify a company you would like to work for, click on the company name, then click on that company’s number of employees and see if you (1) know anyone that works there or (2) if one of your LinkedIn connections knows someone that works there. Your next step is e-mail.
Get Connected Via E-mail
Once you’ve told everyone you’re looking and identified the people on LinkedIn that can help you, it’s time to get to e-mailing. Ask your first tier of friends (old co-workers, actual friends, friends of boyfriends) if they can connect you via e-mail with anyone in your target industry. You don’t have to be picky here as long as they’re in the industry you want to be in. Some of the best leads I’ve gotten were from third-degree connections in advertising/marketing that don’t even remotely perform the same job function as me. All you have to do is follow the breadcrumbs they give you.
Once your first-tier connections have made an e-mail introduction, follow-up by asking the new connection to coffee or for a phone call (if that’s easier on their schedule) to talk about the industry and any insights they may have. Once on the phone, or in-person, talk about what you’re looking for, ask them about their experience or for any advice they might have. The goal here is to make a good impression, allow them to talk about themselves (trust me, everyone loves to talk about themselves) and get a few more leads. Sometimes the lead will be open positions they know about, companies that are good to work for, or other people they can connect you with.
Now two big mistakes that people make during this stage of the process is fumbling the initial connection or losing track of connections while you’re simultaneously networking with everyone else. Keep reading to make sure that none of your leads are wasted.
Respond to All Communication in a Timely Manner
The first, and easiest, way to fumble a connection is to not follow-up in a timely manner. If a friend connects you via e-mail or one of your connections e-mails you back to set up a day/time to chat, ideally you should respond within a few hours, though the sooner the better. At the very least, DO NOT let more than 24 hours pass before you respond to someone. Remember that no matter how happy these people are to help, they are ultimately doing you a favor and you need to be respectful of that. Not to mention, the quicker you respond to someone, the more likely you are to stay on their mind and the quicker they will respond back to you. And let’s not forget you preferably want a job THIS WEEK, so don’t let that shiz simmer.
Keep Track of Your Connections & Follow-Up
This is the part I struggle with the most, even though I’ve created a good system to stay organized. But planning is not doing, if you know what I mean. You can keep track of your leads with a spreadsheet, an elaborate system of notes or, if you don’t want to lose your mind, a program called Asana. Asana allows you to create tasks, set due dates and add notes to each task. As you can see in the above image, I create tasks reminding myself to reach out to old friends, peruse jobs at companies my friends have connections at, and nudge my connections once I’ve applied to a job if they can connect me to someone who works there, or they’ve previously let me know that they can get my resume in front of the person hiring. In other situations, my connection has sent my resume to HR and told me to follow-up with them in 1-2 weeks if HR hasn’t gotten in touch (because, you know how HR can be). So I create a task to follow-up with “so and so” in 2 weeks if I haven’t heard anything. The point is that your connections will point you in a lot of different directions and if you’re not keeping track of the leads, you end up wasting the most valuable portion of the networking process, and AFTER all of the work you’ve put in.
Hope this helped a few of you out. If you’ve got any questions on this, your resume, or would like me to clarify a step, please reach out. The job hunt can be pretty daunting at times, but I’m confident we can get through it as long as we continue to help one another 🙂