How to network your way to a job in 2015
Networking is a crucial part of your job search strategy. In fact, research shows it is often the most effective way of getting a new job.
Why is networking so effective?
There are a couple of reasons, all flowing out of the "know you, like you, trust you, hire you" principle.
People simply like to help other people they know (friends of friends). Because you are connecting with a personal contact - a "warm lead", instead of "cold lead"- this person likely already "knows you, likes you and trusts you".
He or she will probably be more willing to invest time, energy and money in you, even if your profile or CV does not match 100 per cent of the job requirements.
Your credibility is automatically increased and trust is established if you are being recommended by someone who is already working in the company.
Having said that, I notice that many of my clients do not use networking as their job-hunting strategy. Some of them do not believe in the benefits, others think it is too difficult to make contact with strangers or ask for help from people they already know.
It is true that networking requires you to step out of your comfort zone. That is why I have prepared a list of ways in which you can network, with tips to help you maximise results.
1. Networking online (via social media)
LinkedIn is a great tool to develop your career or business, find your next job, and network. You can connect with the people you already know, but you can also get to know new people thanks to LinkedIn’s search and introduction functions.
One of the best and easiest ways is to network via groups. You can use both LinkedIn and Facebook professional groups for this purpose.
› Have your LinkedIn profile completed.
› Connect with everyone you know.
› Look for new connections, ask for introductions.
› Be active in groups.
› Offer your help to others.
› Follow up.
› Use social networking to establish real-life connections.
2. Networking offline
This kind of networking works like magic, especially if you already have a wider established network. Many of my clients have found jobs through offline networking.
- Coffees, lunches, dinners
What does it look like in practice? You simply need to invite the people you already know for coffee or lunch in order to get to know one another better and to see if there is any potential for job or business arrangements.
- Informational interviews
The other way is to arrange informational interviews with the people from companies you are interested in working with. The big plus of this method is that you have enough time to have a good conversation and therefore to establish a good relationship, but the downside is that it can be time-consuming.
› Make a list of people you know (former colleagues, old friends, etc.) with whom you’d like to reconnect, and who may be able to help you.
› Make a list of companies you would like to work for and check whether you already know anyone working there.
› Call or email people with whom you want to reconnect and invite them for coffee, lunch, dinner or whatever feels appropriate.
› Prepare yourself for the meeting; think about what you want to get out of this conversation. If necessary prepare a list of questions.
› If you do not have a job at the moment, strive to have at least two of these meetings every week.
› Listen to the other party and ask if you could help them in any way.
› Always thank them for their help.
› Follow up. If the person has promised to put you in contact with someone else, check back with them in two weeks. People are often very busy and you are not always their top priority.
- Group networking events
This is a great way to get to know many new people in a short time. In the Netherlands there are thousands of networking groups, so you’re more than likely to find the right fit.
This style of networking tends to make people anxious, as it often means getting to know many people you have never seen before. So, get rid of the belief that you are a poor networker!
I often notice that introverted clients assume they will be unsuccessful at networking. But very often this is not true: if you are an introvert you may in fact be much better in establishing deeper connections than an extravert. And networking is all about establishing deeper relationships.
Always prepare yourself for a networking event.
› Bring your business cards.
› Prepare what you are going to say if someone asks, "So what do you do?".
› Study the guest list upfront if available - check who you already know, who you would like to meet, etc.
› Come early to the event. There tends to be less of a psychological barrier around making contact if there are only a few people in the room. If you come late and the room is already full, you might feel overwhelmed and lost.
› Strive for a balance between having conversations of a good length, while making sure you have enough time to meet several people during the whole event.
› Depending whether you are more introverted or extraverted, keep a balance between talking and listening.
› Do not try to sell yourself (i.e. do not ask for a job, or offer your business services) when meeting someone for the first time. Remember that the first connection is about getting to know one another, not closing a deal.
› Make sure to always ask for the business card of the person with whom you are talking. Ask whether they are interested in connecting again in the future.
› Always follow up the next day. Send out LinkedIn invitations, "glad to have met you" e-mails, etc. If you want to arrange a follow-up meeting, send an invite.
Good luck, and let me know what your biggest challenge is when it comes to networking.