Networking is about meeting people you know who can vouch for your past performance and connect you with people you don’t know.
After writing The Best Job-hunting Secrets of All Time, and reading the comments, I can safely conclude that 20% of job-seekers find networking necessary, appropriate, and comfortable. Another 20% find it necessary, but uncomfortable. The rest are either not doing it, or doing it wrong. (Note: I’ll be hosting a job-seeker webcast on Oct 10th discussing this and related topics.)
As many of you know I wrote a book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, attempting to describe the hiring process from all perspectives: job-seekers (active and passive), recruiters (the good and bad), and hiring managers (the fully- and not-so-fully engaged). One theme of the book was to suggest that job-seekers need to take matters into their own hands when they find companies, recruiters or hiring managers using some flawed hiring process. The techniques in the book will not help you get a job you don’t deserve; they will only help you get one you do.
As I’ve stated loud and clear on these pages many times, applying directly to a job posting should represent no more than 20% of your total time looking for a job. Sixty percent should be on networking. The other 20% represents a bunch of clever techniques to help your resume be found and get contacted by a recruiter. This post will focus on the 60% networking piece.
For job-seekers there are some major advantages to networking over applying directly. For one, you’ll be able to bypass the gatekeepers. For another, you’ll increase your chances of being interviewed and hired by 5-10X. Even more important, candidates who are highly referred are judged more on their past performance and future potential than on their level of skills and experiences. That’s why I tell candidates not to directly apply to a job unless they’re a perfect fit on skills and experience. If not, they need to be referred by someone who can vouch for their past performance and future potential.
Networking is not about trying to meet as many people whom you don’t know. This is almost as ineffective as applying directly to a job posting. Networking is about meeting people you do know who can both vouch for your past performance and future potential, and willingly recommend you to others. Here’s how this should be done:
Meet 3-4 people who can vouch for your past performance and future potential. These should be your best first degree connections. Younger people can use their professors, advisors, or important church or social connections as their first degree connections.
During the meeting review your resume or LinkedIn profile and ask for feedback. Then ask these people if they would be comfortable recommending you to people they know who are connected to others in companies or industries of interest.
If the answer to Step 2 is no, find out why, and/or find some better connected people.
If the answer to Step 2 is yes, obtain the names of 3-4 people and their contact information. Then ask the person who is vouching for you if they would call the person on your behalf, or send an email introducing you.
Research your connection’s connections and ask about specific people. In addition to asking people you know who they know, you can turn this around and ask them about specific people they’re already connected to who you’d like to meet. This is possible using LinkedIn, since you’re able to see your first degree connections’ connections (at least if they haven’t hidden them).
Network backwards. Start with a job of interest, and using LinkedIn, find out who you’re connected to who knows someone in the company who can refer you.
Be direct and be proactive. When you meet these second degree connections be prepared to ask about specific people they know, and about specific jobs at their companies. All of this information is on LinkedIn. Asking to be referred to a specific person or a specific job will result in more connections and more interviews.
Don’t be a pest, but keep your network warm by maintaining an active PR campaign. Spend a few hours each week sending emails to those who have helped you in any way. Make them personal.
Establish some metrics to stay focused. Treat the job-hunting process as a job, not a hobby. As a minimum, you’ll need to track meetings per week and the number of recommendations per meeting. The overriding goal should by 50-60 people in your job-hunting network within 2-3 weeks.
Networking is how you turn 4-5 great contacts into 50-60 connections in 2-3 weeks. As described above, networking should represent 60% of your job-hunting efforts. It will take about 20-30 hours per week. This is roughly 10-15 new contacts per week via the phone, which should convert into 5-6 one-on-one meetings every week. The rest of the time should be on LinkedIn researching their connections and finding open jobs in their companies. Within 2-3 weeks you’ll start hearing about some real jobs of interest. The person doing the recommending will think it’s a coincidence, but you’ll know it’s a result of your hard work.
Getting referred increases your chances of being interviewed and getting a better job by 5-10X over applying directly. This is a pretty good trade-off since it only takes three times the effort. Even better, some of the connections you make along the way will surprise you, and put you on a path you never even considered.
Networking Rules for Job-seekers: the Good, the Bad and the Almost Perfect