The Networking Approach
So knowing what we know about the hidden and visible job market, the goal should become clear: we need to become or at least be perceived, as an “insider.” The higher up in the hiring process we can inject ourselves, the better the chances for success.
- Effective networking begins with creating target lists of Who and Where. We’ll call this first step, the 100/20 method. The first list will be made up of 100 of our “who,” people of influence in your life, starting with your inner circle and working your way out.
The second list is 20 companies of interest in the geographic areas you wish to work. These are companies likely to have jobs you are interested in based on your particular industry and specific job function. You will be focusing your networking activities on reaching the decision-makers in those companies.
Making these lists for yourself is a critical first step, and it should become your road-map for moving forward with your job search.
- Next in the Networking Approach is the task of identifying key people in the companies on your target 20 list – the higher up their positions, the better. For each company, you’ll want to start a separate list for yourself of the key people you identify. The people most valuable to you are those that #1 work in the area of the company that your potential job would be in; #2 actually do the job you want to have; or #3 hire and supervise the people who do the job you want – otherwise known as “decision-makers!”
Obviously, #3 is your ultimate goal. Numbers 1 and 2 can potentially lead you to #3. Figuring out who these people are, and how to contact them can be time-consuming … and can be done using many different methods including social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor), I would suggest concentrating on one company at a time, and then skipping to step 4 below (reaching out.)
Then return to this step for the next company, and so on. So with these three lists before us: our 100 people, our 20 target companies, and the list of key decision-makers inside those companies, we sit down, lay the lists next to each other, and connect the dots.
We want to use our “Who” network of 100 to help us get connected with the key decision-makers. Introductions and personal referrals are the holy grails of networking. The goal is to attain informational interview opportunities within our target companies in order for us to showcase what we are offering and hopefully get some inside advice.
- Now it’s time to set up meetings. Naturally, a face-to-face meeting is preferable and way more effective than a phone conversation. However, many people are simply too busy to want to meet with you in person … so you take what you can get! If they do agree to meet you in person, you should suggest meeting for coffee – or in some other informal setting.
The goal of any networking meeting with a person from your target list is very simple: you want them to get to know you and vice-versa – in an informal way. This is not an interview. It’s a conversation with a potential networking partner. You should ask to hear more about their background. You want to learn more about their industry, their job, their company. You should wait until the person asks about you, and then tell them your story. You also want to make clear that while you are, indeed “in transition” … you don’t expect that person to have a job for you. Rather, you hope that person can give you some expert advice – perhaps point you in the right direction, or suggest other people they might recommend you talk with.
- The final step in the Networking Approach…and the one that many people fall short on, is following-up. Staying in touch with the key people you’ve talked with and/or met with is critical as is keeping careful records on everyone you talk or meet with.
The first thing you should do as follow-up is write a thank-you email immediately after a first networking conversation or meeting. (Some people recommend sending an old-fashioned hand-written thank-you note to stand out from the crowd. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that, I say send an email first because it is so immediate – and it also puts your contact information in their email inbox where they can easily find you later.)
Then, you need to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your connections to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch!
- And then of course there are other ways to become an “insider” at your companies of interest – if you take a part-time job, volunteer, a temp job, per diem, odd shifts, maybe an internship or job shadowing opportunity…all these are ways to get your foot in the door and get at those “hidden” jobs.
Final Thoughts on Networking
- Be specific about what you need.
- Follow up with others in a timely fashion.
- Thank those who have helped you along the way.
- Continue to network after you have found a job.
- Return the favor and be helpful to others.
- Set realistic and attainable goals.
- Be organized and keep good records.
- Don't pass up a time to network – it can happen anywhere!
- Maintain a positive frame of mind.