Does the very word “networking”, send you into a shiver? Do you picture evening mixers, complete with name badge and a row of wine glasses and canapes at one end of the room while awkwardly hanging around wondering what to do and say?
Thankfully, this kind of networking is not only impossible in lockdown, it’s actually less productive. You are usually better reaching out to people you know already, those in your personal and professional network, who can introduce to you to others.
Why is networking – also known as referrals or word of mouth – important to add as one of your key five ways into landing your next job?
Firstly, it’s an important way to hear about job openings, whether internal or simply never advertised. This is the “hidden job market” that you may have heard about. If you rely only on company career pages and jobs boards, you may be missing out on loads of opportunities and in some professions and at the most senior levels, personal connections are the way to learn about them.
Secondly, members of your network can act as internal advocates. Think of it from an employers’ point of view. With the best will in the world, advertising and conducting a recruitment process is a hit and miss process. However, if a CV lands on the desk of a senior hiring manager, forwarded by someone they work with (and therefore know, like and trust) there’s a good chance you will be shortlisted. Indeed, in some companies it is unofficial policy that anyone who referred this way will get shortlisted and if the applicant is successful, the advocate may even receive a financial reward for it.
Getting started with networking
If you are needing to find a job fast, then begin by letting the people around you know your circumstances. Share with them the kind of role and kind of organisation you want to work for and enlist their help in sharing any resources (or connections) that might be of some help. From there you might also run a LinkedIn search on the organisations you’d be interested in working for and seeing if you have first or second connections with them.
People worry this is somehow grubby. Yet really all you are doing is sharing yourself, asking sincerely and politely for advice, guidance or resources. It’s only if you are rude, demanding and/or you are asking directly for a job which is too direct that you are going to get pushback, and I’m assuming my reader is none of these things. Contrary to popular opinion, introverts make much better networker than extroverts, because of their humility, ability to listen and be curious.
In our Find Work Now group coaching programme, we go into the specifics of how you can ask and give you templates you can use to reach people by email or LinkedIn message. For now, the key is being brief and getting to the point of what you would like their help with, and asking lightly for a short phone, Skype or Zoom call with them. Including the name of someone you both know at the top and/or speaking to something interesting that you read in their LinkedIn profile vastly increases the chance someone will respond because they can see that you have taken the care to tailor your email. You’ve not done a “copy and paste” job.
Then it’s really about following up in the right way to secure that vital one on one call.
Not everyone will respond and that’s okay. All you ultimately need is one or two people who engage with your sincere requests for help, who like you and want to help you, and you are on your way.
Other ways to network:
- Sign up to LinkedIn groups and follow discussions. If I have something interesting to add, I will respond. Sometimes I then PM the person who posted. I have also been known to start my own discussions “Who here can recommend a great recruiter?” LinkedIn groups are amazing because you don’t have to be first or second connections with the people in them. You can connect with anyone for free who is in the same industry or role group as you.
- Attend virtual professional and industry events on meetup, Eventbrite and professional forums. Pick a few webinars and listen in. Raise questions in Chat. Answer people’s questions and if their background is interesting to you, offer to have an offline conversation with them and share your email address. When you have that call, you can turn it gently to a conversation about their organisation and your interest in learning about the ways into it.
Once a reluctant networker, over the years I’ve become a big fan. In my view networking isn’t just for finding a new job (though LinkedIn say over 55% people are finding work through referrals on the networking site). It’s key to being able to stay abreast of developments in your field, staying inspired in what you do and adding exceptional value to your role and progress your career.
Our online job search programme, Find Work Now: Seven Steps to Landing a Job in Unprecedented Times begins again this Monday 6 July. If you want to come onto this cohort, ticket sales end today at 5pm. The link for information about the Steps in this 8-week training and how to book can be found on Eventbrite. If you have questions about the programme – or networking and you more broadly – you are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org