Numerous studies, articles, and career sites agree – networking is a vital tool in your job search toolbox. Trying to look for a job without networking is like trying to eat ice cream with your fingers. It can be done, but it’s a lot harder, messier, and frustrating.
Why exactly is networking so important? Two reasons. The first is people hire people. The second is networking provides a means to bypass the ‘system’. If you want to increase the chances of your resume being read, it is extremely beneficial to avoid online job postings (heavier competition) and get the hiring person’s eyes on your file (greater connection).
Yet some job seekers struggle with getting their networking strategy in place. It’s not uncommon to feel uncertain about where to start, who to contact, and what actions to take. To help, here’s a quick reference of simple steps to get you in the know:
First, figure out who is in your network.
Start by brainstorming a list of everyone in your network. And by everyone, I mean think outside the box here. People in your network extend far beyond coworkers and past colleagues. People in your network also include family, friends, community members, vendors, customers, the mailman, your favourite barista…the list goes on.
Write out a list of the people you know (1st degree connections) and also consider the people-you-know-who-know-people (2nd degree connections). For example, if your sister works for a company of interest and talks regularly about the HR Manager there, add that HR Manager to your list of 2nd degree connections, for possible introduction and outreach.
Next, make a plan.
It’s one thing to identify who is in your network; it’s another thing entirely to engage with them. The goal of networking as a job seeker is to build relationships and leverage your network through communications. So, make a simple plan to start connecting and engaging with the people on your list. A plan to ‘network’ is too large. Break it down into more achievable steps. Maybe your action plan looks something like this:
- Call Bob on Monday to arrange a time to have coffee, catch up, and chat.
- Reach out to two people each week via email that I haven’t spoken to for a while.
- Ask Shelly at Company A to introduce me to Sandra who works in a department of interest.
- Attend a networking event each month to meet new people and expand my network.
- Login to LinkedIn every day to read my newsfeed, participate in groups, and share my insights on posts of interest.
Finally, start communicating and foster engagement.
This means, start telling people what you need and what you are good at. Help people connect the dots so if they come across an opening that seems like a good match – they tell you! It’s too broad to simply tell people “I need a job”. Instead, draft a quick overview you can share with people you speak to, something like:
“I have 20 years of experience in financial management and I’m seeking a Director of Finance position in a mid to large-sized oil and gas corporation in the Toronto region”.
After you share who you are and what you are looking for, ask people to keep their eyes and ears peeled for well-suited opportunities, leads, postings, or referrals. People like to help people, but you need to ask!
Finally, make it a part of your action plan to circle back regularly to maintain relationships and engagement with your network so you stay top of mind. Build relationships not just for your current job search, but as part of your ongoing career management plan. Give people the same time and support that they give you.
An active and robust network is a wonderful benefit, always!
- Skye Berry-Burke is an award-winning, multi-certified resume writer and career coach who helps bring job seeker’s careers to new heights at Skye Is The Limit Resume and Career Solutions.