Networking is the FASTEST way to find a job for most job seekers.
Effective job search networking lets you “skip the line” when applying for jobs and get interviews quickly.
And the interviews are often easier, too! When you’re introduced to a company through your network, they’ll trust you more and you’ll already start the interview with an advantage. So you won’t even need to have the best interview answers to get the job if you were recommended by a mutual connection.
In this article, you’re going to learn all the benefits of networking for job seekers, and 8 job search networking tips to help you get started.
Let’s start with the reasons networking can be so powerful for job seekers…
Benefits of Networking for Job Seekers
Did you know a company is far more likely to trust you and hire you if you were recommended by somebody they know? Here are a few other benefits of networking and getting introduced to a company:
- Access to unlisted/unadvertised jobs (the “hidden” job market)
- Access to jobs that were about to be opened but hadn’t been officially posted yet (so you’ll have no competition)
- Priority over other candidates, and a faster interview process (for example you might skip the initial conversation with HR if somebody recommends you to the hiring manager)
- More room for mistakes in the interview. If somebody recommended you to a hiring manager and they hop on the phone with you, they are already thinking positive things about you. So even if you don’t have perfect answers for their phone interview questions, you still might get invited to the next round.
Is networking during your job search intimidating? For most people, definitely. But is it doable? Absolutely. Here are the top three job search networking tips you need to know…
Job Search Networking Tips/Steps:
1. Identify who you want to connect with
The first step is to come up with a list of people you can contact and ask for help.
Start your list by thinking about who you know. People to consider include friends, family, former bosses, colleagues, and neighbors. You can also include what I’d call conversational acquaintances – people who you have conversations with here and there, but who you don’t consider friends.
Here’s the key: When you’re writing or typing up this list, you’re probably going to hear a little voice in your head telling you “that person won’t want to help me.” Or “I haven’t talked to her in two years, I better not include her.”
Ignore all of that. Brainstorm and write down everyone you can think of for five minutes without worrying. You can revise the list later but it’s going to be a much better list if you start by including everyone you can think of.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for the next step…
Grow your list using LinkedIn’s search tools to look for people of interest. Look for hiring managers, recruiters, and specific companies worth targeting.
Make a list of these potential new contacts to grow your list further. Just like we did above, think of this process as a brainstorming session, not a final list you need to stick to 100%. It’s better to have too many names than not enough.
2. Connect with people and start conversations
Now that you have a list of people who can potentially help you, it’s time to start sending out messages.
When you know the person, consider reaching out by email or phone. Make sure you communicate the role you are leaving and the type of role you’re looking for. It’s okay to ask for names, introductions and any words of wisdom. The key is that people can’t help you if they don’t know you’re looking, so you need to put yourself out there.
When you don’t know someone (or barley know them), you can reach out via Mail, LinkedIn’s InMail or do a bit of digging to figure out their professional email address.
Open a search engine and enter @NameofCompany.com to see what pops up. Often times, you will uncover the name of people who work there that can help you extrapolate the email of the person you wish to target.
Here’s an example of a message you can send to start a conversation with somebody you don’t know:
I saw your profile on LinkedIn today while doing some research. I see you came over to Sony two years ago, how have you found the work environment so far as a software engineer? I’m in the middle of a job search myself and I’m weighing a few different options. I’ve always found it helpful to hear about the work environment from somebody within a company, rather than reading reviews online. Any info you can share would be a big help. Thanks!”
You’re doing a couple of things here. You’re starting a conversation (obviously), you’re asking for a specific response, and you’re keeping it pretty casual. You can’t ask for a big favor before somebody has even spoken with you. This is how I recommend getting the conversation started.
After they respond, ask another question, or comment on something they said. Soon you’ll be comfortable enough to ask if their group is hiring or if they’re able to help you get a conversation started with one of the managers.
3. Reciprocate (and show gratitude)
Don’t forget this last step. It’s an important part of effective job search networking.
Once your job search is over, be sure to thank everyone who offered you help, either through email or a hand-written note (if you have their address). That way they’ll be willing to help again in the future and your next job search will be even easier!
You can also reciprocate by checking in to ask about their wellness, share an article of interest, and offer to return the favor sometime in the future if they’re job searching.
4. Be professional and never badmouth
While you may have been fired, experienced a company closing, or worked for a horrible boss, this is NOT the time to discuss it. Don’t bad-mouth your ex-employer or former boss.
Even if what you say is true, you look like a disgruntled employee and the one who had the issue.
Instead, mention that while you enjoyed working with ABC Company, it was time to move on and take on a different challenge. When meeting with people in-person this is especially important, as they can read your body language and see your reaction. The focus should be on the future—not the past.
And this is going to be great practice for your interview because you should do the exact same thing there. Badmouthing won’t get you hired. Ever.
5. Do something you wouldn’t normally do
Have you never attended a business after-hours event for your local chamber of commerce? Can you serve as a guest or substitute for a local networking group?
If you can and the thought of it makes you even slightly uncomfortable, then you should DO IT. When you are trying to stand out from the crowd and make an impact among companies, you need to take every chance that you can get. And, before you go to these types of events, remember to have your elevator pitch ready…
6. Get your 30-second or 60-second pitch ready
What is the first thing that most people ask you at a networking event? The answer: “What do you do?” So, if you are unemployed or looking for a new job, how do you answer this? Say something like the following, “I’m someone with X, Y, and Z skills and I’m ready to make an impact with my next position. Because of my experience with A, B, and C, I am excited to see my future career direction and look forward to connecting with others in the industry.”
Many of my clients get nervous when they think of giving an ‘elevator pitch.’ I tell them to remember two or three skills and two or three accomplishments/experiences that set them apart from other job seekers. If they can remember this, then it takes the nerves out of the situation and the pitch doesn’t have to be memorized.
Here’s a full article on how to create a great elevator pitch step by step if you want more help.
7. Leave them with something
If you are not currently working, then make up a business card that can function as a contact card. It allows you to remain professional while leaving connections with your phone number and email address. Leaving something behind allows you to be memorable and provides them a way to follow-up with you. Speaking of follow-up…
8. Don’t be afraid to follow up when networking, and in your job search overall
Remember to be patient during this process too. Chances are your network will become busy, fail to follow up, forget to respond, etc. Schedule a reminder for yourself to reconnect with each person every three or four weeks. This is your opportunity to catch them up on what’s happening in your job hunt and remind them that you had asked for their help.
In fact, this is good job search advice in general: Never be afraid to follow up if a few weeks have passed and you’re waiting to hear from someone.
It doesn’t matter if it’s for networking, for sending an interview follow up email to get feedback, or anything else.
Think of how much effort goes into approaching somebody to network, or landing an interview. Now think how little time it takes to follow-up to remind them you’re waiting to hear from them. It’s definitely worth doing!
Follow These Job Search Networking Tips to Get Hired Faster
Together with a top-notch, achievement-rich resume and LinkedIn profile written for today’s online readers (skimmers), you will have all the tools you need for a successful job search.
Even if one person in your network has access to a job or company you didn’t know about, it can get you invited to interview, and if you say the right things in your interview, you’re one or two steps away from a job offer.
These job search networking tips can make the difference between landing a job and having to keep job hunting!
But people can’t help you if you don’t talk to them. Go give it a try now, the first step is easy. Start brainstorming a list for five minutes. Who do you know that you can tell about your job search?
The following experts contributed to this post:
Virginia Franco is a multi-certified executive resume and LinkedIn writer and founder of Virginia Franco Resumes. She offers customized executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services for the 21st century job seeker.
Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Feather Communications (feather-communications.com). She holds an MBA and Ph.D. in Organization and Management and has been working with job seekers since 2008 to develop forward-thinking, eye-catching, and dynamic resumes for today’s marketplace.