Job searching is challenging and it may come as a surprise to know that most of us go about it the wrong way. How? We spend too much time in front of the computer and contacting recruiters. Apparently, 80% of jobs are never advertised. Even if this is 40% or 20%, this is a significant number of jobs you won’t have access to if you’re not networking.
When I first started career coaching, I was told that most job-seekers get their next role via networking. I was cynical, but it’s true. Most often, my clients will say things like, ‘My old boss introduced me to…’, ‘I met someone at a seminar…’, or something similar when advising me that they’ve found a new job. It’s rare for someone to say, ‘I got that job I applied for online or with a recruiter.’ It happens, but it’s the exception rather than the norm.
Unfortunately, networking has a negative connotation because most of us think it doesn’t net results. And when we do it, we do it wrong. We meet people, have some awkward yet convivial chit chat while dancing around the issue of a job. We eventually broach the subject only to be told, ‘Sorry, I don’t have any jobs.’ We do several of these unproductive meetings, get disillusioned and go back to the safety and comfort of our computer.
What does networking look like?
Produce a list of all your contacts ranked by ‘friendliness’ and start with people you feel comfortable with. Rather than asking for a job, establish, and communicate a purpose for the meeting. It could be about the other person’s industry, company or profession or a topical business issue. Prepare questions and be prepared to give them something of value in return like information, updates, contacts or tips. Also take a list of organisations you’re interested in. It’s more about gathering information and knowledge than asking for a job!
The flow of the meeting goes something like this: you meet and have some social chat to establish rapport. You then switch into ‘meeting mode’ which includes asking them questions to learn about their industry, company, or profession, giving them information in return, having them look at your list of organisations, hoping that they have some insight, or even better know someone who they could introduce you too. Thank the person by giving them the gift of information, paying for the coffee, and sending a thank you email along with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Then stay in regular contact – either by phone, informal coffee chats or email.
Be memorable – for all the right reasons
The difference with this type of networking is that you’re memorable for all the right reasons while also expanding your network and potentially tapping into jobs not found on the visible market. This is because you’re hoping that one of the people you’ve networked with might know of an opportunity.
At the same time you’re leaving behind a very strong impression of who you are hopefully – well-prepared, structured thinker, well-researched. You’re also learning about a wide range of topics which has its own value in job search. Remember that networking is also beneficial for the organisation: it’s more time and cost-effective and has an in-built level of screening for cultural fit.
The biggest regret I hear from my clients is: ‘I wish I’d started networking sooner.’ Don’t delay – set yourself a target of, for example two meetings per week. Also, balance your job search time so 70% is devoted to networking and the balance with online search and recruiters.
Another challenge in networking is getting people’s’ time – be flexible and accommodating when meeting with others. Work around their schedule and travel to them if they’re time-poor.
What are you waiting for? Arrange that first meeting and take your first step to an effective and complete job search.
Wahroonga-based Paul Di Michiel is the author of Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s. Find out more about his career coaching business, The Career Medic, at: www. thecareermedic.com