You’ve just submitted what feels like your hundredth job application. You clicked “submit” and bid adieu, crossing your fingers that someone will get back to you. If all you’re getting is radio silence from the other end, it’s time to try something different. You know that networking can help you get a job—you've even heard it may be the best way to get a job—but just the thought of it makes you cringe.
Once upon a time, the idea of networking made me break out in a deep sweat. It’s because the picture in my head didn’t match up with the type of skills that I bring to the table. Big crowds, phony conversations, awkward introductions; that’s what I imagined. If this is what you’re picturing, it's high-time to shift your mindset. This kind of thinking will get you nowhere when it comes to building solid networking strategies.
A recent study showed that an astonishing 85% of all jobs get filled through networking. Without a doubt, it is the single best way to get a job. Think of it as relationship building. To form lasting relationships, start working your web of people like a pro. Below are seven networking strategies that I used to land my current job without referring to job boards or recruiters. These tactics can help you get the job you want now, or set you up for opportunities down the road.
Networking to Get a Job:
1. Play the long-game
Impatient? Aren’t we all? Especially when we’re on the hunt for a job. But don’t let the urgency of finding a job get the better of you. If you’ve made a good connection, consider it a win, even if they’re not hiring at the moment. I met my current boss, Lindsey Framer of Responsive Inbound Marketing, in our Inbound Methodology class during Startup Institute's digital marketing course. We met up for a coffee chat after I learned about her marketing agency. Unfortunately, Lindsey’s team was full at the time, but that didn’t stop me from staying in touch. Two months later, a content position opened up in the company and I’m now the social media and content coordinator. A fairytale ending for networking!
2. Don’t Stop Networking
Think of networking as a muscle. You have to keep exercising it in order for it to gain strength and deliver the results you need. Don’t just stop once you’ve found a job. Attend events after work and keep requesting (and accepting!) coffee chats with people that you want to get to know better. As we all know from social media—connections beget connections. The more you keep it up, the more likely you are to meet the next person who could be a valuable part of your network.
3. Get out
For those of you who are born extroverts (pat on the back), you don’t need this reminder. For the rest of us who lean introvert, you’ve got to put yourself out there. That means meeting people in person, and not just through LinkedIn and other social media platforms. There’s good news: large networking events are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of introvert-friendly ways to put yourself out there. Become a member of at least one or two groups, attend a volunteer event related to your industry of choice, or meet someone over a drink or coffee. If you’re a one-on-oner like myself, coffee chats are a great way to build the foundation for future relationships. In fact, some of the best relationships in my network are the result of casual conversation over coffee. Did I mention that’s how I connected with my current boss ?
Sales and marketing folks, I’m talking to you. You do this in your day-to-day work activities; start doing it with your own personal network leads. Inbound marketers of the world—what would you do to nurture a new contact? Email them relevant content that brings them value? Why didn’t I think of that! Don’t make the mistake of meeting someone just to disappear off their radar.
When you come across a great article or piece of news that you think someone in your network could benefit from, email them personally with a link. Your initiative and interest will not go unnoticed. Or, after your initial meeting and “thank you” email (don't forget this important final touch), set a reminder on your calendar to follow-up after a month or two. Your follow-up email might look something like this:
Networking is an exchange; a two-way street. Sure, people are willing to help you, but you’ll build much stronger relationships if you’re prepared to offer something in return. And I’m not talking bribery. So what can you give? How about:
- Resources (see pro tip #7 again)
- Connections and introductions
Job seekers can often get stuck in a fixed mindset of thinking that others hold all the power. Not so. Maybe you can provide a valuable introduction to someone in your network. At Startup Institute, my classmates and I automatically assumed that our team leaders knew anyone and everyone in the Boston area. If they couldn’t make a connection, then who could? Admittedly, their networks were pretty impressive, but they didn’t know everyone. Coincidentally, one of my superstar classmates happened to know the amazing Paul English. She hooked our cohort up with a memorable fireside chat from the entrepreneur/genius. You just might have an ace up your sleeve that you’re not even aware of.
6. Do Your Research
You’re at a networking event with hundreds of people. How are you going to stand out? By being prepared, that’s how. Prior to the event, find out who’s attending or at least which companies will be represented. Review websites, LinkedIn profiles, and recent press. Research will inform your conversation and help you avoid those awkward interactions when you’re not sure what to say.
Most people love to talk about themselves. Ask a question that shows you’re up to speed with the latest news in their company. One caveat: avoid regurgitating details from your source. Try to weave your detective work into the conversation in a genuine way and let them do most of the talking.
Which brings us to the next strategy...
7. Do A Little FriendlyStalking.
Worked for me! After I met Lindsey for a coffee chat, I kept up with her blog content. I came across a white paper about industry marketing trends and tactics that attract millennials that happened to be a helpful resource for a group project I was working on. I downloaded it and within the next 10 minutes or so, Lindsey reached out to me personally. This opened the door for future conversations. Continuing to follow Lindsey's content and learn about her business, I also downloaded her free hiring template for marketers. This taught me exactly what skills and qualities she'd be looking for—the wonders of inbound marketing! (Tangentially, it's a great guide for anyone considering pursuing a job in digital marketing. If that's you, I highly recommend you download the Inbound Marketing Specialist Template.)
The reality is, networking gets a bad rap. It’s so much more than crowded events and business cards. Practicing these networking strategies will give you back control over your next networking opportunity and help you shine.