Networking as a job seeker is about making genuine contacts and building long term relationships with other people who can either help you find a job directly or connect you with others who can.
There are two types of networking: Informal - this can be done almost anytime you talk to someone, casually mentioning that you are looking for a job can be a great conversation starter - and Formal - this involves going to business specific social events, meetings, or associations. Often there are others there who are also networking. If you think you will have trouble “stepping out there” during face-to-face conversations, you can always start your formal networking online via job forums and career networking websites as well as social media platforms. The key to successful networking is to make sure that you treat all your networking contacts with genuine appreciation and professional respect.
In person, face-to-face networking can be hard to begin with. Start slow, schedule at least two or three events a month, and find groups that you want to join and build relationships through the monthly meetings. Most hiring managers will look at the resume of someone who has been referred long before one that comes in among the big blob of online applicants. That is why developing relationships is so important.
Networking is a two-way street. It’s important that you make yourself available as a potential resource for other network members when they are looking for a job or they ask you for help. Give help at least four times as much as you get help.
How do you start a conversation? How do you get the information about yourself across to someone before their eyes glaze over and they start nodding uncomfortably? Start by saying “Hello, my name is…………. How are you today?” You’ll always get an answer. Another good question is “What brings you here today?” If they say, “networking because I am looking for a job,” Bingo! A fellow sufferer, and you can go from there! People you meet should remember you and what you do, the best way to achieve this in a short amount of time is to have an “elevator speech” ready.
An “elevator speech” is a 30 second commercial selling yourself. Think about introducing yourself to someone you see in the elevator - how much time do you have to talk before the door opens? You should prepare one as soon as you decide to go job-hunting. Short and sweet, it very briefly describes who you are, what you do, and if you are introducing yourself to a potential employer, why you are the perfect candidate. Practice it in front of someone who will give you genuine feedback, then practice until it sounds natural!
Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group, says that 85% of critical jobs are filled via networking of some sort. Networking starts building relationships and being different. Considering that most jobs come through personal connections, building your network should be a high priority on and off the job search.
Networking takes time and relationships won’t develop overnight, so be patient. By making a point of consistently meeting new people, you will learn from others about your industry, profession, and the companies you’re interested in.
In this Internet age, it’s smart to have an online presence and there are easy – and safe – ways to do it.
One of the best sites is LinkedIn with more than 16 million users in the U.S. You can create a free professional profile where you control the content. Then your name and a link to your profile are indexed on the search engines like Google, Yahoo and others. And because it’s known as a professional networking tool – unlike online job boards – you don’t have to worry that your boss will assume you’re job searching if or when they find your profile there. EBR has prepared an easy to follow guide for new LinkedIn users. Email us at info@EBRhrexperts.com for a free copy of our LinkedIn guide and to receive our newsletter.
LinkedIn is not the only site you should employ. Create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ that shows your accomplishments, where your strengths are, and what you can offer future employers.
Do you already have a Facebook or other social media page? Take a critical look at them. With the high costs of recruiting, training and retaining top talent – from entry level to senior executives – employers must be cautious about who they’re hiring. If a recruiter is considering two college seniors for the same position and she comes across an online profile for one of them that brags about rowdy parties and drunken escapades, she might think twice about that person – and will likely lean more toward the candidate who has a clean online profile – or none at all.
If there’s information on your personal webpage that you wouldn’t want your current or future boss to see, then change it and be choosy about who is allowed to post to your page in order to keep out questionable content. If you Google yourself and find content you don’t like but can’t delete or change, be prepared to explain if asked.
Establishing your social media isn’t just about updating your Facebook page. Most companies have a website of some kind these days. Look up and like the pages of the companies you are interested in. Many companies post their job openings on their websites, so make a habit of checking them every two or three days. Subscribe to Google Alerts so you can stay abreast of what’s happening with them and in the fields you are interested in. LinkedIn has groups you can join that focus on different career fields, find some that seem interesting to you and ask to join. And after you join, don’t just stalk around the edges of the group!
Have a plan for establishing your social media presence: Create a relevant profile, actively network with others online, become known as a resource - answer questions, offer info about other relevant sites - give 4 times more than you get. It is not appropriate to ask these group members for a job, however. If you get info about an opening, great, but don’t ask and put them on the spot.
As well as LinkedIn, we recommend Indeed because it actively pulls job postings from other sites, which can give you an even broader overview of possibilities.
Successful job searches can take a while and they are work. The time you spend creating and maintaining your social media presence will be worthwhile and will bear fruit but limit your time on the computer. Job searching requires “in person” networking in addition to having an online presence. Don’t spend so much time online that you shut yourself off from the real world.