I have counseled thousands of clients on how to best structure and execute a job search. Invariably, I hear tales of people spending hours staring at their computer screens filling out online applications, only to have those applications disappear into some resume black hole. Most people know that this is not a good use of their time, but they don’t know what else to do. The universal truth is that online applications have the lowest ROI in terms of time. For that reason, I counsel my clients to break their tactical job search time down like this: 10% online applications, 30% brand building, and 60% networking.
Maybe you feel intimidated by the idea of networking. Or perhaps you’re not sure what it is. Is it schmoozing? Is it sending out a mass email to all of your contacts, asking them to do something for you? In reality, networking is many things, but at its core, it is the process of meeting people and building their trust. You can network in many ways. You can visit groups that spark your interest, outside of job seeker activities. When you get involved with groups where you share mutual interest you meet people who share those same interests. You get to know them. They get to know you. This is networking. When you meet different people, don’t merely ask them yes or no questions. Ask probing questions that indicate that you want to understand them. This will give you insight into who they are, rather than just what they do for a living or what their hobbies are. Here are some practical tips for refining your networking strategy so that it is most beneficial to you:
Don’t be awkward. Be open and curious. And most importantly, be yourself.
Remember that it’s a two-way street. Don’t just ask someone to do something for you. Extend your offer of assistance too.
It’s more than a LinkedIn connection. Having connections on LinkedIn is great, even critical. But it’s no substitute for getting out into the real world and meeting people face to face.
It happens everywhere. Every interaction and encounter you have with someone affects your brand image and your ability to tap your network. Remember to always conduct yourself with poise and grace. In other words, make an effort not to be a jerk.
Don’t be rude. Make eye contact when you speak with people. Don’t interrupt, and please do not look at your phone.
Ask questions. If you are unsure about something or would like to learn more, ask questions. This seems like it would be a given, but many people don’t want to ask questions out of a fear of coming off as uninformed. The worst thing you can do is nod, smile, and leave without understanding what someone was discussing. (This is also a good piece of advice for interviews!)
A candidate who is referred for a position by a networking contact has a 14 times greater chance of being called for an interview! As all business is a “relationship business,” and people do business with people they like and trust, networking is critical to any job seeker’s success.