Get to know people who can help you find your next job — not necessarily the people doing the hiring, but the people who know those people. Make connections with local business leaders, government officials, bankers, angel investors, venture capitalists, commercial real estate professionals, and others who can network you into the top opportunities within the area. Ask for the opportunity to meet with them to learn more about a specific company, opportunity, or the industry. Make it clear you are not asking them for a job — only for information which may be useful to your job search.
Consider contacting members of the professional associations to which you belong. Your colleagues can be a tremendous asset in helping you find unadvertised opportunities. Write a letter or email them asking for their help and assistance. You want contact names and numbers, ideas, and company information. Be sure to ask if you can mention their name to “get in the door” with their contacts to arrange an informational interview.
Use your time wisely. Prepare a list of questions to ask in the informational interview. Ask questions related to the type of work required in the position, what kind of preparation is required for success in the job, which skills are used most often in the job, what qualities are appreciated in successful employees, and what the individual thinks are the prospects of finding a position in this field.
Be sure to ask questions which allow the person you’re interviewing to talk about themselves. How did they get started in the field? What is their educational background? What do they wish they knew when they got started that they know now? What is the toughest part of their job? What challenges/problems do they have that need solving?
Get business cards from these contacts and write a personalized thank you note. Follow-up with your resume and cover letter only when appropriate, or if you’re asked to provide them.
Networking in a Confidential Job Search
Ever been surprised when a friend announces a new job and you didn’t even know they were looking? You can use networking even when you’re quietly searching for a new position. However, be aware that the more people who know you’re looking for a new job, the more likely your current employer is to find out about it.
One way to avoid this is to build your network even when you’re not searching for a new job. Again, listen to Harvey Mackey’s advice to “dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Having a robust network can also help you be more effective in your current position, by giving you access to people who can help you solve the problems you face in your daily work.
Contact members of your network individually about your job search instead of mass messages or social media updates. Let your contact know that you are conducting your job search quietly, and ask for their help in keeping your search confidential.
If your primary purpose of networking is for your job search, don’t network on company time or using company resources. And never use your company email to send emails to your networking contacts.
When you are updating your LinkedIn profile as part of your job search, update your profile and slowly add new contacts. Don’t add everything all at once. And be sure to turn on LinkedIn’s privacy setting about sharing notifications before you change your profile or add a bunch of new contacts.
In your LinkedIn account, in the upper right-hand corner of the page, access the drop-down menu under your name and choose the “Settings” option.
On the main menu, click on your photo, and when the drop-down menu appears, click “Settings & Privacy.”
On the “Settings & Privacy” page, click on the “Privacy” link in the middle of the page. This will access the privacy settings on your account.
Once on the Privacy page, review all settings, but pay particular attention to “Share Job Changes, Education Changes, and Work Anniversaries From Profile.” Click on the “Change” link next to that item.
You can choose whether your network is notified about your profile changes. If the setting is on, your connections will receive notifications when you add information to your profile or change the content. As you build your LinkedIn profile, this can trigger many notifications. And, if you’re conducting a stealth job search, it can draw unwanted attention to your LinkedIn profile. As a general rule, you will want to turn off notifications when updating your profile. Slide the setting to “No.”
Later on, you can turn these notifications back on and adjust your privacy settings. But for now, just make sure this is changed to “No.”
Keys to Success
Do you wonder why some people are more effective using networking to find their next job? Here are some keys to success in using networking in a job search:
- Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should constantly be building — and strengthening — your connections with your network. One of the easiest ways to do this is using LinkedIn. One of the most effective ways to improve your network, however, is through personal contact. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or identifying someone new you want to meet.
- Ask for help. Most people will be happy to help you — but you need to ask!
- Be specific in what you’re asking for. A specific request for assistance (“Does anyone know someone who works in the accounting department at Company X?”) is more likely to be fulfilled than a general request (“I need a new job! Help!”)
- Prepare for networking. Have business cards made that are strictly for networking. You can have cards made inexpensively on VistaPrint (https://www.vistaprint.com/business-cards/ or use a more upscale option like Moo Cards (https://www.moo.com/us/business-cards).
- Follow up. If a networking contact gives you advice, a lead, or information, follow up on that information — and then also get back to that person to let them know how it went.
- “Give to Get.” By helping people who ask you for assistance, your network will be stronger when you need it.
When You Get Your New Job
After you land your new job, be sure to thank your network — especially contacts that have specifically helped you with your job search. Send a personal note to everyone who assisted you in your search, and consider sending or giving a small gift to those who were of particular help. And don’t forget to spread the word that you’ve accepted a new opportunity.
Don’t neglect your network just because you found a new job. One of the most important parts of maintaining your network is providing assistance when you are asked. Be responsive to requests for help from folks in your network when you are asked. Every person you meet is a potential networking contact. But networking is a two-way relationship. Don’t just see your network as contacts — see them as people. Learn about them and what they do.
Heed the advice of author and networking pro, Harvey Mackey: “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. A network replaces the weakness of the individual with the strength of a support system. You don’t have to know everything as long as you know the people who do.”