For anyone who is conducting a job search or for those who have conducted a job search, you always hear people telling you to “expand your network “ “Networking your way to a job” “create meaningful connections” but what the heck does this all mean?
In my last blog, Informational Interviews, I talk about how making that first connection, can be the hardest first step in building lasting relationships with professionals. If you haven’t read it, I suggest heading over there first and then coming back to read this one for additional tips!
I’ve been working in Career Development for almost a decade (YIKES!) and it has taken me years to figure out what “Creating Community” means. I’ve noticed through the years that there’s been an ebb and flow to the name of “creating community.” We stressed to college students the importance of a network.
When we use terms like “network” students, and sometimes even young professionals, don’t really get it.
“Network to get your job because it is all about connections.”
“it’s all about your personal or professional network.”
So… do I just call someone and ask them for a job? HELL NO! That’s the best way to get rejected. I’ll add a side note, IF there is some chance that they ARE looking for a new employee and you happen to write them when they’re in a GREAT state of mind, this may work but it is super risky and I would not recommend this.
To me, the best way to start this conversation is online. I prefer to use LinkedIn to find professionals and start the conversation. I think Instagram is getting more appropriate to use for networking purposes and when you’re in many Facebook groups for your industry, that can also be a valuable place to start the conversation.
I think starting the conversation online is KEY. The other component is to make sure to take the connection offline, as soon as possible. Meaning go get coffee with someone (I’d avoid drinks, at least for the first meeting) or get them on the phone to continue the conversation screen free.
Here’s another informational interview template email.
I found this from a colleague on LinkedIn and I thought it was really good:
My name is [Your Name] and I came across your info [Insert Angle].
Your experience really stood out to me — [Elaborate on Angle]! I’d love to learn more about [Them + Angle].
I know you’re busy and your time is valuable. If you have a few minutes, I’d be really grateful. If not, I totally understand - no worries!
Connecting on LinkedIn
94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to scout potential candidates for their opportunities. Only some industries don’t tend to use LinkedIn for building a professional community. For example, not many doctors will have LinkedIn profiles.
Assuming that many of my readers are not in the medical field, I’ll continue to give you my Cliff’s Notes version of LinkedIn. I have a LinkedIn Checklist that you can get by signing up for my insider tips (scroll to the bottom of this page and you’ll be able to sign up). You will then get the check list and an email from every Tuesday or Wednesday evening, because let’s be honest, sometimes time gets away from me and I send it late. Whoops, I’m human. Here are the bare bones basics:
Follow companies that you’re interested in working for
Connect with alumni friends or colleagues *Send them a message to reconnect and further build that trust and community.
Join your alumni network groups (most colleges and come high schools might have this as an option)
When you apply for a job, be sure to connect with someone from that organization and write them a message to let them know what position you applied to. I did this with my first full time job and my supervisor LOVED that I took the extra effort to make that connection prior to the interview.
Get your LinkedIn profile to ALL STAR level. You want to make sure that recruiters are finding your information and that they’re understanding the impact you’ve made within organizations that you’ve worked for.
There are many more tips that you can find within the worksheet. Check out the Insider tips. If you’d like to learn more about LinkedIn or talk to someone about it, I have a LinkedIn intensive program. 2 sessions (1, 2-hr session and 1, 1-hr session follow up). Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about it! My sales page are still in the works. Thank you for your patience.
Creating a lasting Relationship
I hear this from employers all the time that you must nurture your contacts, connections, alumni network etc. Meaning send them updates at least once per year to let them know what you’re up to. This might sound time consuming and tedious but I know that this works. Many people think, “oh, I’m going to meet them once, not talk to them for years and then reach out to them when I need something later on and that is NOT the best practice for creating and cultivating the relationship.
Here are some ways to keep the connections going:
Send them something at the beginning of every new year, letting them know what’s up and how your career is going.
Let them know if you’re looking for work and when you’re not. Ask them engaging questions so that they have a reason to reply to you.
Send an email to your contacts when you receive a promotion or get a new job.
Reach out when you’ve completed an exciting project, especially if it is relevant to the organization that this particular connection belongs
Keep these communications short and to the point. If there are action items and you’d like a response, make that known very clearly. If you don’t and you’re just sending them an update, they’d appreciate the short email.
We had a meeting with an alumnus and he mentioned that he often hears from students and young professionals once, has a phone call and then hears from them years later asking for a job or asking for another phone call. He’s hesitant to have this second conversation because the relationship feels one sided. Feels like the other person is only reaching out when they need something rather than mutually connecting and sustaining a relationship. Professionals don’t want a transaction. They want a genuine connection from someone who cares.
Is it sometimes necessary to have a transaction, like when you reach out to someone who works at the company that you applied to, yes. Likely you’re reaching out to someone who you’ve been in communication with before or someone you’d like to stay connected to in the future by putting the suggestions above into practice.
What is one way that you’ve stayed connected to professionals when going through your job search or when trying to gauge whether or not a certain career is for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!