If you’re looking for a job, chance are that someone, somewhere will tell you that you need to “network.” While there is absolutely nothing wrong with networking, that term conjures up the unfortunate mental image of going to a college alumni event, wearing a nametag and holding a cheap glass of white wine in your hand while trying to strike up awkward conversations with a perfect stranger with their own name-tag and security beverage.
Here are five ways to avoid (or at least postpone) that kind of networking:
1. Ask Your Network to Introduce You To Smart, Connected People.
When people say they got a job “through someone they knew” most of the time, they are not being literal. In other words, it’s not usually your first-degree connections that hire you. After all, those people are your aunt or uncle, or friend from college. However, it’s not uncommon for your personal network to be connected to someone else that is going to make a hire. Reach out to people in your personal network to tell them you’re looking for a job and would like to meet smart, connected people they know who might have advice to give you.
If you’re focused on a specific industry or job role that you’re breaking into, you can be more specific and ask for introductions to people who will share a bit about their career path with you. It’s more natural and easier to break the ice to get someone to take a meeting to share knowledge with you rather than set something up for the purpose of a directly asking them to help you get a job.
2. Don’t Just Follow! Develop Relationships Via Social Media.
You can use Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook here. Employers increasingly have a career presence on social media and understand that they will attract candidates through these channels. You can comment, like, retweet, and share content in order to “build a social media relationship” with your target connections. If your list is long (and ambitious) enough, and you have quality interactions, you will be surprised at both (a) how much you will learn about your prospective job, industry and employer but also (b) how one day someone will respond to your Direct Message/Inmail/Comment about a job opening that you are interested, or an idea you have for the company’s business.
3. Become the Connector. In Real-Life and Online.
It might sound absurd to add another “to do” to your plate while you’re already busy enough trying to get hired. But sometimes the most effective path to a goal is not linear.. In other words, use your new social media relationships and newly developed acquaintances to suggest connections for others. They are doing you a favor by spending time thinking about your job needs, or reading your social media content. Do them a favor in return by giving them ideas or new people to get to know (or follow, if this is a virtual relationship). This also makes it more likely that you and your needs (a new job) stays more top-of-mind in a couple weeks when the memory of your last coffee meeting has faded into the background. You want to stay relevant and one way to expand your relevance is to bring new people - followers, connections, resources, etc -- into these people’s lives.
4. Prepare Yourself to be Shameless.
Last but not least, broadcast your intentions. It may sound obvious, but nobody is a mind reader. If you’re using your personal network and social media to get your next job, that means you should not be dropping hints or beating around the bush. Tell your friends, family, ex-colleagues, and reasonably familiar acquaintances that you are looking for a job. Send them an email with the words “I’m looking for a new job” written clearly and at the beginning of the note.. And tell them again if you need to remind them over coffee or lunch! As difficult as it may be for those of you who instinctively hold things close to the vest, this is no situation for shyness or subtlety.
5. Don’t Stop Doing This When You Get a Job
If you’re about to land the job you’ve been wanting (or even a stop-gap, temporary gig while you keep looking for “the one”), don’t think that all the new relationships and social media effort goes on ice. Getting a job seems like a short-term goal, but with the average job tenure being less than 5 years these days for millennials, there is nothing “one off” or “temporary” about your job search. Face it: the situation is that most professionals these are days are almost all in a near-perpetual state of looking for their next role. Sure, you can tone down the rate of your emails and informational coffee meetings, and be less active on social media, but you should be wary of abandoning everything you’ve invested in. You never know when the next opportunity is going to come your way, and you don’t want to wait until you’re absolutely in a bind to start up that old engine again. Think of these efforts as a fitness routine for your career. You would never quite let things go entirely, even if you’ve hit a short-term weight loss goal so why stop cold-turkey when it comes to your career?
A version of this article was originally published on Elle.com
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