Networking is conversating.
We chat every day without thinking about it. But when you mention this method to job seekers, most panic, their stomachs knot and the sudden urge to run and hide overtakes them.
Don’t sprint to your hiding spot just yet. Networking is just engaging in a meaningful conversation and exchanging information. That’s it!
Instead of participating in an intentional dialogue, however, most job seekers fall into the common job board trap. It’s the hamster wheel of job search. It provides a flurry of activity (on the job seeker end) but doesn’t offer much traction.
Research shows that only 3% of people land work through job boards, whereas 70-80% secure roles via referrals and networking. Play to the numbers in your search.
Easier said than done, right? Networking nerves are real. Sharing about your job search can feel vulnerable and scary. Once you choose to do it, preparation is a great way to gain confidence in your conversations.
Familiar faces are a great starting point to get your networking sea legs under you. From your kids’ soccer coach to college friends and past colleagues, your people can likely introduce you to someone who can be an asset in your job search.
According to a 2017 study, workplace ties, in particular, are 60% likely to hook you up to your next job.
These are people you know and who know you well. A great launching pad for a conversation with people you know is a target company list. It’ll be the centerpiece of your conversation.
A target company list is a list of 30-40 employers (maybe more, maybe less) that you have an interest in working for. Ask questions about your target company list, like:
These networking meetings will lead you to people who work (or have worked) in those target organizations. Coined “insiders,” these employees work in a target company, the department or even your role of interest.
Your primary aim in these conversations is to learn more about the organization to see if you want to work there. And better yet, to best market yourself for the next opening (or a job that doesn’t even yet exist!).
Questions to consider are:
Your goal with insider conversations is to gain an internal champion at the company who will get you to a decision-maker.
Once you’ve nabbed time with a decision-maker, be sure not only to demonstrate that you are a solid candidate but also that you have extensive interest in the organization. When there is an opening, you’ll be top of mind.
These people make hiring decisions within your target organizations. Consider:
Don’t forget to ask the most magical networking question at the end of most conversations: who else should I talk to?
This one question will organically generate more people to chat with who understand your career goals and company interests. It will lead you faster to an internal champion or decision-maker to land a job you love.
Meg Applegate is an award-winning resume writer who connects high-achieving women to career advancement under her boutique resume writing and coaching firm, Hinge Resume Collaborative.