I attended a conference years ago in which the presenter gave me an "Aha! moment" during a discussion about careers: "You are no bigger in your field than your Rolodex." (Or, for today's younger workers, your connections and followers.) I have never forgotten that statement.
As an avid user of LinkedIn and Twitter, I've noticed a phenomenon that involves a sudden boost in connecting daily with many people or posting a lot of new recommendations at once: either the person is anticipating becoming unemployed or is on the cusp of losing their job.
But that's not the way to network.
To land that next job, you must network every day, whether you're facing unemployment or not. Here are four ways you can do that:
- Seek out professionals in your career focus area or target industry. Reach out when you don't need them.
- Read a great article about your industry, then send a note to the author letting him or her know how much you appreciated their insight.
- Listen to a great speaker about a topic in your area of expertise, then try to meet and exchange business cards.
- Ask for a coffee date to get more information about an industry or career path you'd like to pursue.
You'll be surprised how many people will want to give you career advice. Everyone within your network should know your career aspirations and that you're in the market. (Tip: Always carry a business card for in-person meetings—even if you're unemployed—because you never know when you'll run into someone you want to connect with.)
My Resume's Great—Why Network?
If your job search consists of just sending out your resume, your success rate will probably be about the same as putting a note in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. In my prior role as a vice-president of human resources at Martha Stewart Living, we could post a job online and have 500 resumes within a day. That number is probably higher now. This just gives you an idea of what kind of competition you're facing and why networking is so critical.
Any time to meet people is a time to network. With the holiday season here, we all receive invitations for various get-togethers. Sometimes we don't feel like going, but you may be passing up an opportunity.
A career coach once told me about a young woman looking for a job with a specific company. While she was home for the holidays, she discussed her plans with her elderly aunt, who replied that one of her weekly bridge partner's granddaughters was an executive at the company. Her aunt contacted her friend, who in turn called her granddaughter. Within a few weeks, the young woman was interviewed and ended up with her dream job. This proves that you must let everyone know when you're looking.
Target the Places You Want to Work
Another aspect of networking is creating a master list of companies you'd want to work for. This is another way sites such as LinkedIn come into play. Search for a company and find a list of people who work there. How many of them are in your network? You should also do this when the company posts a job online. If you don't have a "1st Level" connection, find "2nd Level" connections and send them a note. They just might know someone there who can forward your name. Another great resource to connect with others is the groups feature on LinkedIn.
More recruiters are using LinkedIn; some have even told me that it's their primary source for talent. And more recruiters are using Twitter and Facebook. Which one would be better for you?
The best time to network is when you're not looking for a job. Remember: You're no bigger in your field than your Rolodex, or your connections and followers.
Has networking helped you land a job? Tell us in a comment below.
About the Author
Today's post is written by Ron Thomas (pictured), a human resources professional with more than 15 years of experience, including roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. He was recently named to the Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy at the Human Capital Institute in Washington, D.C. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Workforce Management, Chief Learning Officer magazine and Crain's New York Business. Recently, he was named to the HR Hall of Fame by HR Network of New York. Ron's blog, StrategyFocusedHR, focuses on human resources from a strategic perspective.
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