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, 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 résumé 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 admonition 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, 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.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” under the Privacy Controls section.
On the “Activity broadcasts” pop-up, make sure that the box is UNCHECKED for “Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies.”
When conducting a confidential job search, this will ensure that your network of connections isn’t alerted when you make changes to your LinkedIn profile.
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!”)
- 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.