Research by Dr. John Sullivan
(FYI, a friend and frequent co-speaker at many recruiting events) indicates that the probability of getting interviewed by applying to a job posting is less than 1%. This information supports my contention that job-seekers should spend most of their time networking (at least 60%) and no more than 20% of their time responding to job postings.
Equally important, when you find a job of interest, don’t hit the “apply now” button. Instead, use the job post as a lead to find someone in your network connected to the hiring manager. (LinkedIn shows you the closest connections.)
Phase 1: From the Known to the Unknown
But networking is as much art as science. Getting connected to influencers is hard work, but it doesn’t need to be haphazard. With this in mind, here’s a step-by-step process for building a robust network.
Find one to five people who can vouch for your ability. Then connect with these people on LinkedIn and request a personal meeting.
Personally meet with these individuals. During this meeting have the person look at your resume or LinkedIn profile for just 20 seconds. Have them highlight what stands out. A resume needs to excite the reader enough to want to read it in-depth. Discuss their reaction and modify your resume so your best stuff grabs their attention.
Become good at presenting yourself.
Have the person ask you The Most Important Interview Question of All Time
(“What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?”) And then take their advice on how to improve your presentation.
Prove you’re reliable, disciplined and worth recommending to others. One way: Describe the biggest goal you have ever had that you have already accomplished and how you did it.
Conduct network research. Before the meeting, look at the person’s connections on LinkedIn and select those who work at companies that are hiring and/or seem to be well-connected nodes. You’ll ask about these people during the meeting. (A node is someone who works with lots of different people like project managers, sales reps, product managers, and VPs.)
Force the connection. At the end of the session, pull out your list of names from the “Conduct network research” step above and ask the person if he/she would be willing to contact this person on your behalf.
Note: this is the hardest part of this process, so be persistent. Side note: it’s better to have a list of possible connections to ask about ahead of time, rather than asking if the person knows someone who might know someone who is hiring (but do this, too!).
Expand your network. Once you get the recommendation to the new person, connect and repeat steps 2-6. You’ll need to iterate this process 4-5 times with every connection in order to get enough coverage in any given job market – at least 50-75 people.
Nurture the network, but don’t be a pest. This includes a thank you note and semi-regular contact, like sending an article of interest. Pretty soon you’ll begin hearing about some jobs of interest. The referrer will consider it a coincidence, but you’ll know it’s a result of your hard work.
Phase 2: Build a Network from Scratch
While Phase I is an important aspect of building a network, in parallel you need to engage with more people you don’t know. Here are a few ideas on how to get started.
Prepare a network target list. Use LinkedIn to find nodes who work in industries and companies of interest. For example, I just found 20 people who are well-connected product marketing people who are members of the same groups I’ve joined. I can now contact them directly through LinkedIn.
Join and participate in groups of interest. Use LinkedIn and join groups in your area of specialty and contribute. Right now I’m looking at a number of very strong people on one of my alumni groups who stand out as major contributors. If I was still recruiting I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to these people, nor would I ignore their requests to contact me.
Put your feet on the street. Be a joiner, active participant and leader in organizations of interest. Every function has national organizations and each of these have local chapters you can join. Of course, if I had to mention this, you really are a networking rookie, but sometimes the obvious isn’t to everyone.
Seek advice from others. For example, see some of the great ideas in the comments section of blog posts and articles like this one.
Expand these new contacts using all of the appropriate steps in Phase 1. And implement Phase 1 and Phase 2 in parallel until you’ve landed another job.
Once you have another job, regardless of how you found it, continue to build and nurture your network. This will be helpful to others using networking to land new positions, and it’s likely the way you’ll get your next job. Getting started is the hardest part, but keeping your network growing is the most important.
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