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How to network

In my previous post I explained the critical importance of having a job search networking strategy to uncover employment opportunities in the ‘hidden’, or ‘invisible’ jobs market.

Most people know that not all jobs are advertised, some say up to as many as 60-80% of available jobs won’t be seen on a jobs board or in a newspaper.

As I also explained in my last post, these opportunities can be uncovered if you have a networking strategy.

In today’s post I’ll explain how to network when you are job seeking.

graphic showing how job search networking operatesHow to network effectively – strategy overview

The strategy I’m going to describe to you is called “referral based networking” and it also involves something called “information interviewing”.

The key to this whole strategy is to create a believable reason for requesting a meeting or discussion (an information interview) with selected people in your network.

I’ll come to developing the ‘reason’ for meeting with your contacts shortly.

In the first instance you will approach people you already know – regardless of how close your relationship is with them. (I know, I know….you’ve already thought of doing that haven’t you! Stay with me while I explain further.)

If they are likely to recognise or remember you when you make your initial approach by phone or email, then put them on your list for a job search networking meeting request.

Next…… realise that the people you already know provide you with a way of being connected to (or referred to) many other people that you don’t know.

These ‘strangers’ can then in turn be your way of being referred to even more contacts for networking purposes.

You can perhaps begin to see that by moving from one referral to the next, it might be possible to exponentially expand your network of contacts.

That’s why this strategy is called referral based networking. Your objective in this form of networking is to obtain from your contacts referrals to people in their networks who may be able to assist you.

One final point with regards to the strategy.  My strongest recommendation is……. always try to set up a face to face meeting with your contacts. This approach can work when you do it over the phone, and especially by Skype/video contact – but it is far less effective.

caption with words I need a jobYour ‘reason’ for wanting a meeting

When job search networking, most people will only want to meet with you IF:

  • It is clear to them that you’re not asking them for a job, or asking for their help to find you a job. And…….
  • That what you will be asking them to assist you with ( which will be – information, advice, guidance) is something they are able to give to you

Let me explain it this way. Most people, when asked in the right way, and for the right type of assistance, are usually very willing to help out by giving you their advice, guidance, opinions and information.

All it costs them is their time, and many people are often flattered when to give this type assistance. Why do people feel this way? I think people like to be ‘looked up to’ – and when you ask for their guidance, it is a type of flattery for them to be asked.

However, when you directly ask a contact for either a job, or assistance in finding a job, your contact either genuinely can’t assist (usually because they don’t have that level of decision making power), or they don’t want the responsibility of doing your job seeking for you.

To summarise then, your reason for wanting to meet with one of your contacts, or a referral will need to be about asking them for information, advice and/or guidance to assist you in managing your career.

job search networking meetingWhy is a face to face meeting so important?

When we meet with people face to face it is so much easier to get to know more about the real person.

In face to face communication people are able to make more accurate judgments of each other because our body language is on show.

In case you didn’t know, when we communicate face to face, meaning and understanding is communicated in three ways, as follows:

  • 7% of meaning of our communication is conveyed through the actual words we use
  • 38% of meaning is conveyed through the way we express our words – things like our diction, how fast we speak, our tone of voice, the emphasis or inflection we give to our words
  • 55% of meaning in communication is done visually – facial expressions, eye contact, gestures we use, our body posture, and so on

Also, in face to face communication people will make judgments about us (whether these are accurate or not) on things like our overall personal presentation, the strength of our handshake, confidence, enthusiasm, level of interest in the conversation etc.

In other words, a face to face meeting is much more personal. Your contact is able to get to know you in a far more effective way than by say exchanging emails (if they decide to reply), or over the phone.

An important extra benefit in face to face meetings

In a face to face meeting you are much more likely to  be asked, just out of common courtesy, things like:

  • Tell me a bit about yourself
  • Why are you interested in finding out more about……
  • What would you ideally like to do in your career
  • What are you trying to achieve?

Every one of these questions will be invaluable  to you. Why? Because they are your opportunity to sell, and self promote.

More importantly, these questions from your contact at least indicate an interest in learning more about you.

Direct questions from them about ‘what you are trying to achieve’, or ‘what would really like to do in your career’ are open invitations for you to explain in a more direct way what you want.

Your contact has raised the question, you haven’t had to introduce these ‘touchy topics’ into the conversation.  Remember, you have asked for information, advice, guidance etc …..but not for assistance in finding a job.

graphic illustrating how we all have multiple contactsHow can you get a job doing this?

Think for a moment about the process a manager or business owner might follow when they need to hire a new person. Invariably, in a small to medium sized organisation the sequence of events might be as follows:

  • I need to hire a new person (for whatever reason)
  • Who do I personally know that might fill the position?
  • Who among my own network of contacts might know of a suitable person?
  • Let’s check with other staff in the organisation – do they know, or will people in their network know of a suitable person?
  • If suitable candidates are not identified through this process, the next step will usually be to advertise the position

Even in large corporations and government departments the ‘who do we know approach’ often plays a key role in selecting people to be interviewed for the job – even if the job is also advertised.

A recommendation about a possible candidate for a job, from someone we know and trust, has enormous influence. If you were hiring someone to work for you which would you tend to look at first:

  • a person recommended by someone you trust
  • someone who has applied for the job, and all you know about them is what they have written in their resume and cover letter

How to network – why does this approach work?

Every one of us has a network – family, friends, work colleagues, people we meet through our employment, people we are involved with through hobbies, interests, our local community etc etc.

Every person in your network will have their own unique network – you will have some common connections, but there will certainly be many people in their network that you don’t know.

When we need help with something, or often just a second opinion it is a very human thing to involve the relevant people in our various networks. When your contacts can’t help you personally it is not uncommon for them to say something like “I don’t know, but I have a friend who knows all about this who may be able to assist.”

Here is the crux of it – every time you make a job search networking connection, either with someone you know, or have been referred to, here’s what is happening:

  • By asking for information, assistance and guidance you are very subtly letting people know that you are in fact looking for employment – even though that isn’t what your conversation with them is about
  • If your contact cannot help, they just might know someone who can help you

Following your meeting with your contact, who now knows you are interested in employment opportunities, you just don’t know who in their network they might tell about you, or who in their network might approach them indicating that they are looking to hire someone.

Summary

In this post I have explained a strategy for referral based job search networking and information interviewing.

The idea is to ask people in your own network for advice or guidance as an excuse to meet face to face with them.

Then, in turn, you ask your contacts to be referred to people you don’t yet know so that you can set up a face to face meeting with them also. And repeat this process. Each new connection can refer you to another contact.

In my next post I’ll continue with more information about job search networking – the topic will be how to approach people for a meeting.