The 21st century job search is evolving. We can no longer simply review job boards and company websites. Approximately 75% of the available positions are never posted electronically. If they are posted, human resources or the hiring manager already has a candidate selected and your application will be overlooked. My suggestion is to look at the job search differently. Don’t reactively apply for jobs that are likely already filled, be referred into the job you desire.
Now, in order to be referred into a great career, you’ll need to look at every person you network with and ask, “What’s in it for them?” Your mindset should shift away from “What can they do for me?” to “How can I help them?” Building a meaningful relationship is the foundation of great networking and being referred into a meaningful career.
As you consider the opportunities available to you to network, break those opportunities into the Four Channels of Professional Networking:
1. Informal – This includes generic networking events that are not industry specific, but are established with the express intent on you blindly meeting new people.
2. Knowledge – Professional associations govern this channel; think the Project Management Institute for PMP, the Society for Human Resource Management for PHR and SPHR, or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants for CPA.
3. Business Development – There are networking organizations, such as LeTip and BNI, who charge fees to become members. These channels provide very formal opportunities to offer leads or referrals.
4. Online – Through the various social media outlets, i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, you can establish a meaningful presence that will allow you to communicate and add value nonverbally.
You’ll need to spend reasonable amounts of time in each of the four channels. As you navigate each of the channels, consider the follow best practices to ensure you are achieving your goals as quickly as possible.
1. Overcome Fear – Networking, meeting new people, and talking about yourself can be difficult. Forget about how you think people will perceive you and get started! If you are nervous, start with smaller groups and then work up to larger audiences. Being visible is the most important thing you can do. How can someone help you if they don’t know you?
2. Swim in All Four Channels – There is no right or wrong answer to how much time you spend in one channel over another. Do what you feel is most helpful to your career search. Diversity is very important, as visibility will lead to credibility, which will lead to trust. Trust in who you are and what you can do will land you that referral. When at networking events, don’t try to hand out your business card to five to ten people. Pick three people and have meaningful conversations with them. The depth of those conversations will mean much more.
3. Stay Top of Mind – Whether you use a handwritten note, an email, or a phone call, every free minute of the day is an opportunity to stay relevant. Remember your job is to help the other person first so that they will say “yes” the next time you need assistance. Forward interesting articles about topics relevant to the other person. Call them and let them know you have a referral for their business and then introduce them. If your connection is having a birthday or a special anniversary, send them a card with a tailored note or quote. Attention to detail is very important, hit a home run the first time by remembering that the little things are the big things.
4. W.I.I.F.T. – What’s in it for them? The process is a continual give and get, so give so often that you are viewed as an expert and become the “go to” in your community. I encourage you to keep track of how and when you helped someone else. You wouldn’t want to duplicate any of your offerings to them.
5. Tread Slowly – Don’t just hand out business cards, build the relationship. Asking for business right after meeting someone will make you seem desperate. Get to know the person first and provide value to him/her before you ask for something in return. It may take weeks or months, but the journey will be worth it.
By using the above best practices when networking, you’ll increase your chances of being referred into your dream job. If you consider yourself a salesperson and your product is you, then consider this quote:
“In sales, a referral is the key to the door of resistance.” –Bo Bennett
Be so unique and meaningful in your assistance to others that you have keys to as many doors as you desire.