Many of the clients who come to me are at wits end. Some of them have applied for as many as 45 jobs and only heard back from three or four companies. The clients are confused – is the company really even hiring? Why do they have the job posted for months on end? Am I not good enough?? What does it take to get a darn interview??
These are the head games you start playing with yourself when you rely on job boards and websites to kick-start your career. There is a better way to find a job, and it doesn’t involve these outlets or all the emotional distress. I coach my clients in changing their approach to the job hunt, and the biggest element of doing that is helping them become savvy networkers.
Great networkers never have to apply for jobs because they’ve made sure that someone always has them in mind as a candidate. The idea of networking is incredibly intimidating for a lot of people. It sounds exhausting, they tell me. My response? The job hunt is exhausting, but human interaction always beats sending countless job applications out into cyber space. Furthermore, over half of the vacancies in the United States never get posted, and the ones that do are usually less desirable. Do you really want to go through all that self-doubt and application frenzy just to end up with a subpar position?
Don’t limit yourself to that! You can change your mindset about networking. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Networking is a way of life. Don’t wait until you need a job to start building relationships with people who can help you find one. Great jobs are hard to come by, and it could be a year before you find a vacancy that really captures your interest. If your contacts know what you’re interested in before you’re even on the job hunt, they’ll keep you in mind when they hear of something that’s relevant to your goals. This doesn’t mean you need to call your contacts on a weekly basis and remind them of your existence (or desperation), but savvy networkers recognize the value of maintaining “warm” contacts. Keep the relationship going through a phone call or coffee every 4 – 6 months. At a minimum, check in via email. Great networkers aren’t all business though; they remember to check in on more personal matters such as family and hobbies. These meetings then serve as opportunities for them to enjoy their relationship with their contact and share that they may be curious about their next career move.
2. A person in a different field is still an excellent contact. A common faux pas of new networkers is to assume that someone in an entirely different field cannot serve as a great resource to them. Think about how often you’ve been connected by a family member or friend to someone in your industry of interest, even though the person doing the connecting works in a completely unrelated industry. I encourage all networkers to realize that if someone from a different field is smart enough to be networking with you, they probably have a robust network in their own hands. The contacts you make through networking will look out for you – regardless of what industry they’re in – if they see you as a personable, helpful, and motivated.
3. Always be a connector. Now that you know how important networking is to landing a great job, you have to appreciate that the networking pool exists because its participants give back. The most important contribution you can make to your networking relationships is the offer to connect your contacts with people in your own network. There’s a certain amount of gratitude and loyalty that is built when you show someone that you’re willing to potentially enrich their career by opening up your network. You get more when you give more! Side note: Only do this when you respect the person on a basic level.
I would be remiss if I ended this without emphasizing the wonders networking has worked in my own life and career. As soon as I realized that it’s about building meaningful and unexpected relationships, and not just about finding people to send a resume around for me, the success I was searching for suddenly didn’t seem so far out of reach. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to change your mindset, but like all the hardest things in this life, it will be worth it.
I hope to hear from you about your experiences with networking. In the meantime, please know that I’m here congratulating each of you who rise above your fears and insecurities, get dressed, and show up at networking events armed with the knowledge that you have something to offer. This single act of growth will multiply your success, happiness, and self worth.