Despite what many job seekers think, networking doesn’t require you to be someone different, have a super power or don a cape. Or, surprisingly, even that you wear a power suit!
Part of the time, you can network in your pajamas while petting the cat and eating a PB&J. With networking tools like LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, you can spread the word about your search without ever combing your hair.
Part of the time, you can network by catching a cup of coffee (or whatever you drink) with old friends or former co-workers. Even if it’s been 2 years, 5 years, 15 years – you’d be surprised at how deep your old friendships can be, and how willing people are to help you if they can.
However, networking (and getting out of the house sometimes) is absolutely crucial to finding a new job, especially post-recession. Here are some tips for how to network… and still feel like yourself:
1. Look around you; you already know lots of people. Your neighbors, your son’s soccer coach, and your dental hygienist all may know something about or someone in your chosen profession. Make it a point to let the people you know best, know the kind of role you’re looking for. Some people do network more easily, but if you are the kind of person who normally sits on the sidelines at a party, soccer meet, or seminar, set a personal goal to meet at least three new people a week. Be prepared to have a (VERY) short description of the kind of work you’re looking for. Says Dan, who made a shift from environmental science into healthcare, “everyone has a brother-in-law” who might work in your field, and you have to get comfortable getting out there talking to people.
2. Don’t ask for a job. You heard that right! The best connections come up when the person you’re meeting doesn’t feel pressured by your agenda. Set up networking meetings for the purpose of learning more about the field, and ask about interesting companies or people they know, NOT job openings at their company. One client recently landed an interview with a company that had a role that wasn’t posted after networking with a former co-worker on LinkedIn.
3. Brush up on your skills. Most people go to seminars to learn a new topic. (Seems basic, right?) Job seekers should go to seminars and conferences (if you can afford them) to meet people… and oh, yes, to learn something too. You’re better off going to a topic that you care about, instead of a bland networking meeting. When learning something new, chat up the people sitting next to you.
4. Find buddies in the same boat. Through job seeker networking groups, or just your own contacts, pair up with a friend or two to keep each other on track, share leads and also contacts. You’ve instantly got a network, times three!
5. Stay Focused on your target job and don’t confuse your contacts. Whatever you do, don’t say “I’ll do anything.” There’s a difference between a short term financial need, which might mean work you’ve never considered before (contract, project work, helping out a friend’s business, etc.). That doesn’t mean that you should be telling people when you’re networking that you’re “open to anything”. Stay the course- keep focused on what you’re good at, keep talking to people, and continue to dig deeper with your networking efforts.
6. Get out of your house. Now, you should be making time to comb your hair, ditch the PJ’s and have some face-to-face contact. It will energize you, and you’ll have much better results in your search. Don’t confuse online job hunting with a job search; it used to be enough to apply to jobs on Monster.com, but those days are long gone. The more people you meet, the higher your chances of finding work.
Don’t have a network? Build one. Talk to your neighbors. Chat people up at the dog park or baseball field. Go to industry events. Talk to your friends who are in sales; salespeople tend to have a broad cross-section of friends. Bottom line, to paraphrase, it takes a village to find a job.
People are really willing to help, but they can’t help if they don’t know you’re out there.