Networking Is the Best Way to Get Hired
How to Network: Use LinkedIn to Advance Your Career
The old adage "It's not what you know, but who you know" is alive and well in today's career world. Unlike the favoritism it suggested years ago, however, it reflects the impact social networking and the Internet have had on the job market.
Recent data shows that more than 80 percent of hires are done through networking. That means you have a bigger chance of getting hired if you know how to tap into your network than you do if you rely on the old resume and application process alone.
More and more often, recruiters and industry leaders say they use networking when they hire new people; they tend to interview people who already know someone in their company. They also look at social networking sites to check out profiles and contacts. Frequently, they will screen candidates through LinkedIn (or other sites) to see if a candidate knows anyone in their circle who can be contacted for a referral. Every single business leader can tell you how important networking is when you're looking for work.
But many people don't know what a "professional network" is, or how to tap into it. Here's a secret: You already have a huge network; you just haven't identified it yet!
Follow these easy steps to identify and begin using your network to land the job you want.
Recruiters: Managers Rely on LinkedIn to Find Applicants
Every recruiter I've spoken to has said the same things:
"The first thing we do is check LinkedIn."
"We tend to hire and interview people we know, or people who are referred to us."
There are multiple reasons companies and managers rely on networking and contacts through LinkedIn. A big factor is the huge number of applicants recruiters get for every single posting—they need a good way to sift through the pile and decide who to interview. If an applicant is referred by someone within the company, it raises their credibility and helps the hiring manager get through the process more quickly.
This doesn't mean a newcomer hasn't a shot at a job; it just means you need to find who, in your network, can help you meet the right person at a company or help refer you for an interview.
How to Create Your Professional Network
The first step in identifying your network is to make a list of everyone you know. To make it easy, break the task into smaller chunks. Find a quiet space and a few free minutes and write the names of:
- Your friends
- Business associates
- People you work with or used to work with
- Members of your church or synagogue
- People who live in other cities
- Anyone else who comes to mind
It doesn't matter how well you know people; put everyone on the list. You'll see why as we go forward.
Ways to Network With People You Meet
After you create your list of contacts, at first it might not be evident that some names will be part of your professional network. Maybe they're friends from church, or perhaps they're not in your career field. Perhaps they don't work at all at this point (some stay-at-home spouses will be on the list).
Go over the names and highlight or make a sublist of all the people who:
- are managers or business leaders in any field.
- work in positions similar to what you want to do.
- work for companies where you'd like to work.
- might know someone who meets the above criteria.
- are out-of-town contacts who might know someone where you live.
This will help you develop common ground with people when you talk to them or "network" with them. When you talk with them, explore the secondary connections above to see if they know someone you need to meet.
How to Start Networking
Here's a little secret: People like to help other people. Everyone on your list is a potential contact or lead for your next job. If you're like everyone else, you have a longer list of contacts than you ever realized. Each person on your list is a potential contact for getting an interview and getting hired.
First, develop a system (one that works for you) to contact everyone on your list. You can use a spreadsheet, file cards, a computerized list, or whatever is easiest for you to track. It's important to have a system for tracking your contacts, because you will probably want to call or email people more than once.
Here are some things you can say, depending on who you're contacting:
- I wanted to let you know I'm in the market for a position (at your company, in your field), do you know anyone I should call? Would it be okay to use your name?
- I just applied for a position at your company, do you know anyone in the XYZ Department? Would you mind sharing my resume with them?
- Can I get a few minutes on your schedule? I'd like to get your thoughts on a few things? (See below for more tips on this).
- Hi John, I know you don't live here in Metropolis, but I wanted to let you know I'm putting my resume out on the market. Do you know anyone here (or in Big Company Here) I should talk to?
The third example is good when you know an expert in your field or an executive who might be able to coach you a bit. Offer to meet for coffee or take them to lunch, and pick their brain about how their career evolved, the type of talent their industry recruits, or other tips that can help prep you for a position. Remember, you're just asking for information. At the end of your meeting, though, you can ask if there's anyone they recommend that you contact. Ask them if you can use their name (in all likelihood, they'll say yes).
When you call the person they connect you with, introduce yourself by using their name: "Hi, I'm Joe Smith; Sue Jones suggested I contact you; could I meet with you sometime in the next week or so?"
Are Networking Groups Helpful/Valuable?
Your city is bound to have several professional networking groups. You don't need to pay big bucks to attend these things, in fact, some of the "commercial" networking groups may not be worth the money, especially for someone who is out of a paycheck and looking for a job.
Most large cities and towns will have free networking groups that are offered as a public service through churches or other organizations. Your local government employment office may have a list of such groups. These groups exist primarily to help job-seekers create a network and get their professional credentials in front of the right people. They do work, by the way. Be on time, dress for success, and take copies of your resume. You never know who you will meet.
At these meetings, you will usually have an opportunity to introduce yourself. Practice introducing yourself in 30 seconds (yes, really). Give your name, something brief about your career background (including a success you've had), and a short statement about what you're looking for. Be positive. Ask a friend or two to listen to your quick speech and give you feedback.
Your networking group (or groups) should have mingling time to allow you to meet each other. This is an important opportunity to meet people who might know someone in your field and to offer help and support to other people looking for work. As you become a regular attendee, you'll notice people connect and refer each other to job opportunities.
Be sure to get names and connect with your network contacts on LinkedIn!
Use Social Networking
If you don't have a LinkedIn account, stop reading this and create one right now. Managers say they use LinkedIn to help find candidates (through searching for various job titles or career areas). If they spot a profile that has experience in an area for which they're hiring, they'll look to see if the person is linked to anyone they know.
Managers also use LinkedIn to vet applicants. When companies get good resumes, they immediately search LinkedIn to learn more about the applicant and, as above, to see if they're connected to anyone else at the company. A presence on the right social networking sites is very important.
You can also use LinkedIn to help you in your job search. Once you have a good network of contacts on the site (or even a start-up list), do a search for firms where you've applied or hope to apply and see if any of your network names pop up. You may also see people who are a few degrees away from you, in which case you can try to connect through your chain of contacts.
This one should be handled carefully. Facebook, while used by millions, doesn't have the professional clout LinkedIn has. However, companies sometimes search on Facebook to get a feel for how well you present yourself to the public. If you're searching for a job, get rid of any embarrassing photos (such as raising a beer can at your frat party, or the cute make-a-face shots your best friend took). Tone it down and be more professional. You can also adjust your privacy settings so that random searchers (such as the HR manager where you want to work) won't see everything.
Facebook can be used in positive ways, though. You could post a message letting your friends know you're out on the market, or you've started a new business. Use good judgment and keep it clean and professional.
Get on Twitter and create a following of professionals. You can tweet your professional advice or solid opinions in your career field, but save the text-type tweets for another venue. You don't want a potential employer seeing a tweet such as, "Carrie and I just saw the best movie! Go see . . . " etc. You get the idea.
Professional Discussion Boards
If your field has an association or another networking group, be sure to join it and attend meetings. And be sure to participate in online discussion boards. You can get a reputation among your peers, any of whom might be able to refer you to the right job. Let the group know you're looking for work; they will help wherever they can.
There are many other social networking sites, such as MySpace. Don't go overboard, but don't ignore them, either. If you find a site with the type of contacts you need to make, consider creating a profile and presence there. Again, be professional.
- Always send a thank-you message to people who've given you their time in a brief meeting, or who've referred you to one of their contacts or to a job opening. This kind touch goes a long way to keeping you in their minds and increasing your stock when someone asks about you. And, they deserve your thanks for helping you out during your job search!
- When you hear of opportunities that might interest others, call them and tell them about it. People appreciate good thoughts from others, and you'll feel good about helping them.
- Networking is fun and rewarding. You'll enjoy making new friends and renewing your relationships with old contacts, and it will help you reach your career goals!
More Tips: Getting Hired
These are just a few strategies people use to get interviews; getting hired is the next step, and you can increase your odds by knowing how to interview well.
- Many people don't realize how to score high on a job interview; if you follow the right tips, you can raise the score you get for each answer.
- It also helps to know what job interviewers say behind your back after you leave the interview. The actual questions they ask are only a piece of the puzzle; other factors, such as grooming, and that mysterious element called 'the right fit' will be discussed.
- If you do your research, prepare uniquely for each interview (one size does not fit all!), and tap into your network, you will be able to get the job offer you want.
- Ask ahead of time whether the interview is in the panel format. Panel interviews are quite common these days and require extra planning.
Good luck! You can do it!
What About You?
Do you think you've identified everyone in your professional network?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.