You may not fully grasp the fact that networking is the most successful executive job search method.
Or, you may completely get it . . . but you’re either not good at networking – for executive job search or anything else – or you dread the thought of having to do it.
No matter, if you want to avoid a prolonged job search, and land a good-fit executive job faster, you really need to dive headlong into networking . . . and do it with preparation and purpose.
Why does job search networking work so well?
In a nutshell, people hire people they know . . . or think they know, even if they just know OF them through someone else they know and trust.
If you’ve created a resume that “beats” the ATS and actually gets into the hands of a hiring authority, you’re probably a stranger to them.
But if you’ve networked your way towards that same person – circumventing the ATS at least initially – and connected with them through a personal introduction from someone they know, you’re not a total stranger to them . . . making you much more attractive to them as a candidate.
This is known as networking your way into the “hidden” job market, because it opens you to jobs that are never advertised. You may land in a job created by the employer, just to accommodate you.
A LinkedIn Global Survey Shows Professionals Value Networking
The findings may surprise those who aren’t sold on the value of networking for job search.
The biggest surprise may be that “70 percent of people were hired at a company where they had a connection.”
Other key survey findings include:
Networking attitudes don’t match networking behaviors.
- 38 percent globally said they find it hard to stay in touch with their network.
- The leading cause? Nearly half (49 percent) globally say it’s because they don’t have enough time.
- Interestingly, despite the majority (79 percent) globally agreeing that professional networking is valuable for career progression, less than half (48 percent) globally say they keep in touch with their network when things are going well in their career.
Tap your connections to find your way in.
- More than one third (35 percent) say that a casual conversation on LinkedIn Messaging has led to a new opportunity.
- What type of new opportunities? Business deals for one. One-quarter of professionals globally have established a new business partnership through having a conversation on LinkedIn Messaging.
- Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of professionals globally agree that regular online interaction with their professional network can lead to the way in to possible job opportunities.
Who Should I Network With?
Many job seekers have a narrow view of who they should be networking with.
They focus all, or most, of their networking efforts on business associates and people they work with.
They forget, or don’t know, that their networking efforts should also include people who work at the companies they’re targeting.
But by additionally neglecting to network with the many people they know in their daily lives away from work, job seekers will miss out on potential increased opportunities likely to come their way from such wide-net networking.
In the article at The Balance noted above, Doyle listed some of the people you should be networking with:
- Past or present co-workers, colleagues, managers, supervisors or employees
- Past or present clients and customers
- Business associates
- Alumni of your undergraduate or graduate alma mater
- Acquaintances you know from your personal life
- Acquaintances you know through your spouse or your family
- People from your church, gym, yoga studio, or community organization
- Past or present teachers or professors
- Anyone you meet and have a productive, professional conversation about your career path!
Job Search Networking Misconceptions and Missteps
Networking doesn’t come naturally to many of us, so we make mistakes.
We’re not always as good at the finesse required to network well.
In her Forbes article Networking: You Hate It Right? Here’s Why, writer/entrepreneur Darrah Brustein notes that building relationships isn’t a sprint:
“Relationships are long-term. By looking to extract immediate value before a real relationship has been formed, you overlook the importance of the basic principle that people want to help people they know, like and trust. And that takes time to nurture. So think long term, take your time.”
For better networking, she suggests that, instead of asking someone new what they do:
“Ask questions about the person. That could be ‘What are you working on that’s exciting right now?’ or ‘What motivated you to come here tonight?’ if you’re in an event setting. Anything that allows for them to light up a bit and connect as humans, not as talking business cards.”
She says further that body language counts for a lot:
“When you dart your eyes around a room, angle your body away from the person talking with you, or cross your arms so that both hands are hidden, your body language screams you don’t care and want to escape. Be respectful and be present in the moment, not hungrily looking for someone whom you think is ‘better’.”
Best Executive Job Search Networking Practices
After reading the experts advice above, you may be thinking,
“Okay, I know I need to networking . . . I know what I shouldn’t do and who to network with . . . but what’s the best way to go about it?”
In a LinkedIn article, Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, a talent acquisition consulting firm, explains:
“Networking is not about trying to meet as many people whom you don’t know. This is almost as ineffective as applying directly to a job posting. Networking is about meeting people you do know who can both vouch for your past performance and future potential, and willingly recommend you to others.”
Adler’s excellent networking advice includes the following:
1. Research your connection’s connections and ask about specific people. This is possible using LinkedIn, since you’re able to see your first degree connections’ connections (at least if they haven’t hidden them).
2. Network backwards. Start with a job of interest, and using LinkedIn, find out who you’re connected to who knows someone in the company who can refer you.
3. Be direct and be proactive. When you meet these second degree connections be prepared to ask about specific people they know, and about specific jobs at their companies. All of this information is on LinkedIn.
4. Don’t be a pest, but keep your network warm by maintaining an active PR campaign. Spend a few hours each week sending emails to those who have helped you in any way.
5. Establish some metrics to stay focused. At a minimum, track meetings per week and the number of recommendations per meeting. The overriding goal should be 50-60 people in your job-hunting network within 2-3 weeks.
How to Build the Best Professional Relationships on LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s Director of Product, Liz Li, says:
“Our top recommendation is to connect with people you know and trust. If your network is filled with connections you know personally, it is real and usable, so that each and every connection has the potential to be helpful to your professional life, whether that’s a job recommendation, an introduction, or career advice.
The benefit of connecting with someone is that you can message them for free at any time, you have access to each other’s shared contact information, and those connections will show up in job postings as someone who could get you in the door with the hiring manager.”
If you don’t know someone personally, but want to keep up with what they’re doing and saying on LinkedIn, they recommend “following” them instead of connecting with them:
“This is perfect if you want to learn from established thought leaders in your industry or stay up-to-date on someone you admire. You’ll be able to engage directly with their content through reactions and commenting so you can start to build a professional relationship with them. And, engaging with their content in a thoughtful way can hopefully lead to a confirmed connection down the line.”
For others you don’t know but want to engage with, see if one of your connections knows them and can give you a “warm” introduction:
“We’ve made it even easier to send a message to multiple recipients – simply ask one of your connections to start a group message on LinkedIn to help make an introduction. And, if you’re already in a group conversation, members of that conversation can simply @ mention someone they’re connected to in a conversation to easily add them into that message thread.”
Nifty Job Search Networking Ideas
Among the many networking tips Jacob Share of JobMob mentions in his post, 37 Ways to Meet People Who Can Refer You to Jobs, here 5 strategic things he suggests doing:
1. Get a designated email address for your job search.
Choose one that’s easy to remember. Something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” would be good.
2. Be active on Twitter
Take a few moments to flesh out your profile, putting your personal tagline in the Bio box and customizing the background image. Discover more people to follow by browsing who your friends and industry influencers follow.
3. Ask for referrals when handing over business cards
People are more likely to respond about job leads at other companies than if you ask directly about open positions in their company. Give them extra cards if they have any potential referrals to put you in contact with.
4. Create an industry newsletter
Become a trusted source of information. Create a newsletter for an industry niche that doesn’t have one. Or, become a contributor to an existing newsletter, with a byline explaining how to reach out to you.
Meeting new people is one of the best reasons why job seekers should volunteer. If there aren’t many opportunities locally through, find them online using a site like Idealist.org.
Now it’s time to put all the expert advise from above into play . . . and get networking!