“Networking” is defined by BusinessDictionary as “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question ‘How can I help?’ and not with ‘What can I get?'”
I hate to break it to you, job seekers, but if your search is failing to get off the ground, it’s likely because of one or more of the following mistakes when it comes to networking or using your network for a job search.
1. You’re not ‘creating’ your network.
A network is something you should create and be adding to on a regular basis. You can add new contacts to your network by attending industry events, joining groups on LinkedIn or finding interesting people to connect with on LinkedIn.
2. You don’t keep it active through regular communication.
Your network should hear from you on a regular basis. Like or comment on others’ posts on LinkedIn. Congratulate others for their recent job promotion. Meet people at industry events. Take a colleague out to lunch. Set up breakfast meetings the next time you’re at a conference.
3. You only contact people when you need help and don’t help others.
You should always be considering how you can help your network. Most people only reach out to their network when they need something, like a job. But the purpose of networking is to make it a two-way street. Consider the needs of others. Send helpful articles. When you connect with them, ask if there is anything you can do to help. When they reach out to you for help, go above and beyond to assist.
4. You’re not strategic about who is in your network.
Be sure to connect with others who are in your industry, your job role, and with recruiters as well. You can find like-minded people online as well as offline. One year, I made about 500 connections with marketing professionals by volunteering to handle registration at conferences so I could meet everyone who walked through the door for each event. Online, you can search for people by industry and job function on LinkedIn and offer to connect with a customized note. You can also search for specific types of recruiters this way too.
5. You ask people if they know of job openings instead of who you should talk to.
Most job seekers will meet others and ask, “Do you know anyone who is hiring?” It’s a good question, however, the person you’re asking most likely has no idea who is hiring. If they do know of job openings and you’re chatting with them, they would have most likely shared this with you anyways.
Instead, ask, “Can you share with me the names of two people I can talk to who would be helpful to me in my search?” With this approach, you’ll walk away with specific names of those who may have an opening or know of one. Your quest to talk to people then keeps expanding and doesn’t simply end with a “no.”
6. You’re not specific in telling your network how they can help you in your job search.
When you connect with someone in your network for job-search purposes, be as specific as you can about what you’re looking for. Share the types of roles you excel in, the industries you enjoy working in and specific names of companies where you’d like to work.
You can outline how others can assist you by sharing a “networking resume,” a one-page document that communicates your brand, career history, and roles, industries and companies where you’d like to work. Share this with your connection after you’re finished meeting or in an email. A word of caution, however: If you’re still employed and launching a confidential job search, you may want to be discreet.
7. You’re not actively engaged with jobseeker groups.
If you’re in the market for a new job, job seeker groups are a great resource for networking. Many of the groups I’ve visited allow fellow job seekers to mention the types of roles they are seeking as well as companies they are looking to gain employment at. Others in the group may have connections at those companies and be eager to help.
An added plus is that those who are also in jobseeker mode “get it.” They understand the importance of helping others, as they need help as well. They are eager to provide connections, support and ideas.
In summary, make sure you are actively and strategically growing your network on a continual basis. Reach out and assist others. When using your network for a job search, ask for names of more people to talk to, tell people specifically what you’re looking for, and create a networking resume as a leave-behind. Be sure to visit some local jobseeker groups too to network and find support.