More Effective Networking When Job Seeking
The secrets few share
Meeting new people, learning and sharing with people is something I love. Every week, I have countless meetings with folks to stay up to date on the industry at large, check in with colleagues, and expand my network with new perspectives for learning.
However, my networking focus was very different when I was out of work. Recently, I was having a conversation with a peer who has been seeking work. She told me she had been doing all kinds of networking with few results. I suggested she might be networking the wrong way, and what follows is the advice I shared with her.
The reality is the script has flipped for many of us in the tech industry, and the employers now have a bounty of choice. Most jobs come from connections rather than blindly filling in job applications on Linkedin, so you must be strategic and not just network to network. LinkedIn is also the most powerful network for employment. Yet, I still see so many job seekers using it poorly.
So, what's the key to unlocking your next big opportunity? It's not just who you know but how you connect with them. This is where the art of networking, when executed correctly, becomes an invaluable strategy.
The Art of Strategic Networking
So, how do the most effective networkers approach it? Two words: intentionality and planning. It's about more than just connecting with anyone hoping to catch an opportunity. It's about research, targeting the right connections and engaging with individuals with mutual respect for time and possible collaboration.
My first approach is to understand what I want. What areas do I want my career to focus on? What roles am I seeking? If nothing else, what jobs or industries do I want to avoid? Next, I would list industries and companies I respect and like. I also like to focus on areas where I have experience or some sense of their business. I'll use LinkedIn to identify the company's key stakeholders.
Before initiating contact, I invest time in researching the company, their history, and the state of the industry. I would compile the information in an Excel sheet. At least, personally, it helps me see the data clearly. It also lets me grade or rank the opportunities.
I try to understand their challenges, their culture, and their direction. This background knowledge helps you make a solid first impression. It also demonstrates a genuine interest and potential value to their organization.
I also do some detective work on their website. For example, what kind of jobs are they hiring for? What language do they use? Do they have a blog or news section? Did they get a strategic investment? Have they just done a round of layoffs? Has there been a change in executive leadership?
If there is something I can speak to, I move to the next step.
Networking with Clear Expectations
The biggest thing when connecting is clarity - it's crucial. Be transparent about your intentions - and ensure the connection should be viewed as a two-way street. If they are open to connection, it should be a valuable use of time for you both. This honesty sets the stage for a productive conversation rather than leaving the other party guessing about your motives. Don’t send a LinkedIn connection without a note. If you can’t take the time to explain the reason for connecting, why should they take the time to accept it?
While you might be looking for opportunities, think about what you can offer in return. It could be a fresh perspective on an industry challenge, insights from your previous experiences, or connections to other professionals in your network. Framing your interactions around mutual benefit establishes a foundation for a lasting and impactful relationship.
Content Creation In Your Niche
Another way that led me to many good connections and networking was creating content that resonated with my target audience. Sharing new ideas, concepts or software tips led to terrific conversations that eventually turned into interviews. In fact, it even led to the job I have now. Especially when you're looking for work, treat LinkedIn like an audition tape. Showcase the kinds of things you'll bring to the organization. Just like networking, treat it like a job. Create personas and a calendar of content.
The best advice for success is to treat networking and content like you are the CEO of You Inc. No one else will get you business, and You Inc. will only sell itself with some work. You have to tell your story and seek out the partners you want. I know it's tough because it's not natural for everyone, but unfortunately, it's the game. It's also not a fool-proof recipe. However, I promise you this is the best approach - because it's worked for me and countless others.
Plus, you know what? Anyone smart enough to read this newsletter can do it!
P.S. I am not hiring for any roles at the moment, but I recommend you check out MyCLI for a free membership for connecting, growing and learning with fellow leaders.