Networking. Job. Search. Do those words make you shudder and think of terrible networking mistakes? Many job seekers have told me that they “hate” to network! They have often described it as “just another name for using people.” Not fun. Very uncomfortable. Possibly, evil…
Good, successful job search networking is not using people. Nor is it walking up to a stranger or someone you barely know and asking for a job. In fact, very few of your network members will be people who could hire you. But they may well know people who can hire you.
Most noteworthy, employee referrals are most employers’ preferred method of hiring new employees.
The fact is, being referred by an employee is extremely unlikely without networking. Fortunately, good networking for your job search really isn’t hard to do. Today, with most of us hiding behind computer screens, networking takes little effort. Networking can even be fun!
Based on my experience and observations, these are the 5 most deadly job search networking mistakes:
1. Assuming Networking Is Walking Into Large Rooms Full of Strangers
This is how most networking-haters typically define networking. But, that’s not true networking for those of us who aren’t professional speakers seldom requires entering large rooms full of strangers.
Effective networking for most of us is staying in touch with people we know, introducing the people we know to each other, and, in turn, being introduced to new people by them. Many find this approach a natural process, not an uncomfortable artificial one.
Start with friends, colleagues and former colleagues, members of college and corporate alumni networks, and other people in your current life and your past:
- Get back in touch with people you haven’t connected with in a while, particularly the people you liked a lot.
- Catch up with them, preferably in person or, at a minimum, over the phone or Skype. What’s happening in their lives? Family? Fun? Work? Etc.
- See if there’s anything you can do for them. Recommend a great book or movie? Help them understand why your favorite football team/restaurant/smartphone (etc.) is the best one? Compare notes on things of common interest.
Simply reconnect, meet members of your network in small groups or even one at a time, and stay in touch. When appropriate (a seminar on something you want to learn or coffee on a Saturday morning), simply get together and talk. Catch up. Have fun!
2. Being Unprepared
Often, in networking, the discussions will turn to work situations and, when you are in a job search, what or where you want that next job to be. So not having a good answer ready is one of the biggest networking mistakes, wasting priceless opportunities.
Simple. Know what you want. I call it your Job Shopping List:
- The job titles used by your target employer for the job you want.
- A description of that job, regardless of the title used.
- The names of three to five employers you would like to work for next.
This can take time and effort, but it is the best use of job aggregators like Indeed.com. Plug in some of the things you’d like to do, like “using Facebook to build a company’s brand” or “assistant” or whatever is appropriate for you.
DO NOT apply for the jobs! Instead, check out the job titles Indeed.com shows you:
- Click on some that look the most interesting. Do you qualify for that job (or will you qualify in the not-too-distant future)? If you do, note the title used and the employer.
- Do more searches using those job titles. Interesting to you or not? Keep clicking and reading the descriptions that look most interesting.
- Note the employer names.
When you have some good job titles identified, look in the left column of Indeed.com’s search results. You’ll see very interesting categories with more information like: Salary Estimate (usually more than one), Job Type (full-time, part-time, contract, etc.), Location, and Employer.
Continue to search, click, and read until you have a good list of employers in the right location for you who have the right kinds of jobs for you. Don’t spend more than 30 minutes on this, but do it once a week for a few weeks.
NOW you have your “job shopping list” and your answer whenever someone asks you what you want to do next. You want to do job x or job y for employer 1, employer 2, or employer 3.
3. Not Being Findable
Tracking down someone you liked and worked with in the past is easier now than it has ever been if that person is visible online, and appears in appropriate Google search results.
Someone who is offline or who is “invisible” cannot be found. Many opportunities are missed, both reconnecting with old friends and colleagues as well as not being considered for appropriate opportunities (from potential clients and/or potential employers)
At a minimum, have a complete LinkedIn Profile. I know many people “of a certain age” who avoid LinkedIn and other social media (which emphasizes their age and out-of-date mindset). This is one of the biggest networking mistakes!
A LinkedIn Profile with a photo is essential. For someone who knew you in the past, the photo makes you recognizable (hopefully). For someone who didn’t know you, the photo makes you a “real” person, someone they are much more likely to reach out to.
4. Not Being Reachable
The lack of contact information is a serious handicap for your job search and right up there with the top networking mistakes! That barrier effectively cuts off communications from old friends and colleagues as well as potential clients and customers. Not good!
While some believe that the lack of contact information protects against spam and unwanted contacts from strangers and scammers, being unreachable is almost as bad as being invisible.
Although hundreds of millions of people are find-able online, they are not reachable. They have a good LinkedIn Profile, but it has no public contact information in it. So, they can be found, but, unless someone pays LinkedIn for a Premium account, the person cannot send a LinkedIn “InMail” message.
Put contact information in the section of your LinkedIn Profile designated for that information. The icon looks like a well-used physical address card of the past, typically known as a “Rolodex” card. You can usually find the icon in the box at the top of every LinkedIn Profile which contains name, photo, professional headline, etc.
At a minimum, add your email address to that card so that people with whom you are connected or share a Group can reach you via email. If you want to be very easy to reach, add that email address to your LinkedIn Summary, too.
5. Ignoring Networking Until You Are Unemployed
Networking isn’t only helpful when you are in a job search. Networking helps you succeed in your career. When you wait until you are unemployed, many opportunities will have been missed. This can be one of the most overlooked networking mistakes. So waiting until you are unemployed is like trying to find and inflate the life raft while the boat is sinking.
You can inflate that life raft then, fortunately. But it will probably be more difficult, stressful, and time-consuming.
NEVER stop networking! Make it a standard part of your day. Use social media, email, and the telephone to stay in touch with people who are not close geographically. Consistently stay in touch, perhaps daily, perhaps monthly, or even quarterly.
Your employer benefits from your networking. Smart employers know that, and encourage employees to network. The visibility and credibility of the employer increases. New clients or customers are acquired.
Professionally, most of us perform better in our jobs if we continue to network while employed because we are usually learning things relevant to our profession, even if only who to avoid as a customer or client (or employer). Personally, we learn new things, meet new people, and continue to grow.
Avoid these 5 deadly networking mistakes, and you will have more fun networking. You will also be more successful in your career as well as in your job search.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe.
About the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management since 2012, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.