I often hear job seekers say networking is a waste of time. They tell me “I don’t have time to talk to people who may not be able to help me, plus it’s faster to apply online, right?”
Well, here’s something that might change your mind: Companies fill more jobs through referrals than from job boards. And how do you think you get referred?
The truth is, you never know who can help you. But the way to find out is to:
- Meet new people
- Reconnect with people who already know you
Be purposeful and strategic about job search networking by targeting these 10 types of people first…
1. People You Once Worked With
Your past work colleagues have seen you perform in the job and know your strengths and work ethic. These people make an excellent source of information to find out what changes are going on in the business and industry. You want to let them know you are looking for a new opportunity.
Informing people you used to work with of your future plans will help them understand your goals. They can watch for opportunities that might be a match for you. Your colleagues also have connections with people so be sure to ask if they know of anyone they think might be helpful for you to meet.
People you know are most likely to want to help you with job search networking. Your friends have a vast network of contacts you don’t know about. Start by contacting the people you know and inform them of your new career aspirations and ask if they know anyone you might want to talk to.
Even if your friends don’t understand what you want to do next, they may be able to help you meet people inside companies you are targeting. Be sure you mention some of the companies you are interested in working for.
3. Past Managers
Assuming you and your previous manager or supervisor got along, it’s a good idea to reach out to them. Your past boss may know of upcoming opportunities at your old company or elsewhere. If you performed well in your role, then it would be easy for your manager to want to help you and introduce you to other people you should know.
4. Target Company Employees
Is there a company you would love to work for? Talking with people who work inside a company allows you to learn what it is really like to work there. Plus they can provide advice and/or insight on the best way to apply.
Research the company on LinkedIn and see who you know. If you do not have any connections, look for someone you know who has a connection in the company. These are called second-degree connections.
Also, ask everyone in your network if they know the person and could introduce you. It’s best to get an introduction to someone so you can use their name when you reach out. This increases the odds that the person will respond to your request.
Or, as a last resort, you could reach out cold and introduce yourself.
Don’t forget to tap into classmates, professors, and alumni as another potential pool of people to network with. In many cases, you can contact your school’s Advancement or Alumni office to access their alumni database.
LinkedIn also has a powerful resource on the University’s page called “See Alumni.” This allows you to sort alumni by city, company, and the type of work they do. You can search for alumni who work for companies you are interested in and alumni who hold a role you aspire to be in.
6. Someone You’ve Just Met
When you attend a networking event or conference or even a baseball game, you might just meet someone who has a background in your field of interest.
If there are synergy and common interests and you feel like continuing the conversation, ask for a meeting. How? If you haven’t already, exchange business cards and ask if you can connect on LinkedIn. Then ask about continuing the conversation over coffee.
Do everything in your power to set a firm date and time and location right then and there. You don’t want your new potential lead to slip through the cracks as can happen once people have left the venue.
The people you’ve served already know you and are familiar with your work. Lean on them as a source of information about what’s going on. Your customers and clients have a feel of the work landscape and future needs. This information will help you position your most important skills and experience.
Former clients and customers may know of other companies that could use your services.
Similar to your clients and customers, your vendors know what it’s like to do business with you. They also have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry because they are still servicing businesses.
Ask questions to understand who your vendor/supplier enjoys working with and which companies seem to be doing well. You can use this information to help you pursue new opportunities with a referral from your contact.
9. Service Providers
Don’t overlook the business relationships you have with professionals who provide you with services. These people have their own vast network of contacts. Your service providers also want to maintain you as a customer which you can only do if you are employed. Therefore, they have an interest in helping you.
10. Fellow Volunteers
If you volunteer, you’ve likely established relationships with other volunteers and people within the organization. These people have seen you give your time and effort. The organization also appreciates the work you do for them.
Volunteer organizations have many relationships in the community, from board members to sponsors. Tap into the relationships of fellow volunteers and the organization’s leaders to help you grow your network.
Make a list of everyone you know from these types of people for job search networking. Your goal should be to list at least 100 people. Consider this a brainstorming session and don’t eliminate people, just list their names. Just be sure to have a list you can work from.
Always start your outreach by contacting the people you know best.
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About the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!