Networking experts offer advice on how to use who you know to get what you want in the job search.
No matter how attractive you make that “looking for work” sign, when it comes to landing a job these days, it often comes down to who you know. Whether you’re deep in the job search or comfortable and content with your work situation, actively networking, particularly in today’s economy, is a smart idea. Three seasoned pros offer tips to improve your game.
Mix business with pleasure
“It’s less intimidating to start with who you know; [tell people] at the gym or your knitting group [that you’re looking for work],” says Tracy Thomas, Northwestern University’s assistant director for programming and career counseling. Be specific about the kind of job you’re seeking as well as your qualifications.
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t panic when you find yourself jobless. “Take a step back and establish your goals,” Thomas says. Chris Hartweg, cofounder of the five-year-old group Painless Networking, recommends showing potential employers how you can get through tough times with remarkable grace and drive. “Take the approach ‘I’m a media planner looking for the next great job’ versus ‘I’m an unemployed media planner. Help me.’?” Go ahead and mention something in your Facebook or Twitter status update about having a great interview today.
Pay it forward
“People see [networking] as a one-way relationship,” Thomas says. “It should always be about relationship building.” Whether you’re employed or seeking employment, consider how you can give as well as receive, from connecting people you know to sharing articles of interest or job leads. Not to mention, says Hartweg, sharing information you’ve found is “a clever way to put it out there you’re looking. In a way, it shows your own confidence in your abilities by being willing to share.”
Ari Bendersky, a freelance writer and former editor of now-defunct UR, says he’s landed nearly every job he’s gotten by using his far-reaching network of contacts. He makes a point of letting people know what he’s up to through tweeting and status updates on his Facebook or LinkedIn pages, so people come to him with assignments relevant to his experience. “Every time I post a new column or an article comes out online, I post it [on Facebook],” he says. “[Or] I could be talking about a new bottle of wine. When I started doing the wine column for Huffington Post and Examiner, I started getting solicited by people in the wine industry saying, ‘Have you heard about this wine?’ just because I am putting myself out there.”
Connect more than four
Expand your network by joining organizations specific to your line of work and interests (in addition to connecting you with people in the field, the industry newsletters help you stay informed about groups) and the alumni association of schools you’ve attended. That guy from your tenth-grade chemistry class just might have a cousin who works for your dream company.
It can’t hurt to make your own business cards using a site like Moo.com to pass out at meet-and-greet events, but you also should request someone else’s card. Hartweg suggests using this method so you have an excuse to follow up with a note and possibly even your résumé. “You don’t want to annoy anybody, but it’s harmless to send an e-mail a few days [after meeting someone] saying, ‘It was great meeting you the other night. This is what I’m working on.’?” Bendersky says. “It tends to be an effective way of getting to know somebody [because it usually leads to a continuous e-mail exchange].”
Talk to me
Intrigued by someone else’s job? Ask them if they can meet in person. “If you approach somebody under the guise of ‘I’m interested in what you do, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee to ask about projects you’re working on’ without saying ‘I’m trying to get a job’ or ‘I hear there’s an opportunity’…people are usually willing to do that,” Bendersky says.