What is the best job search strategy? There are many good strategies to get your name out there and your resume noticed, however Number One is … Networking! Here is the key:
What do Job Seekers do to find a job? Here’s the ‘old’ methodology: job seekers post their résumés on job boards (seek.com.au, mycareer.com.au, monster.com, jobsdb.com, etc.) Then they searched those boards for jobs of interest or those in which they thought they would perform well and responded by applying online.
Companies with openings posted their jobs, and reviewed the best résumés from candidates and the HR Managers or Internal Recruiters would interview the ones who appeared to be the best fit.
If those candidates weren’t able to make the grade, companies might then hire a 3rd party recruiter (or two or three) to find more potentially suitable candidates, some of whom were taken from those same job boards’ résumé databases, and others from the pool of “potential candidates” who were sourced from competitors. (Candidates always love to receive a call from a ‘headhunter’!) Sooner or later someone would be offered the job and the rest would be history.
Many things have now changed post GFC. Companies move slower and much more cautiously now, and have very different expectations. With the recovery going well in Australia, not so well in other countries, taking on additional headcount is not something taken lightly. While some people still get hired by answering job ads, only a very small percentage of new hires today are the result of someone applying online to a public job posting. Whenever I conduct a job search workshop and ask attendees how they secured their previous job, more often than not the most show of hands would be for that magic word: “NETWORKING!”
The Old Networking Methodology
You may be wondering how Networking works and how a job can materialize through those efforts.
Most people think this: meet with as many people as possible and talk with everyone they know or have a connection with. They speak with family members, friends, neighbors, business associates, clients, former customers, school and university alumni, church members, etc. When they run out of personal connections they attend “networking events” organized by various business networking associations, chambers of commerce, professional associations and the like. They exchange business cards with strangers at those events and then set up meetings with them. They let all whom they meet know they are “in transition,” and ask them if they have any advice to provide, or if they know anyone who either has a job, or can lead them to someone else who has a job. They make as many connections as possible through these events and also on “LinkedIn” and keep expanding their network willy nilly. Sooner or later, they expect they will hear about that perfect job that won’t be advertised anywhere. Sooner or later they to tap into the “hidden job market.”
Looking for Networking in all the Wrong Places
What you have just read shows a basic flaw. Many job-seekers are spending a great deal of time meeting with lovely people who can’t help them, or have absolutely no connection to the industry or position that they are seeking. These people would like to help but don’t know how! They may not understand specifically whom you’d like to meet, or what companies you want to get into.
Those official “networking events” (often held at local coffee shops, hotels or bars) are attended by other job seekers.
Of course it’s good practice to set up meetings with the people you meet and get together for coffee. Any social individual will enjoy “networking” with friends, family members, or other people going through their own job transition and share war stories. This can be comforting, and certainly is better than staying at home in front of the computer simply making online applications for advertised roles. They can fill up their Outlook calendar with “networking meetings” and feel they are making progress … that they are doing the right things.
However, has all that sort of networking taken them any closer to securing a job? I’ve mentioned Strategic Networking in a previous post, this expands upon it.
Many job seekers waste their time networking with people who can’t really help them. Why not make those time consuming networking efforts more effective?
Make a list of target companies likely to have jobs you are interested in based on your industry and job function, and then focus your networking activities on reaching the decision-makers in those companies. Does that sound easier said than done? Well, take this step-by-step approach and I’d love to hear your comments on how it works for you!
It’s Easy as One – Two ….
Create your target company list and identify specific people at those companies that you want to meet. Then take this ridiculously simple two-step approach.
Send an introductory email, and then make a follow-up phone call a few days later. It’s a basic sales technique. And it’s a matter of numbers (how many times you do this for how many companies) when it comes to your success rate.
In order to ensure a greater ‘hit rate’ consider the level of connection you have (if any) to the people you are approaching. Did a contact provide the name to you or did you research it online yourself? The most effective level of connection is a personal referral. If you meet with someone who gives you a name in a target company and says, “you can mention my name” – then you’re off and away! The higher up your referring contact is, the better the response most likely will be.
The next best level of connection is a common group or association – for example, you both belong to the same Professional Association or LinkedIn industry group or you both have something else in common.
The third level of connection is simply that you share a common industry. Modify your approach depending on the level of your connection to your target.
One: Your Introductory Email
To make things simple, here is a template for you to adapt according to your requirements. Open with how you know the person. Then mention your background and career goals. Then ask for some guidance and advice. Be short and to the point. Be complimentary, and non-aggressive. You are NOT asking for a job, you are asking for help and advice. For example:
Subject: Introduction from (Referral contact)
Hi (target name):
I met with a mutual friend of ours, (name of your contact,) yesterday and (he/she) spoke very highly of you, and suggested that I make contact with you.
I am a (your professional background) with a passion/expertise in (your area of expertise.) I am very interested in speaking and networking with anyone with experience in this area.
The reason I’m contacting you is that I would like to talk with you and find out more about your professional experiences. Your advice and expertise would be much appreciated.
Would you be willing to spend a few minutes with me on the phone … or perhaps informally meet for a coffee at your convenience?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Many thanks and best wishes,
(Your signature, mobile number and your LinkedIn profile – make sure it’s a good profile!)
This email is short, to the point, complimentary and states what you are hoping for. No nonsense, just to the point without asking for a job! If you don’t have a contact who has referred you, even if you have found someone you would like to network with through LinkedIn,a compliment about his or her impressive profile may get your foot in the door.