I sure you’ve heard on the grapevine that most vacancies and job opportunities are never advertised. There is very little evidence to back this statement up of course, but anecdotally it kind of makes a lot of sense. In fact, there is an arbitrary figure of 75% of jobs are gained through networking and who you know is probably not far from the truth. For most people, we will have both online and offline networks the question is how do we use them to find a job? Well, unsurprisingly from the title, we will look at some nifty networking strategies that can hold the key to your next job. Helping you to get out there, “press some flesh” and find the job that you have been looking for.
Gathering up and maintaining those all-important contacts and connections is a great first move. It’s a chance to look over who you are connected to the past & present and if they can help you with your goal. Drop them an email, text or a call just to make the connections so they are aware you are there and what your plans are. These methods of contact help to get the conversation going if you don’t enjoy the business of networking in person. This proactive work can help you to be in the front of the queue when those vacancies or jobs surface in the organisations where you want to work. It’s not always what you know but who.
The survey from the Institute of Chartered Accountants found that networking accounted for 20% of successful job searches for up to the age of 35. This age group found 80% via recruitment agencies. Ages between 35-50 the ratio became more 50:50. More mature folk of 50+, networking accounted for 80% of all successful job searches. So as we can see the older we become the wider and more important our networks become.
Networking for job seekers, career and your business
Networking is the opportunity for both freelancers, self-employed, recruiters and candidates to informally (or formally) introduce and get to know each other. A chance to find potential candidates or contacts for upcoming positions in the business. Moreover, the opportunity to find out if you would like to work for the organisation too.
Clearly, not everyone enjoys networking. Planning to be selective with your networking is key. Going along for a jolly is great of course but may well not help you achieve your career or business goals. Identifying the meetings that will help you and knowing who is going will focus your attention on who you need to speak to.
So you have made your commitment to go along to a networking meeting; but what do I talk about? Clearly, face-to-face & social media networking will help us focus upon key aspect for our job search and more importantly the personal message. This message clarifies what you are about, motivations, drives, the value you bring and the type of role and sector you want to work in. Add in your, strengths, qualities, skills, abilities, knowledge, experience into a cohesive networking package that will no doubt improve your chances of being at the front of the queue. Above all be yourself, use that great sense of humour and make a fab first impression.
Connecting and Connectors
Now then, face-to-face and social media networking is an activity that tends to divide people right down the middle. Us Brits hate talking about ourselves and our strengths or what we are good at. You know the question at parties or meetings – “so what do you do?” We generally use this question to place the person into a social hierarchy and make a social comparison with ourselves. Are they one of “us” or one of “them“? We all do it, so networking may well need some thought about how we present ourselves, our business and our careers.
We may well need a strategy to circumnavigate this conundrum if we are a little self-conscious or insecure about ourselves in the company. A conversation that is authentic, genuine and about your career/business is generally a good place to start. Rather the nuts and bolts of what you actually do.
Constructing your value package
Thinking through what you are really motivated and driven by in your career and business creates an objective reality of why you do what you do. Sadly, few of us have agents to negotiate our next job for us, so it’s down to us to tell those that need to know about our career or business. Therefore spending some time mapping out your authentic career strengths, talents, vision, purpose, beliefs values (your brand for a want of a better phrase) and how you differentiate yourself from the competition is vital. This will help to consolidate the package into a tight cohesive narrative of the value you can bring the organisation or customer.
Most of all listen to what is said and how it is being said. Use positive open body language and ask plenty of open questions. You know the “who, what when and how” questions. You will learn more about the other person by asking these questions and listening to the answers.
Learning to love networking
Love it or hate it, networking serves a number of important purposes. Networking will get you in front of people who know who may be able to help you find that perfect role. Indeed these “connectors“, as they are affectionately known, have a number of both strong and weak connections. Interestingly the weak connections are potentially the leads that may prove to be most productive. Connectors have an uncanny habit of remembering the people & organisations looking for new recruits before they are advertised. So although the connector may not be part of your preferred industry or business sector they will know someone who will get you closer to your perfect opportunity.
Prepare to connect
Alright we all know that connecting with your network is for career progression, here are a few points that may help you get the ball rolling –
- Begin to map out who you know in your network – create a list of everyone you know in the sectors you want to work in and how they can help you. Email & mail addresses, telephone numbers and any other relevant information to help you.
- Prioritise your networking opportunities – depending upon the sector and type of role you want, be sure to work through the contacts methodically and in order of importance to you. This will give you the chance to focus your mind on your adapt your message to the people involved
- Contact your network – telephone or better still face-to-face is most effective. This gives you the chance to tell your contacts what you are about, what you are looking for and identify the next steps
- Help others – give before you receive – always prioritise helping and giving to others ahead of taking and receiving for yourself. Ask people: “How can I help you?” “What can I do for you?“
- Follow up the meeting – by email or good old-fashioned mail and keep in touch with the connectors regularly.
- Create or update your social media profiles – time to look at your virtual networking opportunities with a powerful business/work profile online. However, please be aware recruiters will be searching for all online profiles so might be worth searching for you on all search engines to avoid embarrassment.
In all my many years, I have not met many who really enjoy networking and networking events. They are generally discussed in derisory terms and are a chore. Many can be just that of course. However, knowing your preferences for networking i.e if you find meeting new people challenging or lack the confidence in yourself. Or just feel a little anxious about the whole business to tend to avoid networking at all costs. If you feel like that no problem, just create the contact via email and or social media. This helps create a rapport so that when you meet the hard interpersonal work has already been done.
For those more outgoing, think about what you are saying and how. We can all get a little over excited when meeting someone who can potentially help us. However, being clear and concise about your message and remember to find those areas of common ground to create the connection between you both. Of course always follow-up on a new contact as soon as you can to be of help to them if at all possible.
Whatever your networking needs, from a new job/career or new business find the way that suits you best for the results you need. Be clear on why you are going to the meeting and who you would like to speak to. Have your career/business message ready to pop into the conversation when appropriate, so not at appear desperate or too forced. More to the point try to be open-minded, ask plenty of questions, listen and have fun networking. After all the person you next meet might just help you reach the goals you set yourself. Good luck and jump into the networking pool the water is warm!