More than 70% of all jobs are found through networking. Many people know that networking is an effective job search method. Given these facts, what makes people continue to rely on job boards and filling out online applications? The answer is that many people have tried networking and it didn’t work for them. Most people are already out of their comfort zone when networking, so any sign of failure, such as failing to connect with people, or landing a job, makes it tempting to return to the familiarity of job boards. Networking doesn’t have to be difficult or uncomfortable, as it is really about developing long-term relationships. In fact, you already have a network, and achieving success is within your reach. If you haven’t been getting the results you desire, avoid the temptation to return to the comfortable. A few tweaks to your approach can transform your search. Think about it. Instead of asking your network for leads, your network will come to you for advice.
Social Media is a highly-effective way to expand your network during a job search. Using social media to start a conversation and establish a relationship can be ideal, because it is easy to find and connect with people. You can use social media networks to engage with others, form relationships with people (both online and offline), and garner introductions to powerful people.
- Start connecting:
Every relationship begins with creating a connection to someone important to your job search. It is possible to engage that person on social media and show them the value you have to offer. The value you offer could consist of bringing fresh insight to a popular topic, or offering support. It could also be as simple as striking up an interesting conversation, and being invited to learn more about that person. Moving your relationship offline with a phone call, or a meet-up as a connection is made can accelerate your results.
First, learn more about that person. Do their values align with your own? There are numerous questions you can ask them:
“What do you love about your work?”
“If I ask the people that you work with to describe you, what would they say?”
“What’s a major regret you had in your career from which you would try to save someone else?”
You’re not fishing for dirt here, and we certainly don’t expect anyone to be perfect. But, you’ll be able to gauge how well these answers resonate with you by your desire to move forward with that person. If they do resonate, find out what they’re up to, and the ways you can bring value to them.
Next, it’s time to articulate your brand. What makes you uniquely qualified? What contribution do you hope to make? Ask yourself how your life experiences and career paths have given you a perspective that enables you to see and do what others can’t. That’s easier said than done, as you may have to figure out your own value. If you’re unsure of the value you could bring to someone else, it may be an indication that you need to have a branding consultation with us so we can help unveil your brilliance.
You may not receive a great response if you connect with strangers and begin asking them for favors or advice without finding out if they are people with whom you want to associate. For example, asking a quick question might be okay, but asking someone to review your résumé, or grant you an interview may be met with a chilly reception, or be completely ignored.
However, asking to meet immediately with someone after finding them on social media can be a beneficial experience, especially if your values do align. Say the person you want to meet with is a member of an organization that meets monthly, and you tell that person you’ll be at the meeting so you can get acquainted. Or maybe this person is a stranger, but you have a trusted contact in common, so you invite them out for coffee or lunch. This happens frequently, but in your invitation there would be an indication of some potential synergy, or mutual value that you can both get from meeting in person. People who are avid networkers don’t think twice about meeting someone in person.
- Personalize your request to connect:
When you send a request to connect with someone on LinkedIn, take a moment to customize your request. Sending a default connection message might be interpreted by the recipient as not taking the time to research them, or that you’re only interesting in expanding your network, as opposed to making a genuine connection. Recently, LinkedIn has increased their users’ abilities to see with whom they should connect. However, on all of these pages where a connect button is present, and you’re not in someone’s profile, the site will automatically send the boilerplate message. Because of this feature people are a little more forgiving when receiving these default messages, but they may not be any more receptive to your request. To inspire somebody to be receptive to your request, send a personal note telling the person why you want to connect with them, that you want to learn more about how you can support their success, and that you would like to spend a little time getting better acquainted.
If you would like to customize your connection request, go directly to a person’s profile and click the connect button.
When sending a customized invitation, think about why you’re adding them to your network. Again, the point isn’t to simply expand your social media network. An effective connection means being genuinely interested in helping someone, supporting them, cooperating with them, meeting with them offline, and establishing a long-term relationship.
- Consider publicly asking others for advice:
There are several schools of thought about asking someone for advice on social media. One school of thought is to be mindful about how you make requests, because a public request for advice or help could put someone in an awkward situation. However, we have a different school of thought. I have advised clients in the past to publicly ask their network for advice. This is the purpose behind discussion groups, like those found on LinkedIn. They are a great way to solicit advice from others, especially people who are more-than-willing to help you. Additionally, status updates are another great way to ask for advice, engage an audience, grow your network, and establish your expertise.
An unemployed Australian man had no luck with filling out applications. So he posted a picture of himself, his contact information and his plight on his Facebook page for employers to see. His unemployment situation quickly reversed as he was inundated with job offers by phone.
- Be helpful:
Engaging someone on social media with the goal of creating a long-term network connection isn’t all about your needs. In other words, connecting isn’t about “How can I be helped?” Instead, it looks like being specific and directly asking a person what they’re working on and using that opportunity to demonstrate your value.
- Keep track of your efforts:
Carefully measure what works during your campaign to determine the effectiveness of your outreach strategy. If you send out six messages requesting an introduction or a request to connect and none of them get answered, it is a sign that you need to change your approach. Keep track of your successes and note what works in order to consistently replicate the results. Our conversation tool assists with this.
The end goal isn’t simply to add someone to your network in the hope that they help you land a job. Social media is capable of so much more. It can be the venue by which you become aware of someone, start a conversation, learn a little bit about them, and take that relationship offline. It is a way to enrich your own personal and professional life by meeting new people and creating new relationships that will pay off in both the short and long-term. This is the true value of networking in your job search, and social media can make expanding those networks a little less intimidating.