Your network is – without question – your strongest tool. Grow it, nurture it, and give to it as much as you take. Here’s how you can get started with growing it:
We’ve talked about how LinkedIn is one of the best tools for networking and finding a job, so let’s use that as an example:
Let’s say you’ve seen someone on LinkedIn who is a hiring manager or is someone who knows someone who works at your dream company. This is someone you’ll want to know – but how? Find a connection. Do you share anything in common you can talk about? Even a contact in common would work. If so, reach out to them. Say who you are, note the thing/person you have in common. Tell them you’re interested in getting to know them and their role better.
Have nothing in common? Not to fret. If you are direct, you can still make a connection and stand out. Explain who you are and that you’d love to learn about how you can acquire xyz role or become a part of xyz company. See if that person is open to chatting with you – even take the conversation offline if they’re local and seem eager to connect.
Once you’ve made a connection, you’ve entered into the first stage of the process: you’ve found someone who can become your advocate (if you make and continue to make a good impression, that is). This person will help you tailor your resume, introduce you to the right people, or give you the information you need to prepare yourself for the role or company you want. This is the most effective way to get ahead – and, bonus, it also builds your network!
Now, let’s back out of the LinkedIn example. This could work for any connection you make.
You have the ability to be introduced to a person like this in person, perhaps you’ve found them on social media, or maybe they even list their contact information on the company website. Follow the same process to engage with this person – and remember to listen to their advice. Don’t speak at or over them, don’t push them to help you out. Be friendly, be open, be thankful for any advice they give. When you ask for advice rather than asking for a job, what you’ll get is a conversation and a chance to build a relationship. But you can’t just go through the motions – take that advice seriously and show that you mean it.
Building connections in your field or at the places you want to work is a great way to get on the radar of the right people. They could be hiring managers, sourcers, department heads, or colleagues. Or they could be people that can introduce you to these important decision-makers. Get on their radar and then…
Stay Top of Mind, Stay Relevant
Once you’ve made a connection, don’t just sit back and wait for something to happen. You have to find ways to stay top of mind, to stay relevant. Luckily, there are ways you can do this that will enable you to also add value to their lives.
For example: let’s say you’ve found an article that could help them with the work they do or that relates to a conversation you previously had. Send it to them! A quick email saying, “Hi _, I just ran across this article today and thought it would be useful to you. (Base this off of your previous conversation.) Just wanted to pass it along. Hope all is well in your world. (No response necessary.)”
Now, who doesn’t love to get an email like that?
Help out of the blue, proof that you stay up to date on important information in your field, and the consideration to share this information. These are all things that make you look professional, savvy, and like a team player.
If you’ve already met a hiring manager that may consider you for a position, then you can stay top of mind by directly sharing your work. Let’s say you’ve had a conversation several weeks ago but you’ve just finished a project that relates to what they’re looking for. Why not send it to them?
“Dear ____, I really enjoyed chatting with you about the open position and I understand that you’re looking for _____ in a candidate. I’ve recently finished ____ and thought it might relate to what you’re looking for. I’ve attached an example of that project to this email and would love to hear your feedback!”
Note the request for feedback. Again, asking for advice is more effective than asking for a job. If that hiring manager liked you, they’ll want to help you out. When your examples are good, they are a way for that person to advocate for you to the right people. When the examples aren’t quite on par, they’ll let you know and tell you why. This gives you a chance to learn more about the skills you need to highlight or develop. There’s really no losing in this situation.
Once you’re on the radar, continue to nurture the relationship. Regardless of whether or not you get the job, it will always help to have people in your network.