Looking for your next career opportunity can be frustrating and oftentimes the importance of networking is overlooked. Networking is an art, not a science and I’m often asked, “What’s the best or most appropriate way to connect with someone who is hiring?” Although there are many avenues, in today’s world networking starts with technology. What’s most interesting is how we are using it.
I recently had lunch with a former client who has been a controller with the same company for over 15 years. Her role is transitioning out of state and thus the task of seeking her next opportunity is in full swing. During our conversation, she mentioned how dramatically different looking for a job is now than it was 15 years ago, and she’s right. But even though the vehicles for networking to find a job are always evolving, the art of connecting with people is the same.
In the professional world LinkedIn is one of the most popular vehicles for connecting and is a pervasive and evolving tool for recruiters, even though it’s been around since 2003. So, let’s talk about LinkedIn. There are a lot of other online tools with varying focus (Biznik, Xing, and Plaxo are just a few), but none have amassed the sheer membership volume of LinkedIn which for the third quarter of 2013 had 259 million members. The speed and reach in LinkedIn’s networking is simply phenomenal, but ease of use is the main draw for most members.
I learned early on in sales that almost anyone will talk to you if your approach is right. And yes, networking is really all in the approach! The same is true when connecting via LinkedIn or any other networking tool – it’s all about the way you connect. Here are 5 strategies to help you artfully network into your next opportunity:
1. Leverage your existing network
Use LinkedIn to leverage your network of connections. Link, or connect, with everyone you know and make sure you post updates to share your story. I’m not talking about sending mass, public updates but directing updates to specific people – actually ‘talking’ with people. Sometimes we’re so focused on adding people to our network that we forget to stop, take stock of who we already know and actually reach out to our contacts. Use your network to solicit leads for new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to let people know you’re ready for your next career move. Send in-mail, call or even request a face-to-face meeting with influential people in your network. When requesting an in-person meeting, make it a casual lunch or coffee, nothing formal and no expectations.
2. Create a target list of companies
Connecting with key people in target companies is a very effective way to expand a truly relevant network, but you would be surprised how few job seekers utilize this technique. It’s actually quite simple. All you have to do is use LinkedIn to look up the companies in which you have an interest. On the top right of the company’s profile page, you’ll see a list of those in your network who work at the company and how you’re connected. You’ll also see a list of all of the employees at the company who have profiles. Scan the list and look for the person(s) in the company whom you believe will be the most relevant or beneficial to helping you further your career. Your goal is to then introduce yourself and connect with this person(s). If there’s someone in your network that can make an introduction for you, that’s ideal. If not, go ahead and send an invitation to connect yourself by using a soft intro, meaning a brief note. Do not ask for anything, simply send a genuine note letting them know you have an interest in connecting and why. The generic message that auto populates is never the best option. Once you’re connected, leverage your connection as referenced in tip 1.
3. Connect with the recruiter or hiring manager
When you apply for a job with a company, it’s important to connect with the recruiter or hiring manager. If the job posting is on LinkedIn, the person posting the job will be listed in the right hand column. If the job is not posted on LinkedIn, the company’s profile will show you all the employees who have LinkedIn profiles. Send a soft introduction after you apply reiterating your interest in the job and the company. You’re shooting for acceptance of your invitation to connect at minimum and in the best case a call back, so make sure to include contact information in your signature line. Connecting with the recruiter is always a good idea and most are open networkers, some even tell you right on their profile – LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). Good recruiters will be advocates for you, even if they’re not making the final hiring decision.
4. Add and provide recommendations
Using the recommendation feature on LinkedIn is another great way to network. Recommendations can also enhance your online profile. Be mindful of who you ask to recommend you, as well as who you are willing to recommend. Focusing on well-connected people who know and value your work is always best.
5. Participate in networking events
Networking events are still valuable in the digital age because there is no better way to be remembered than in person. You can find out about events by joining and following different companies or groups on LinkedIn. To take some of the angst out of attending a networking event, set one or two goals for what you want to accomplish at the event, then give yourself permission to leave. Your goals could be something like 1) introducing yourself to the facilitator, and 2) exchange 5 business cards – once you’ve done both you can leave knowing you accomplished your goals. After the event, follow up by connecting with the people you meet and peruse their networks to see if there is someone else you should connect with to help you further your career. Set different goals for every networking event, by changing things up each time, you’ll soon be an expert!
All networking activities are about getting your name out there, creating awareness and investing in your personal brand! Your approach is your calling card and will leave an impression with the person you connect with – make sure the impression you leave is a positive one.
I’ve also found that like most things, networking effectively is all about how well you execute. Sticking with it and being consistent is the key. Once you’re comfortable using LinkedIn to network, I encourage you to explore other tools as well, just be sure and have a focus for each. You’ll soon find a rhythm and be able to artfully network your way into a great, new job.
[credit name=”Sergey Nivens” nurl=”http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-129033839/stock-photo-image-of-female-touching-virtual-icon-of-social-network.html?src=same_model-129034061-1″ via=”shutterstock” vurl=”http://shutterstock.com” license=”TOS” lurl=”http://www.shutterstock.com/licensing.mhtml”]
Ask Ajna welcomes guest blogger Julie Robinson!
Julie is an experienced Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Professional with 15 plus years in both executive search and corporate environments. She began her career in advertising sales with United News and Media. She moved into recruiting in 1996 where she spent the next decade working for Robert Half International in specialized contingent search for Accounting and Finance Professionals. She later joined Alliance Data in 2006 to oversee corporate recruiting and lead enterprise talent acquisition initiatives.
As a contingent search recruiter she developed a client base of comprised primarily of midmarket organizations across industries including Advertising, Real Estate, Professional Services, Oil & Gas, and Manufacturing. Candidate recruitment ranged from early/mid-career through c- level.
Her work in corporate is focused on leading corporate recruiting developing SOP’s, defining and analyzing metrics, research and development of preferred providers, implementation of applicant tracking and ancillary technologies and programs, Immigration, EEOC, OFCCP, E-Verify, AAP and I-9 compliance.
Julie is a graduate of University of North Texas in Denton, Texas and has lived in the Dallas area since 1993. Click here if you’d like to connect with Julie.