How To Network For A Job – Figure Out What You Want From Each Person
If you’re on the job market, chances are you’ve heard that networking is the best way to find a job. People frequently give this advice, but if you don’t already know how to network, it’s not particularly helpful.
We'll explain how to network for a job in layman's terms so that anyone can use this advice to land their dream job.
What is Networking?
Simply put, networking is just getting to know people who might at some point in time help you find a job, whether it's directly or indirectly. You're connecting with people and maintaining relationships while being open to giving or receiving help, advice, or job leads.
If you have any social life at all, you already know how to network. Any time you strike up a conversation with a stranger or acquaintance, you’re connecting with someone and building your network. Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone you meet could help advance your job search.
Why is Networking Important?
You’ve heard time and time again that networking is the best way to find a job, but do you know why that is?
Most companies prefer hiring based on recommendations from current or former colleagues, rather than using recruiters or job boards. If you only apply for jobs posted online, you may never get a chance at your dream job!
How to Network for a Job
Now that you know why you should be networking, you need specific advice on how to do so. Here are some tips on how to network for a job.
You may think you don’t have anyone in your social circle who can aid your job search, but you’ll never know until you talk to them. Make a list of everyone in your network.
Your network includes your immediate and extended family, your close and casual friends, co-workers and colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances. You can use social media to help you remember people.
Remember people such as your former coworkers, your child’s friends’ parents, people from the gym, your accountant, or your yoga instructor. Also think about secondary connections, people you’ve met through others, such as your sister’s boss, your aunt’s business partner, or your friend’s spouse.
Each person you connect with may have their own contacts that can aid your job search. Every person in your network could potentially lead to another network.
While anyone in your extended network could eventually lead to a job, the best way to use your time is to start with people who are most likely to help you.
The top people on your list should be connections in the same industry as you. Past colleagues, former supervisors, mentors, anyone you’d include in a list of references on a job application, these are the people you should focus on first.
Once you get to people outside of your field, you’ll need to come up with your own method for determining how helpful they could be. A college roommate with a tangentially related job, an uncle who is very successful at what he does even if it’s unrelated to your industry, these people could be unexpected sources of job leads.
If you get to the point where you're unsure how your remaining contacts relate to your job search at all, you should prioritize based on how much time has passed since you last spoke with the person. Maintaining a successful network requires keeping in touch with people, so it's best to rip off the band-aid early and have the awkward conversation to reconnect with someone from your past.
Before you run down your list and start calling everyone, jot down some information about each contact and determine what you want to ask them for. These conversations are most effective when you have a clear goal in mind and know what to ask for. The vaguer you are, the less likely you are to walk away from the conversation with a potential job lead.
Some job coaches recommend asking for “informational interviews” as a way to start networking with someone. We advise against that unless all you really want from that person is information. If you’re actually hoping for an interview or a reference, beating around the bush is just going to annoy the person.
Now that you know who you’re reaching out to, what they do, and what you hope to gain from them, it’s time to pick up the phone or send an email. We recommend calling the person if you have a personal relationship with them. If you’re reaching out to a business contact or someone you know is very busy, an email is less intrusive and gives them time to formulate a response.
The content of your email or conversation will depend on your relationship with the person. If it’s been a long time since you’ve spoken, you should start off with some pleasantries and polite questions to catch up. If this is a personal contact, and they aren’t crushingly busy, take your time updating them on what’s going on in your life and ask about theirs as well.
That said, don’t beat around the bush too much. If you don’t let someone know why you’re calling fairly early into the conversation, they may feel like you’re pulling a bait and switch once you finally get around to asking for help.
When you’re ready to let your contact know why you’re calling, be direct and honest, but don’t demand anything. You can start by asking for advice, especially if you’re talking to someone in the same field you want to work in. Describe your overall goals for your job search and ask what they would do in your situation.
If you're interested in a job at your contact's company, say that outright. Don't make vague inferences about a position there, or ask for an informational interview. Ask if they could provide a recommendation or put you in touch with someone or pass along your resume.
As you get older, it gets more and more difficult to ask people for career advice. We think we’re supposed to know everything about our careers once we get to a certain age, but life doesn’t always work out that way.
If you’re having trouble setting aside your ego to ask for help, keep the following things in mind:
When you’re connecting with someone who’d make a good reference for you, you can follow these tips to help you get the best possible outcome.
Now that you know how to network for a job, there’s nothing stopping you from starting your dream career!