In the day and age of the internet, social media, and texting, our culture has become disconnected. We rarely talk face-to-face. We can work, catch up with friends, watch shows, and buy groceries- all while we sit on the couch in our pajamas.
So, naturally, we think we can apply for jobs simply with an online application.
That may work for some people. But if the online discussions on Linkedin are any indication, after using this approach the majority of people are still looking for jobs after 6 months or more and haven’t tried anything different.
In this post I’m going to share what I (and my husband) have learned from job searching using a method we like to call “natural networking.”
I’m going to gloss over the research part of this method and get straight to the most fun part: the networking. But just to be clear, before networking can be effective, you will have to do research on the specific companies at which you would like to work.
Make a list. These are your target companies for networking.
To sum up researching- it’s narrowing your focus.
What is Natural Networking?
We have heard the old adage, it’s not what you know but who you know, right?
We all believe that, but rarely practice it. Well, that’s what natural networking is all about.
In spite of all the negativity about the age of the internet that I spewed earlier, there is a silver lining: Linkedin.
Linkedin is an extremely powerful (and yes, convenient) tool for networking. Not only can you connect with coworkers, friends, and family to create a professional network, but you can see how your connections are connected to each other. But most importantly, you can see those connections to whom you wish to be introduced.
If you are not familiar with Linkedin or the concept of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections, please read this very informative Linkedin Help page. I will be referring to these types of connections throughout the rest of this post.
Remember what I said about researching companies?
You’ve already narrowed your focus to several companies- now we will explore how you can use Linkedin to see who you know at those companies. This will expand your network in an intentional way, and ultimately help you land your next job.
The Human Part
An important reminder: we’re dealing with humans here. Not computers. Never approach a conversation with the tone that you are simply using them to get a job.
First of all, you wouldn’t like that if someone did that to you. And second of all, if they did end up having the opportunity to introduce you to a potential employer or advocate for you, they won’t be that effective of an advocate it it’s forced and not genuine.
So how do you approach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections with the hopes of getting a job, but genuinely not asking them to get you a job?
The way I look at it, with each conversation you are building a relationship.
With 1st degree connections this should be easy, you already know them. But this applies EVEN for those 2nd degrees, 3rd degrees, and yes, even cold calls.
This is why talking on the phone or meeting them in person is much more valuable than communicating through a computer. You will want to spend a few minutes getting to know that person. You can ask them genuine questions about their life and work because you want to learn how they got to this point in their career. After you have described to them what you are looking for, you can ask them for advice about companies in the area or strategies they might suggest (in other words, don’t just ask them about the company that they work for and if they can get you a job).
Most people will want to help someone like yourself. But it’s hard work to know HOW to help someone.
Don’t approach a contact and just expect them to know how to help you. When you approach them with questions about themselves, and ask them for specific advice, you put them at ease. They can then better help you, because you have done all of the legwork.
What you will find is that after you have this genuine, HUMAN conversation where you show an interest in them, most people will respond with a genuine interest in you as well.
If they know of open positions at their company, ask them if they could forward your information on to the hiring manager. Many times you won’t even have to ask.
If there aren’t open positions at their company, THAT’S OKAY. You’ve now made a true 1st degree connection out of a 2nd, 3rd or cold connection. You can be confident that if they, or you, got wind of an open position, you could re-connect and get your foot in the door.
- Take a genuine interest in your contact as a person. Ask specific questions to learn how they got where they are and what they do now.
- Learn about their company (especially if you have identified that company as one for which you want to work)
- Tell them about your background and what you’re looking for.
- AFTER human conversation, ask them for advice, connections, tips on companies, and if they know of any open positions/managers hiring at their company.
- Ask your contact if they would be open to connect on Linkedin (if you aren’t connected already).
- Best case scenario: you get connected with a hiring manager for an interview.
- Average scenario: you gain a new 1st degree connection, information about 1 or more other companies, and introductions to several other potentially helpful connections.
- Worst case scenario: you lost 10-20 min of your time talking with someone who wasn’t helpful or willing.
It’s worth mentioning that about 10% of the time you will have dud conversations. You can’t prevent them. It comes with the territory. Maybe your contact had a bad day. Maybe phone calls aren’t their thing. Maybe they are extremely busy and stressed.
BUT. The other 90% of the time you will AT THE MINIMUM get #2. And if you get #1, you will probably get #2 as well. That is HUGE.
My most recent job search using this method:
At first, I applied to 6 jobs via online applications.
I received no responses.
So I decided to try out this natural networking thing. Within 2 weeks I had an interview and an offer (through a 1st degree connection with an open position for which I qualified: right place, right time). And within the next month I had 2 more sets of interviews and offers (through a web of connections that were several layers deep into introductions).
My list of people that I contacted was at nearly 100 after only 6 weeks of networking.
I still keep in touch with a handful of them to this day (networking doesn’t stop when you get a job!). And one of them I would actually consider a mentor (this is rare, but wonderful).
I NEVER applied online for the 3 job offers that I received. And I never got responses from those 6 online applications that I submitted up front. Was it because I was unqualified? Nope. But just as it’s easy for us to fill out an online application, it’s easy for an employer to skip over it. An online application is impersonal.
Final Words and Things to keep in Mind
- This method assumes that your 1st degree Linkedin connections are close enough relationships that you would feel comfortable reaching out to them. I would encourage you to think critically about who you are connected to on Linkedin (more on this in a future post).
- Follow your contact’s lead in the conversation. If they are in a hurry, cut out some questions and keep your conversation brief. This is especially true if you are speaking with a CEO, CTO, or COO etc. Be respectful of their time. Come prepared with your list of questions. Be direct. If they indicate that they would like to have a more lengthy chat, then go for it. But err on the side of being brief.
- Always send thank you’s and updates. After your conversation, send them a thank you email and follow up on any action items. And DEFINITELY, send an update email after you have landed a job and thank them for their help.
- Have fun! I found this process extremely rewarding, and actually enjoyable. And I believe the attitude you have can be contagious. 🙂
Best of luck to you in your job search! If you have any specific questions on how I went about my job search process- please leave comments! I am very passionate about this method and want to get the word out!
Also, stay tuned for more posts on my thoughts on recruiters, talking with C-level contacts, the company research process, and interview prep!