Searching for a new job can be incredibly time-consuming and challenging. Between sending out resumes on countless job boards to receiving rejection emails, it’s no wonder candidates can easily feel defeated. Due to the global pandemic and economic fallout, competition for jobs is higher and there are more applicants for every job opening. However, there is reason for hope! Companies continued to hire and add to their teams in 2020, and will continue to grow in 2021. With a little extra effort, candidates can break out of the cycle of online job applications to land an interview.
Most companies require candidates to apply for their open job postings online, but did you know that 88% of employers cited employee referrals as their #1 source of high quality applicants? Despite receiving hundreds of applicants for any given job post, employers would rather hire a referral from a current employee. So what is the key to breaking through in your job search? Networking.
Here are a 5 networking tips to get you started and one step closer to a job interview.
Tip #1: Change your mindset
Networking is intimidating for many job seekers, especially when it comes to people they don’t already know. Now that most networking opportunities are virtual, it can be even more challenging to get in touch with the right people. A helpful way to overcome your fear of networking is to think of it as simply building a relationship, instead of reaching out to a stranger and asking for a favor. Lead with genuine interest in the other person and your connections will feel more authentic. When you are reaching out to people in your network, instead of thinking “What’s in it for me?”, think “What can I offer this person?”
Tip #2: Start with who you already know
You can begin networking with those in your immediate circle of contacts. Start with friends, family, school alumni, sports and community groups and former coworkers. Write down as many people you can think of in your immediate circle and work your way down the list. Each of these individuals have their own personal networks, so there is a lot of potential to make meaningful connections in your job search.
Tip #3: Make a company wish list
Once you have reached out to people in your immediate circle, make a wish list of companies where you would love to work. Pick 10-15 companies that are aligned with your values and career goals, and then start engaging with them on LinkedIn. Follow their company LinkedIn pages and connect with people who may be willing to talk to you about their careers in an informational interview or virtual coffee chat. For the best return on investment, try connecting with several people in each company. That includes recruiters, hiring managers, team leads, HR managers, and employees who are currently working in the role you are pursuing.
Tip #4: Lead with curiosity
When reaching out to people at your wish list companies, include a personalized message and approach your outreach with genuine curiosity. Is there anything on their LinkedIn profile that stood out to you? Do you have anything in common, or has this person made an impressive career change? Perhaps you can give your thoughts on an article they posted or offer to share it with your LinkedIn network. People are much more likely to respond when you connect from a place of giving vs. asking for favors right off the bat. Networking is just like any other relationship – it takes time to build a connection. You will get out of the relationship exactly what you put in. Once you start building authentic connections, then you can begin scheduling informational interviews or virtual video chats.
Tip #5: Follow up, then follow up again
Even after leveraging all of these strategies, not everyone is going to respond to your message right away. That is why following up is so important. Of course, you want to be respectful and avoid bombarding people with daily messages. If you haven’t heard from a contact, follow up again in five business days. Always give them the benefit of the doubt, offer them an out, and let them know you value their time. With persistence and follow through, you will start seeing results and building meaningful connections with people at your wish list companies. And when networking does eventually lead to a job offer, you can pay it forward by helping another job seeker in the future!
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