If you’re putting off coffee meetings in favor of scouring the Web for job listings or blanketing the inboxes of HR departments, you might want to re-think your job-search strategy. That’s because recent reports have found that as many as 85% of all jobs are filled through networking on the part of the candidates.
Make no mistake: The benefits of networking are many.
“Don’t be afraid to seek out and leverage contacts with whom you might be able to talk to on the phone or meet for coffee for a live chat,” says Kathryn Kerge, founder and president of Kathryn Kerge Consulting, an executive search firm. “These are the conversations that often lead to ideas, introductions and suggestions that can help with a job search.”
The key, however, is to networking the right way, by avoiding these all-too-common missteps.
- Leading With Your Need For A Job
In our “on-the-go” world, where everyone’s time is limited, it would seem to make sense to cut to the chase and acknowledge your desire for a job when asking for a meeting. But Kerge says this can backfire by putting the recipient of your meeting request in a position of having to figure out if this is something they can impact.
Instead, “an alternate and often more successful approach is to try to find common ground with the person you are seeking a conversation with,” she says. “For example, if you are trying to change industries, you might reach out to a contact and share your interest in the industry they are in and ask if they’d be open to sharing insights since you are considering a switch. People are often willing to talk about their own experiences, and these conversations may often lead to helpful information, or even unexpected introductions that could progress a job search.”
- Relying Exclusively On Social Media To Make Connections
You’re a pro on Facebook, and are mastering LinkedIn. But that doesn’t mean you should rely solely on your keyboard when undertaking a networking strategy.
“The popularity of social tools has in many cases overwhelmed people’s inboxes, making it difficult for people to keep up or respond,” says Kerge. “My advice is, don’t be afraid to seek out and leverage contacts with whom you might be able to talk to on the phone or meet for coffee for a live chat. These are the conversations that often lead to ideas, introductions and suggestions that can help with a job search.”
This doesn’t have to be a torturous exercise. If you are remembering not to lead with your desire for a job, successful networking can happen on the soccer sidelines, at after-school pickup or on line at Starbucks.
Another goldmine? Networking groups. These are often “women-helping-women” organizations whose purpose is to make connections. Many are industry-specific, including New York Women In Communications, open to communications and media professionals in the New York metropolitan area, and the Financial Women’s Association, for those in the financial services industry. Others, like Running With Heels, hold face-to-face networking opportunities. Local mom’s and athletic groups should not be overlooked, as they offer yet another avenue for leveraging like-minded individuals already in your circle. Get started by searching for groups in your chosen field or a related industry as well as groups for working mothers.
- Seeing Networking As A One-Way Street
One piece of advice worth reminding yourself of every day is this: Look at networking as a constant, something you do to help others, in addition to using to help yourself. This means nurturing your connections regularly, by reaching out, sharing a bit of relevant industry news or interesting news article, or catching up just to say hi and reconnect.
“Networking is always a two-way street, but many people network with the sole intention of getting something out of the relationship that they need at the moment,” says Lynda Spiegel, Wall Street Journal contributor and owner of Rising Star Resumes. “What networking really involves is forging meaningful connections with people, so be an active listener. Be consistently helpful. Share posts that your connections write; make introductions. In short, don’t approach networking with a ‘what’s in it for me’ or a quid pro quo mindset. When you need a favor or an introduction, those people will be there for you.”