Networking 101

When I decided to create this blog, I asked friends to send me links to articles that might make good blog topics. It wasn’t long before I had way more material than I could handle, so I created a database with various categories and I “store” the links for easy retrieval. Today I’m digging back a couple of months to an article about networking: “How to Tell Your Network You’re Looking for a Job” by Alison Green writing for U.S. News & World Report.

This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on a topic that is so important that it is one of the “5 Steps to Finding the Right Job after College (Step 4: Create a Network). I provide 14 tips to help you build your network, including everything from what to put on a business card (and why you need one) when you don’t yet have a job to how to use volunteer work to help you get paying work.

Ms. Green has five suggestions:

1. “Contact people individually, not en masse.” This makes good sense—think of the difference between a handwritten Christmas card and a printed Christmas letter addressed  to “Dear Friends and Family.” Also, when you write to individuals, you can tailor your message to the way that you think they may be able to help you. While this method is certainly more time consuming then sending a mass email to everyone in your address book, it’s also likely to generate more results. Research has shown that if people think that you’re asking a lot of folks for help, they’re less likely to help you (in this or any other situation) than if they think you have singled them out with your request. Plus, after you’ve asked everyone at once for help—and it hasn’t worked—its tough to go back to the whole group (or individual members) again with another request.

2. “Be clear about exactly what you’re looking for.” Before you start asking for help, narrow your focus and figure out what exactly you’re looking for—and I hope that will be not just a paycheck, but a career. The tips in Step 1: Identify Your Skills and Strengths can give you suggestions for careers that will be appropriate for you, the tips in Step 2: Envision a Satisfying Worklife will help you make decisions about the type of environment you want to work in (that is, corporation, nonprofit organization, government agency, big city high-profile company, rural organization, and so forth), and the tips in Step 3: Research Potential Jobs can help you create a list of job titles that interest you.

3. “Ask directly for what kind of help you’d like.” It’s not uncommon for me to get an email message from a former student saying, “I can’t find a job. Can you help me?” And the answer really is that without some more specific information, there’s not a whole lot I can do. What works really well is when a student writes to me and says something like, “I graduated last year with a degree in public relations, and I’m having difficulty locating a job in Charlotte. Do you know of anyone in Charlotte that you could introduce me to or that I could contact for advice?” There are lots of different ways that people can help, so put some thought into the best way to ask for specific assistance before you write. Do you want them to introduce you to someone in a particular field? Or a particular company? Do you want them to connect with you on LinkedIn and write a recommendation for you? Do you want them to review your resume or help you practice your interviewing skills?

4.  “Contact everyone in your network, even if you don’t think they would know of any appropriate job openings.” The fact is, everyone you know has his or her own network, and you can’t know all of the people in the networks of your friends, relatives, classmates, and neighbors. You may know that your mother’s best friend is a dentist, but you probably wouldn’t know that the dentist’s daughter just got a job in a company where you would like to work Or you may know that your college roommate has an older brother, but you’re unlikely to know that he just started a new business and is looking for someone to help with social media (or whatever it is that you might contribute to a new business). I know a man who got his first job after college by telling all the regular customers at the coffee shop (where he was a barista) what he wanted to do after graduation, and another man who got his first job after college by talking with his younger brother’s best friend’s father! Research suggests that more people find a job through the friend of a friend than through any other resource! So make sure you’re reaching out to everyone you can if you want to succeed.

5. “Don’t forget to include your résumé.” Ms. Green (who uses accent marks when writing the work resume while, in America, most of us don’t add them) suggests attaching your resume to every email message. That’s good advice! If the recipients can’t help you, they’ll just delete it. But if they CAN help you, they don’t have to write to ask you for your resume, so you’ve just made helping you easier for them.