I know it sounds like a lot of uncomfortable work, especially if you're shy -- putting on a suit or picking up the phone, introducing yourself to complete strangers, and then asking these complete strangers for help. Such discomfort can be a part of networking, but it doesn't have to be all of it. In today's "Your Job Will Come" podcast with WalletPop editor Andrea Chalupa, I discuss how to successfully network your way to a job.
In fact, I did it for my own job with WalletPop, where I write and edit daily. Shortly after being laid off as a newspaper editor, I started blogging about being an unemployed dad, and about my job search. I found Julie Tilsner, an old college classmate, on Facebook. And Tilsner, an editor and writer at WalletPop, forwarded my blog to an editor who hired me.
Another strategy: Shortly after being laid off, I joined a professional networking group, where unemployed pros meet on Saturday mornings to discuss the jobhunt and to try to help each other find work. Eventually, the meetings grew tiresome -- the same observations and pointers were being repeated again and again -- and I wondered how I would find a job if the only other people looking out for me were also unemployed.
But I came away with the idea that networking with those in or near my field can be beneficial and can lead to finding openings. If the idea is to get inside a company through a connection, then networking is probably the best way. There are many ways to be a master networker without being a pest. Here are a few:
- Focus on companies where you want to work, and either cold-call someone up high or find someone you know -- if possible, drop the name of someone who recommended you call -- and ask if they have time for a cup of coffee. If they don't, then ask for a good time to call back to discuss what you'd like to do for the company, and ask their advice on how to get hired.
- If you don't want to start networking at the company where you want to work, then ask everyone you know -- friends, family, former colleagues -- if they know anyone in your chosen field.
- Be straightforward. Admit you're looking for a job, but that you also want to keep in contact so you can learn about the industry. Being sincere includes contacting people often, not just when you need a job.
- Offer help. Nobody wants to be used. So offer any help you can -- if there's anything they need professionally from you. I've called people and, after explaining my situation, I've followed up with an e-mail and link to some news in their industry that they might find of use.
- Get out there. Meet as many people as you can, and network everywhere you go. Call everyone in your contact list.
- Don't wait until you need a network to build a network. You probably already have one and don't realize it. While family and friends are obvious, you also have clients or other working relationships to build on.
- Don't forget business-networking boards, such as LinkedIn, or social sites such as Facebook. If you have a Web site, update it often. You're creating a brand, and you want to give people a reason to seek you out when they know of a perfect fit for you.
Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at AaronCrowe.net.