Are you unemployed and desperately looking for any sort of job? Maybe you have a job now, but you are looking for something better. Perhaps your mostly content in your current role and not even actively looking for something. The point is, most of us have yet to find our “dream” job!
What’s the best way to get that next best job and get you one step closer to your dream job? NETWORKING! Read on to find out just how amazingly networking can help you and how you can get better at it!
How many jobs have you had over the years?
How many jobs have you had over the years? For me, it’s been a total of 11 jobs over the years (I’m 33 now). Of those 11 jobs, nine of those I heard about, applied for, or basically was given through networking! You read that right, 80%+ of the jobs I’ve had have come from networking!
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 70% of all jobs come from networking. So, my results seem pretty spot on with the national average.
Well, that’s just one data-point and one quoted source Derek. I need more proof! OK, let’s take my wife as another example. She’s had eight jobs over the years and only 3 came from outside her network! That’s about 63% of her jobs that came from networking. Still not convinced? Let me tell you a story of how she scored her most recent job!
How Can Networking with Strangers Land You a Job?
After we moved to Georgia, my wife got a real nice part-time job making even more than she did pre-move. She landed that job by just walking into different establishments and presenting her resume. Well, that job was great for about two months, then things began to slow down 🙁 It got so bad, that she was basically out of work for one, then two, and three weeks! We basically had to come to the realization that she was out of work.
She proceeded to update her resume and get mentally prepared to shop herself around again. During this period of time, she had quite a bit of free time – that tends to happen when you’re unemployed 🙂 Well, she was at an exercise class at the YMCA round about 10am when one of the other class participants asked her what she was doing there in the middle of the day…
My wife went into the story of how her work slowed down and she’s just getting ready to start looking for another job in her field. Now, here’s where I’m going to slap you with a big fat networking stick to wake you up! You won’t believe it, but this lady in the workout class happened to have a best friend that was married to someone that was desperately looking to hire someone in my wife’s field! After a quick call and interview the next day, she had a job with this new guy making even more money that before!!! Is this like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon or what?!?!? All this from basically being friendly and networking with a complete stranger!
How Many People Do You Know?
Now, if my wife can network with a complete stranger and find a better job, then surely you can work with people you know to improve your chances of finding a better job. Let’s start with how many people do you know?
According to The New York Times, the average person knows about 600 people. This was developed using a pretty complicated strategy I’m not going to get into here – but that is quite a lot of people. OK, OK – that’s just people you know “of”, but how many people can the average person have a relationship with.
Other information I could find suggests that the average human can maintain anywhere from 100 – 250 socially stable relationships. This is called Dunbar’s number.
If you start to think about the several hundred people you know, and the several hundred people that each one of them knows, things start to go exponential pretty quickly! The main point here is that a friend-of-a-friend could be sitting around looking for you to fill a job!
Know What You’re Looking For
Before you start to “work your network” to find a job, it pays to do a little soul searching. It is a very good idea to take time and think about what jobs you would consider promising and what jobs you definitely wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
When you start asking your network for promising leads, there may be many options thrown at you. It is best to have given it some thought and be ready to articulate exactly what you’re looking for. If you are unsure exactly what type of work you’d like to do, start with listing out what things you enjoy in your free time, old jobs when you’ve really been engaged, and what types of things you absolutely hate. Sometimes you’d be surprised at the insights you can gain by running through this simple self-exercise.
When Should You Start Networking?
This is an easy one – yesterday! Seriously, it is never too early to start networking. In-fact, you may already be networking and not even have realized it.
What Exactly is Networking?
The formal definition of networking is to: “interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.” Networking is basically being friendly, meeting new people, finding out what they do, sharing what you do, and being helpful.
As you can see from the above definition and my interpretation, you basically have the potential to “network” at any time and any place if you recognize every moment as a potential opportunity.
Where is The Best Place to Network?
As I mentioned above, any time and any place can be turned into a potential networking opportunity. The extroverts among us have a leg up as they can naturally come off as friendly and fun to be around. Those of us that lean more towards the introverted scale will have to work a little harder to make every location a best place to network.
Tips for Switching into Network Mode
OK – so if everywhere is the best place to network, then how do you get started? Really the easiest way to get into the habit of networking anywhere is to start by being helpful. This could be to coworkers, people in your community, or that random stranger in line at the airport. Being helpful will open the window to strike up a conversation and get things going.
Next, I’ve found an easy way to turn on your brain to “networking mode” is to ask others for help or advice. This makes the person your questioning an automatic expert. And who doesn’t love to be an expert? This allows you to present where you are and what you’re looking for without coming off pushy. If you genuinely listen, the person could also gift you with some very good advice.
If the person you are talking to knows of any opportunities they’d like to share, they’ll usually let you know. By asking their general advice, your giving them the indirect opportunity to suggest any jobs they know of to you. If they don’t want to give you job information they have (for whatever reason) this allows them to keep the information to themselves “gracefully.”
Work On Your Communication Skills
What’s the best way to improve your communication skills to start your networking adventure? This may sound strange, but I’ve found the best way to practice is to start with strangers you will NEVER meet again. You can fool your brain into eliminating your shyness by just telling yourself that you’ll never see them again. If you’ll never see them again, then it doesn’t really matter if you make a fool of yourself – right?
Now, armed with this info you can practice just as much as you want 🙂 Practice makes perfect – let’s try some more practical tips!
Communication Skills – F.O.R.D
I read this on Reddit one day, and it’s really helped me practice and develop my communication skills. It’s called F.O.R.D and it works wonders. What does this acronym stand for?
- F – Family – asking someone about their family could give you hours of topics to communicate about.
- O – Occupation – some people would love to talk about their job for hours – why not test the waters to find out if the person you’re talking to is one of them?
- R – Recreation – Just about everyone has a hobby. Ask what it is and you have an automatic ticket in with most folks. Bonus points if you randomly find someone you share the same hobby with.
- D – Dreams – almost everyone has something they’re passionate about that they could discuss for days at a time. Asking someone what their dreams are is basically a free ticket to an almost endless discussion and connection with someone. Sometimes it could be creepy to jump straight to this one, so save it for last. There’s a reason why it’s at the end of the list 🙂
Build Relationships by Being Helpful
I mentioned this networking tip earlier, but one of the best ways to grow and cultivate your network is by being helpful. Everyone loves someone that is positive and helps them solve problems!
You can find ways to be helpful and solve problems by using common sense and employing the F.O.R.D. method above. Once you get good with the F.O.R.D. model and practice this with everyone you know, you’ll naturally know of folks that are experts in areas that can help solve other’s problems. Even if you can’t solve the problem directly, being able to link up a problem solver with a person that has the problem can be invaluable. That’s really taking your network to the next level!
Do You Have Gaps In Your Network?
As you get more practiced at expanding and cultivating your network, there will come a point where some folks come less and less out of touch with you. It will be up to you at that point whether or not you circle back and check-in on those folks or chose to let the relationship fade away.
The sweet spot is to have a healthy balance between the number of folks your are helping and the number of folks you request help from. If you are balanced too far one way or the other, you aren’t really using your network effectively. If you are helping people 99% of the time and not seeing any return for your efforts, it may be easy to get burned out or taken advantage of. Likewise, if you are only every asking for help and never returning favors, you will be seen as an abuser!
Don’t Make Your Network a Drive By!
Just as I said above, make sure there is a healthy balance of give and take. Hitting up that old friend from five years ago just to ask if he has any job contacts is tacky and jerky. Don’t be that person! You need to be authentic and genuine with everyone that you deal.
The biggest secret is that most people are generally selfish at some level. Their brains are always asking what’s best for them and how can they gain from a situation. Make sure you leave every relationship in balance and don’t always seek to take-take-take. It will catch up with you!
Reach Down to Pull Folks Up
What’s the best way to not always take-take-take? That’s easy – look to reach down, sideways, or up to help others in your network out. If you can get into the mode where you graciously give-give-give and rarely take, it will come back to benefit you.
If you know of a job, opportunity, or something of the like, be sure to take it to your network first! I’ve had people that helped me 10+ years ago, and now I’m in a position to return the favor. That sort of mentality can really pay dividends to you and your network!
LinkedIn and Networking
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, then stop what you’re doing and go create an account! This is a great tool to help establish, build, and cultivate your network. I haven’t taken a job that came from LinkedIn yet, but I’ve had dozens of offers! Most of them have been from a friend-of-a-friend.
It really can pay off to take the time to create a nice profile and invite everyone you know to your network. I way really surprised just how many people I know professionally when I started to build my network. I have 500+ connections that have a potential to help me at some point down the road. Also, I’ve been able to help a handful of folks in my network find promising leads!!
How to Use Networking to Find a New Job – Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to use networking to find a job. As you can see, if you are trying to find your dream job, you really can’t afford not to network! What’s your craziest networking success tale?