By Hannah Morgan
U.S. News, September 20, 2018 —
These are the networking activities you want to invest in to help get your foot in the door.
The best way to tap into the hidden job market, reduce your perceived risk as a candidate and ultimately increase the chance of getting an interview is through networking. In other words, you want to meet and speak with people who work inside companies where there may be an opening that hasn’t been advertised yet.
From an employer’s perspective, identifying a candidate for a job is only one piece of the puzzle. The hiring manager needs someone who will do the job well and complement the existing team members, which can be difficult to evaluate during the interview process. This is one reason why companies are leveraging referred candidates to fill openings. Referred candidates tend to make better hires, meaning they stay in the job longer and come up to speed faster. Companies are implementing incentivized employee referral programs to help fill openings, which is one more reason for you to tap insiders.
Your purpose for networking is to gather advice, information and recommendations to help you make an informed career move.
That’s all. You are not asking for a job … yet. During your conversations, be prepared to share information about yourself to gain recognition as a valuable resource. Make sure you are prepared with a short pitch to answer the question about what you do.
Most importantly, your networking efforts require focus and a strategy to organize and prioritize whom you will meet with. Without this you’ll meet with lots of people but won’t uncover any relevant career information or job leads and it will feel like a waste of time.
Plan to regularly attend networking events that allow you to interact with new people in your industry or occupation. From alumni networking events to career conferences, you’ll want to identify events and put them on your calendar. Check LinkedIn or your local news site for networking events. Also check with your school’s alumni office for upcoming networking events near you. To find career related networking opportunities, identify relevant professional associations and visit their websites for event listings.
General networking happens when you reach out to people you know. Because these people are already familiar with you, it is easier to reach out and re-educate them on what you are looking for and to request their advice or help. People you know are also more likely to want to help and refer you to people in their network. Consider asking your network for names of people who work at target companies and people they think you should meet.
You can also network in class, on social media or around campus. Be open to meeting new people anytime, anywhere to learn new things. Just keep in mind your mission for networking and start every conversation off by finding a common interest with the person you are meeting.
There are two types of people you will want to meet with for an informational meeting: company insiders and industry experts.
An informational meeting.
Sometimes referred to as an informational interview, an informational meeting is a much less intimidating way to reference a future conversation with someone you’d like to meet. There are two types of people you will want to meet with for an informational meeting: company insiders and industry experts.
Using your target company list, identify alumni, mutual connections and even people you know who work for companies you are interested in. Your purpose for wanting to meet with company insiders is to learn about the company. Not only will employees be able to provide you with the inside scoop on what it’s like to work there, they will also be the first to hear about new opportunities.
Pursuing a job.
There will be times when you discover a job posting or hear about a job and want to learn more. In this case, you are networking to acquire information about the posted job. Be clear that your purpose for reaching out is to learn more about the position, what the ideal candidate might look like, the steps in the hiring process and any information that will help you best present your qualifications. Also be sure to ask if the company has a hiring referral program. If there is one, ask if you can use their name as a referral or if they would be willing to refer you as a candidate.
Remember to nurture your network.
Networking doesn’t end after you’ve met someone once. You can’t expect they’ll remember you in a couple of weeks or months. The best long-term strategy is to nurture the relationships you’ve built. Look for opportunities to keep in touch with the people you’ve met so they don’t forget about you. Networking is also about giving back. Look for opportunities to help people you meet. This may be in the form of sharing an article or perhaps making introductions to people who would benefit from knowing one another.