Connections are the single most valuable resource available to help you find a new job, yet most people don’t maintain their network or totally ignore it until one minute after they lose their job.
When it comes to effective networking, ignorance is not bliss.
Networking shouldn’t be viewed as a onerous task that you only do when job hunting. If you do, you will never realize the full potential of networking or be able to fully leverage it when you need it most.
In this post, I will share some of the networking tips that I have learned in my years of running a successful consulting business.
The proverb about who you know being more important than what you know has never been more true than when applied to locating a job opening. Multiple studies have shown that being referred increases your chances of being hired, yet most people continue to do things the hard way.
According to the 2013 Sources of Hire study by CarrerXroads.com, “a candidate who has acquired a referral is 3-4 times more likely to be hired”. Yet less than 7% of applications came include referrals!
It is also a fact that a large percentage of positions never hit the job boards or hiring agencies because they are filled by referrals. So, how can you keep your network primed and ready to go when you want to find that hidden job or avoid an extended stay on unemployment?
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A positive attitude about networking is the first step. Everyone has heard the saying, “Its not what you know, but who you know.” This couldn’t be more true. The best jobs aren’t found in online job sites or from recruiter cold calls. The best jobs are hidden inside your network of contacts.
When you think of networking as a task, you’ve put yourself in a bad position before you’ve even started. Instead, think of networking as an integral part of your everyday life.
Every interaction you have with a person you don’t know is a networking opportunity. Take the quote at the top of this article to heart. If you believe that anyone you meet has the possibility of changing your life, then networking is no longer a chore but a gift that keeps on giving.
Six Degrees of Networking Tips
You shouldn’t ignore someone just because they don’t work in your industry or area of expertise. Remember, everyone has friends and family! (Well, almost everyone).
I recently took a vacation to Orlando, FL with my family. (If your kids love Harry Potter as much as my girls do, then you have to go to Universal Studios at least once before they grow up) On my flight back home, a man sat down next to me. Of course, I took advantage of this networking opportunity to strike up a conversation with him.
He happened to be a chemical engineer working for BASF in a small town just south of Jacksonville, FL. As a consultant in wealth management, it would be easy to think that this person has nothing in common with my business, so I should just go back to purusing the SkyMall magazine. (hmmm… Indoor\outdoor elevated dog bed, only $27.99!)
Instead, I continued our conversation and as it turns out, his brother is a financial advisor for Raymond James in Tampa, FL. I gave him my card and he kindly offered to connect us.
I don’t know if anything will come from this introduction. Maybe just a new reader for my wealth management blog (wmtoday.com) But I’m glad I made it and it might one day be useful. You should never discount any contact in your network as being inconsequential or remote.
It’s a small world and your industry is even smaller. Knowing the name of someone at a firm or better yet, having them in your network, can sometimes be the difference between closing a deal and losing it or hearing about a fantastic job opening or having to dump your resume, along with a thousand other people, into a listing on monster.com.
Referrals are the number one source of external hiring, according to the CarrerXroads.com study. An active and well-maintained network is your best source for gaining referrals.
Avoid Starting Cold
The worst time to start networking is when you’ve just lost your job. If you neglected your network for years while you were working, your network will get cold. It’s a lot like trying to start your car in sub-zero temperatures after you left the lights on all night!
Actively supporting and maintaining your network of business and personal contacts will build up what I call ‘connection equity’.
Connection Equity is a like a savings account in your network. Every time you touch one of your contacts, you add to your savings. These touches can be anything just an email to say hi or forewarning a link to an interesting article to giving them a referral to help them get a new job.
When you ask your network for help, you’re making a withdrawal. But it will be more difficult to do this if your savings are low. Connection equity must be continually maintained and grown or there will be next to nothing there for you when you need it most.
I believe in spreading good karma through my network and my industry. I learned this concept from my friend and colleague, Jim Penman, who works in the financial services practice at Ernst & Young. This is one of the reasons that I started this blog. Sharing information, knowledge and my experiences with others can only bring positive feedback.
Blogging is also a great way to make deposits into your connection equity account. Send a link to your latest post out to your network to share with them and keep your name in their mind. You can’t possibly stay in contact with everyone you know via email or phone calls. If they subscribe to your blog, they will receive updates as soon as you post something.
Always Be Networking
Don’t forget these important networking tips. Your connections are a savings account, an engine for career enhancement and a way to give back to your industry and people that have helped you in the past or could help you one day in the future. Ignore your network at your own peril. Love your network and it will love you right back and be there for you when you need it most.