So, you have written your resume, prepared a cover letter, identified job search sites, and even set up a complete profile on LinkedIn. Now, all that’s needed is for you to begin sending your resume out to the hundreds of suitable jobs out there, right? Wrong; as job searchers quickly discover, job search is much more complicated than simply sitting behind a computer screen and sending out resumes. Job search is complicated by the fact that our present economy is what employment professionals describe a ‘buyers’ market’, where employers (who we could call the purchasers of skills) have many well qualified candidates from whom to ‘buy’, whereas the job searchers (i.e. those with skills to sell) have fewer jobs from which to choose.
This means that job searchers have to do more to be noticed: you have to know more people, or more accurately – be known by the right people. Becoming known by others results from active initiatives to meet the appropriate people who are in a position to hire, or may be connected to such people, and — even more importantly — to build relationships with them.
Social media is an excellent tool to enable job searchers to take the first step of connecting with people they know. Sites such as LinkedIn will enable you to make connections and invite others to get to know your professional profile better. But, this is only a first step; job searchers who simply link up with people are often disappointed to find that simply having connections and an online profile is NOT enough to lead to jobs. The next step is to create strong ties, which result in a contact knowing who you are and what makes you unique, as well as being invested in helping you achieve your career goals.
Some of the best networking advice out there comes directly from the source: the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, who offered his advice, when discussing a book on this topic he co-authored, titled The Start-Up of You.
Hoffman recommends that networkers set out to actively cultivate existing relationships with specific connections into “active alliances” through:
- Consulting them for advice,
- collaborating and sharing with them on issues of interest to them,
- promoting and supporting their causes/brands, and
- defending their cause or reputation — if necessary.
This is a very deliberate and active process which takes an investment of time and effort. It means that you have to carefully choose the contacts you want to develop, and setting aside time and effort to cultivate the relationship. It demands patience, time and careful planning.
Here are some tips to begin the process of relationship building, or strengthening ties:
- To begin, make sure each contact you make is individualized: don’t send out general spam-like invitations on sites such as LinkedIn. Each person with whom you connect, should get a personalised note which reminds them how you know them and why you want to connect
- Make an effort to get to know your connections – read their LinkedIn profile, blog or company webpage and take note of their interests and passions; consider carefully whether they would be in a position to support your career AND whether you can do the same for them
- Take advantage of opportunities to meet the people whom you have decided to focus on – in person at conferences, meetings, volunteer work or virtually in LinkedIn groups
- Offer your chosen contacts information which may be of use to them, such as a current article about a relevant topic or a useful website or service; offer a LinkedIn Recommendation, if appropriate
- Offer your time to volunteer at their company or at an event they are organising
- Introduce them to people who you know who may benefit their cause, product or company
- Make sure to be appropriate – don’t offer too much, or more than you can afford to give (both time and money-wise) and make sure to be of genuine use and help
- Be gracious — thank people they accept your request to connect, or when they connect with you; thank them any time they go out of their way to be helpful – possibly in a public way, such as posting a review on a website, Facebook page or a letter to a newspaper
The more you work on a relationship, the more it will work FOR you. It requires planning and ongoing effort. As Reid Hoffman suggests in the article: “Relationships are living, breathing things. Feed, nurture, and care about them; they grow. Neglect them; they die.”
The bottom line is that in today’s job market where employers have the advantage, you need to connect with people who are in a position to support and promote your career. The way you can achieve this goal is to establish connections, and invest care, time and planning into building strong tie relationships with a select few people in your network.
Do you have mentors or friends who have supported your career and helped you move forward? Maybe you have played that role for others. We would love to hear how this has worked for you!