As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” that counts when you’re in the market for a job. And while there’s still tremendous value in tapping your organically grown network of family members, friends and acquaintances to learn about job openings or contacts at targeted companies, you can increase your networking opportunities exponentially when you wisely employ social media.
Today’s first impressions are mostly made in cyberspace. The online impression you make is often as important as a word-of-mouth referral. With strong, intentionally curated social media profiles, you make it easier for hiring managers and recruiters to learn about your particular talents, and to also form a good impression of you.
Even with polished social media profiles, your job search will require active initiative on your part. Don’t be seduced by the online marketplace and the robot-like ease of posting cover letters and resumes. Every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average. It’s actually harder to snag an interview from an online posting than to get into Harvard. What are the chances you’ll stand out? Answer: Slim to none. Your time is better spent researching and pursuing networking opportunities.
Up your chances of landing a position by employing these invaluable networking strategies:
1. Take full advantage of social networking platforms.
LinkedIn remains the go-to professional social network, and any professional or aspiring professional needs a well-crafted LinkedIn profile. Hiring managers, headhunters, and even recruiters’ software regularly troll the site in search of candidates with particular skills. Even if your career trajectory stalled lately, keep your profile content as fresh as possible. You may have a new skill set to add after attending a training, or a recent client whose endorsement you can solicit. Along with LinkedIn, carefully curate your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Spend time each day burnishing your online presence until it glows. This includes interacting with other professionals on their accounts. Position yourself as an expert by answering questions from others in your field.
2. Embellish your networking arsenal.
A company’s website is just the starting ground for researching a potential employer. Career review sites, such as Indeed or Glassdoor, can give you candid reviews from current and past employees about company culture. Find out all you can about the CEO, the person who heads the department you’re targeting, and even staff and new hires in the department. Search their social media accounts for crucial information — from their education to past positions to spare-time activities. You may discover that you have friends, alma maters or activities in common that you can use to open a door.
3. Work the perimeter.
Cast a broad networking net, particularly if you’re new to the area or just entering your profession. Are there alumni from your university or former firms that can provide insight or put you directly in touch with a company staff member? Are there any vendors or agencies you can contact who will know what’s going on in the industry? Again, use social media to help you find out. Then, engage in some old-school schmoozing. Shake things up by inviting real, live human beings out to lunch. Make a point of meeting face-to-face with anyone who can offer you a lead or provide a reference. You never know what kind of opportunity will unfold from these offline connections.
4. Approach a company during their downtime.
Taking a direct approach of contacting a company to inquire about a future opening works best when an organization’s workload is cyclical and you target the down times — such as the campaign or legislative off-seasons for political consultants or after-tax season for accounting positions. This strategy will particularly work in your favor if you’re seeking a senior-level position. Such positions are rarely advertised and usually go through an internal or external recruiter. Having an inside referral can be a huge leg-up. Do your due diligence to know the company’s background so your questions are well-informed and insightful. If you make a good impression, chances are you could be tapped when the next position opens up.
5. Ask for an informational interview.
If you see a company that you’re excited about, reach out to the person who would be your potential boss (unless you have an “in” with the department head or CEO). Email him or her, or send a message via LinkedIn asking for 15 minutes over a cup of coffee. Tell the person that you’d love to learn more about the company’s direction and future staffing needs. It’s surprising how receptive people often are when you ask for help.
6. Follow up in a timely manner.
Always send a note of thanks within a few days to anyone who’s given you his or her time. Reflect on a point that arose in the conversation to show that you valued the insight or advice. Be specific with any follow-up request — contacts are more likely to respond if they know what it is you need. If you don’t hear back within two weeks, make your request once more. But after that, it’s probably time to back off. Remember, quality, not quantity, counts when tapping new networking contacts.
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