Does networking yield results for you? If not, you’re not alone. Many people say they’ve networked for their next career opportunity yet find it fails to deliver the job leads or inside information they’re looking for. So what gives? Is networking a waste of time?
I wouldn’t say so, and neither would the many career experts who content that networking is the #1 most effective way to land a new job with a +86% chance of success. But how can we square this with the fact that networking doesn’t seem to work for so many people?
In my experience, the problem isn’t that networking doesn’t work. It’s that most people don’t do it in an effective way. Here, then, are three common networking problems and my suggested fixes.
Your Networking “Asks” are Way Too General
- The Problem: Sending a mass email to a list of folks you know and asking everyone to forward you job leads seems like a good idea on the surface. But if your request is too vague your network won’t know how to help you.
- The Fix: Before you begin networking, first define your target companies, industries, roles, and geographies. Put enough detail on your list so your contacts will be able to quickly determine the best way to give you what you requested.
- An Example: When you first go out to your network for information as part of a job search or career transition, it helps if you pull together a “not-a-resume” document to help define who you are, what you bring to the table, and what difference you can make for your targeted companies – this may be a networking resume, an executive bio (not the same thing as a corporate bio), or an executive marketing brief. The important thing is that the document is branded to align with your positioning and contains the right level of detail without overwhelming your readers.
Your Network Relationships Are Cold
- The Problem: If you’ve been out of touch with your network or specific individuals in your network for some time, then making specific networking requests is a bit presumptuous even if they know you well. Folks may take offense or simply not be motivated to assist you if your relationship has yet to be “warmed up.” If they don’t know you well at all, then it’s critical that you first build up your relationship before attempting to leverage it.
- The Fix: Before approaching the top contacts in your network, warm up the relationship by reestablishing communication first. Send a short email or LinkedIn InMail or call them to check in and see what’s new with them. Exchange a few communications so you can update the relationship and find out what’s new in your contact’s life since you were last engaged with them. If they don’t know you well at all yet, then you will need to back up and solidify your relationship first. You may need to study the person’s social media or LinkedIn profile to get a sense for their interests, likely business needs, and factors the two of you have in common.
- An Example: Let’s say that you have been referred to an influential contact by someone who knows you well. Before reaching out to the person, study their social media presence, LinkedIn profile, and any other brand communications you have access to so you can assess what you have in common with the person; use these aspects of their background to approach them in a meaningful way.
You Don’t Have the Right Network
- The Problem: You’re attempting to network your way into an industry, company, or geographic area where you don’t already have connections.
- The Fix: Part of the beauty of LinkedIn is that you can literally manufacture a network – any network – out of thin air, so to speak, within weeks. If you’re trying to build connections with a target company or industry, you can leverage LinkedIn Groups and advanced searches to help you hone in on key people and begin augmenting your network.
- An Example: Let’s say you’re a VP of Operations who wants to move into the healthcare sector. Yet because your experience is in technology you don’t yet have a network in the healthcare industry. To create one, identify target healthcare companies and use LinkedIn’s list of how you’re connected to those firms guide your networking. In addition, join healthcare LinkedIn Groups and begin inviting connections with operations and other professionals within healthcare in your target geographic areas.
Networking really is the best way to land to a new job at almost any career level. The trick, though, is to do it right. Don’t assume you are networking effectively already. Rather, if networking isn’t working for you, you can safely assume that you need to improve your network itself, your approach to your contacts, or get more strategic about your requests.