networking your way to a new jobEveryone knows the old adage, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”  That’s never more true than when trying to find a new job.  Recently I found myself searching for the next phase of my career and I put this adage to the test.  I became a networking machine.

My first stop was LinkedIn.  If you’re looking for a new job/career and you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re missing the boat.  LinkedIn allows you to upload your work history and qualifications then connect with other people, making it easy for recruiters and potential employers to find you.  Prior to my job search, I had only rudimentary information on my profile.  Once I decided to find a new job, I uploaded my resume, updated my qualifications and got some additional references.  The recruiters found me, I didn’t have to go search for them.  Have an awesome co-worker you admire?  Check out that person’s LinkedIn profile to get ideas for how to write your own.  Companies and recruiters search profiles for key words and if you’ve got those words in your profile, you will show up in their search.  Google “key word search for software sales” (my example) and see what comes up so you can utilize it in your LinkedIn profile.

Before you ever go to an interview, look up the person interviewing you on LinkedIn (whoever sets up the interview should be able to tell you the name of the person you will be interviewing with.)  You will know where that person worked, where he went to school and mutual connections.  Think about things you have in common that you can leverage in your interview. It’s all about gaining that competitive advantage over the other people interviewing for the same job.

Once you know with whom you’re interviewing, see who they’re connected to via LinkedIn’s right hand side panel.  In my case, I’m in sales so I looked to see what other sales reps reported to the interviewer.  I then sent them a LinkedIn connection request using the “friend” radio button with a note that went like this:  “While we’re not friends because we’ve never met, I’m applying for a job at XXX company and I’d like to talk to you about what you do there.  Would you be willing to talk with me?”   I did not receive a single rejection to this request.  This step was gold in the process.

Now I was talking live to a person who worked for the company where I would be interviewing.  Prior to our conversation, I’d developed a list of questions about the company, what they do there, what they like about it, what they don’t like and especially, what are the interviewer’s trigger points?  This was an invaluable step in my job search for multiple reasons:  I got a feel for the people and company culture, I could ask any question I wanted because I was the interviewer, and because as the calls ended, I could say “Would you please let Paul know that we spoke and I’m excited to meet him?”  Now when I walked into the interview, Paul had heard good feedback about me already, therefore I was a step ahead of my competition.

In most cases, I spoke to several people in the company ahead of time so the interviewer had to be asking, “who is this person who’s doing all this networking?”  Companies like to see that you’re proactive.

The other invaluable piece of advice is to think of who you know.  Who do you know that can provide you with an introduction into the company you want to work for.  Nowadays all companies have you apply for jobs online.  Trust me, it will be next to impossible to get a job just submitting your application online.  You have to have someone at that company who will find your application and get it to the right person.  If you don’t know someone who works there, see my networking tip above.  Many companies have a referral bonus so people want to refer someone.  This benefits both of you.

In my case, I called a friend and asked, “Do you know someone who works at XXX company and if so, can you introduce me?”  Sure enough, she did and within a week I was talking to that company’s recruiter.  I had the same experience getting my last job.  I applied online.  Crickets.  I then called someone who had contacts there and asked, “Can you give me the sales manager’s name and number?”  Called him up and had an interview within a day and an offer within a week.  Please note this is not the norm.

Offers usually take lots of time to get.  I’m talking months after rounds and rounds of interviews.  Don’t get discouraged but don’t stop networking throughout the process either. If you’re looking, hopefully these tips will come in handy and best of luck!  It’s fun to see what lies ahead.


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