In a competitive job market, networking is everything—the more contacts you have, the more job opportunities you’ll be aware of. For better or worse, it’s all about who you know. Make the most of your network with these tips.
How to Network Your Way to a Great Job
Create a “spiderweb” network
Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, an executive coach and Entrepreneur in Residence, suggests a spiderweb approach to networking. The inner layer of your web consists of friends, colleagues and other direct connections. The second layer is made up of their direct contacts, and so on—provided you work with your inner circle properly, you can build yourself an ever-growing spiderweb of contacts. “Ask the people in your first layer to go out for coffee or a drink,” Elizabeth says. “Ask about how they’re doing, their job trajectories and their lives in general. Be genuinely interested.” Then, bring up your job search, ask if they’ve heard of any opportunities and see if there’s anyone in their network who can help you. Therein lies your second layer of contacts, who can then introduce you to your third layer—the web will continue to grow.
Do your research
Once you have a meeting set up with a “second layer” contact—someone who’s in your own immediate contact’s inner circle—do your due diligence. Learn everything you can about this person, their work and their current endeavors. Determine what your desired outcome from the conversation is, whether that’s a job offer or another contact to add to your network, but also think about what else you can learn from them. Ivanka advises, “You can’t be self-serving—it’s evident.” She suggests asking people questions unrelated to the direct ways in which they can help you: When did you get started? How did you become who you are today? “The person you’re speaking with will feel happy,” she says. “You’ll learn some interesting things and you may find an authentic connection…People enjoy talking about themselves, so indulge them.”
Consider your network’s weak ties
While it’s essential to maintain a great inner circle of close contacts, Entrepreneur in Residence Adam Grant, a Wharton professor, recommends reaching out to your dormant ties—people you haven’t seen or spoken with in a long time—as well. “Our closest contacts tend to know the same people and information as we do,” says Adam. “Weak ties travel in different circles and learn different things, so they can offer us more efficient access to novel information.” Ask one of your weaker ties—a friend of a friend, a college roommate you lost touch with—out for a drink. You never know what new insights or networks they have to offer.
Elizabeth recommends creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your network. Include each person’s name and contact information, as well as detailed notes—when you last spoke, what you spoke about, important personal details, etc. It may seem like overkill, but being able to ask someone you haven’t seen in several months, “How did that big presentation go?” will communicate your commitment to building the relationship and be well worth it.
Stay in touch
Elizabeth suggests making plans to catch up with the people in your inner circle—the top half-dozen people who can make the biggest impact on your career trajectory—once every quarter, whether you’re actively looking for a job or not. This is key for keeping your ties to your inner circle strong and staying on top of what opportunities are out there. It doesn’t have to be a formal meal; it could be as simple as a quick phone call, midweek lunch or drink after work.
Download a cheat sheet with these tips here.
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