In the process of searching for a job, one of the most important resources available to you is your network. But a network is not just a list of names on LinkedIn or the names that your email autofills when you type a few letters. Your network is the colleagues and friends you talk with often enough that telling them you’re looking for work is information they want, not an inconvenience you thrust upon them.
Consider this: a colleague leaves for another company and you don’t see her or talk with her for several years, and you call to ask if she’s heard of any jobs. Chances that she’ll want to help you are slim.
On the other hand, a colleague leaves for another company and you email each other a couple of times a year to ask about best practices or check in on each others’ lives. She tells you a story about a client, you tell her about an interview you had. She’s a person who would likely be glad to help you in your job search, either by passing along contacts or by keeping you in mind if they see a posting that’s right for you.
Networking is not just calling all the people you know when you need work. Networking, done properly, is keeping in touch with people, knowing what they need, helping when you can, and asking for similar help when you need it.
An article from The Jacksonville Business Journal suggests that scheduling a networking meeting should involve an agenda and a follow-up thank you note. That’s good advice, but it misses the larger picture of cultivating relationships.
Prepare Your Pitch
“I’m looking for a job” isn’t useful. “I’m looking for a PR firm that focuses on global clients because I have experience with many languages” puts into people’s minds that you know languages and PR. Prepare the elevator pitch of your job search in the same way you do a business plan or the interview version of why you’re applying for a job.
Most of life is experience, and people want to hear those stories. When you tell a colleague about a digital advertising project you’ve just started or about a client who seems to fit the same patterns we all know, they feel engaged in your professional life. You connect. And through those connections, they remember you’re skilled in digital advertising and that you handle clients well. That’s the type of networking that will lead you somewhere.
Hear your colleagues and friends. Stay present in conversations. Help them whenever you can. The point of your network is not getting something out of every relationship, it’s interacting with people in your field and your life. Not because they can get you a job, but because you are interested in them as humans with stories and interests.