This is the eighth in a 10-part series entitled ‘The Smart Job Search.’ You can find links to the series so far by clicking here.
If you’ve spent any time at all reading job search advice, you’ll have heard that networking is the #1 way to find your next position.
It’s been said so many times that it’s almost become a cliche. But cliches are so often repeated precisely because they’re true, and this is no exception.
And yet, despite knowing how important networking is, many of us avoid it like the plague. I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past. I’m an introvert by nature and the thought of approaching strangers and introducing myself sends shivers of distaste down my spine. When I first started my business, I had to force myself to make networking calls and go to breakfast meetings in order to make new connections and revive old ones.
I. Hated. Every. Minute. Telling people about my new business felt pushy and intrusive, and even though most people were very nice to me, I just wasn’t comfortable with this type of networking.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Mercifully, over the next year or so, I stumbled on a way to network that didn’t involve shuffling into rooms and handing business cards to people I didn’t know. And that’s the secret I want to share with you today. There is a way to network that you won’t find at all threatening. You just have to redefine what’s mean by “networking.”
The “A-Ha” Moment
My realization came when I referred a potential client to another resume writer. The client was looking for work with the federal government, an area in which I had no expertise, so I sent him to a writer focuses solely in this area. The client was delighted with my honesty and referred a friend to me a few weeks later. And the other resume writer called to ask what types of resumes I preferred to write, and immediately began referring clients to me. I still receive referrals from her every now and then. All that because of one quick email!
And that’s when the light bulb went on over my head. Helping people without expecting anything in return is the very best way to network.
How This Applies to You
Think about this in terms of career development and/or your job search. Instead of putting together a list of people you know and then telling them you need a job, try just reaching out to help other people. Every person that you help is a new connection and every one of them may prove valuable down the road.
5 Ways to Network by Helping Others
Here are just a few ideas for expanding your network or reconnecting with old contacts by being helpful:
1) Contact recruiters in your field and instead of just asking if they have opportunities, offer to help them source for positions. Send a brief email saying “I know you specialize in sales recruiting for the medical industry and I have an extensive network of contacts in this field. Feel free to call me or send along any vacancies. I’d be happy to pass them along.”
2) Answer questions from your LinkedIn network. LinkedIn allows people to send out questions to their entire network – be sure to have these sent to you by email so that you can offer assistance when possible. Just getting your name in front of people regularly is half the battle.
3) Look for blogs or forums about your area of expertise and become active. One of our former clients is a search engine marketer and he found a job because of his participation on a marketing forum where he regularly answered questions. One day he received a private message out of the blue offering him an interview.
4) Contact friends, family and others in your network and offer help for free. One former client who is a graphic designer revamped several websites while she was unemployed. Not only did this buy her goodwill with her contacts, but it also fleshed out her resume during the period of time she was without a job. When I first started my business, I offered several recruiters a free resume rewrite for one of their clients. Of course, once they saw my work, they started to send me paying customers, something they probably wouldn’t have done had I just called and asked them.
5) Volunteer at a non-profit organization in your area. All of the other volunteers know people who know people, and someone may well have an opportunity that’s perfect for you. And hey, it beats sitting at home reading the same job postings online day after day!
These are just 5 ways you can expand your network by helping others. And the beauty of this approach is that in addition to making new connections, you get to feel good about your contribution every day.
What about you? Can you think of other ways to make new connections (or revive old ones) simply by helping other people?
If you’d like to learn more about all the ideas and strategies covered in this series of posts, download my new e-book The Blue Sky Guide to Job Search now. You’ll get everything you need to jump-start your job search, including step-by-step instructions, real-world examples and email templates. And it has my personal money back guarantee, so there’s no risk to you. Start reading for free by clicking the ‘expand’ button below