“The path to success is forged by meeting people through other people.”

Unleashing the power of networking is undeniable in business and life. The key to connecting with others and creating deep and meaningful relationships lies in our ability to implement the right strategies with an open heart and mind. As you deepen your existing connections and connect with the right people to hack your way into the “hidden job market,” consider mastering the art of networking as the first step.

You’ll find this helpful article discussing proven strategies to help you take control of networking, from identifying internal advocates and conducting informational interviews to connecting with people on LinkedIn so you can uncover the right opportunities, land the conversation, set the stage, and get your answers.

Don’t forget to check out how to research a company so you can learn how to conduct in-depth research to discover the company/team’s biggest challenges, current initiatives, and goals to help you create a target list of companies before you initiate a job search.

The mindset to master the art of networking

Networking is an art; mastering it will significantly increase your chances of landing the career you’re after.

Don’t overcomplicate networking. In the simplest terms, networking is meeting people.

You make connections first, get to know each other over time, and form ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships. There’s no perfect way to do it.

Forget about hitting home runs with each touchpoint and focus instead on small wins that move the conversation forward. Focus on bringing value and building authentic relationships.

Contrary to some belief, networking is still the #1 way to land a job. Building the right professional network is critical to career advancement, as getting a job often relies on referrals, and your network is key to a successful job search.

LinkedIn reported that 85% of jobs are filled via networking, and 70% are never publicly advertised. Most of these opportunities will never be listed on job boards, so it is essential to tap into your circle of influence to find out about positions that aren’t posted on job boards.

You can utilize networking layers such as personal connections, in-person events, LinkedIn/online, and Alumni associations from previous universities/schools. 

Networking on LinkedIn

To utilize LinkedIn effectively, as soon as possible after meeting someone new (either online or in person), send a connection request with a personalized message asking to keep in touch.

When connections are total strangers, starting with a simple ask they can reply to in 30 seconds is essential.

Likes, re-shares, and comments will help boost LinkedIn Algorithm. Study shows that if you comment on each comment you receive, reports of up to 250% increase in views and engagement from others have been reported.

Reach out to your current network once or twice a year. Birthdays and anniversaries are prime opportunities. A simple text message is often enough to keep the connection going. Schedule lunch, coffee, or a virtual meet-up with those you want to cultivate.

Do you have what it takes to be a connector? As you talk to people, listen to their problems and intentionally connect them with people who can solve them. Think of commonalities like interests, industries, and experience.

Be an active participant on LinkedIn! Reach out to your network regularly to see how they’re doing, offer support, and pass along something of interest to them. Support your network with “Likes,” shares, and comments on their updates, posts, and Pulse articles.

Identify internal advocates to help you skip the line

To maximize the effectiveness of your networking efforts, here’s a step-by-step guide to identify internal advocates, such as hiring managers and teammates, that can help you skip the line and maximize your value.  

  1. Identify qualifying prospects from your target company’s list. Start by listing ten contacts at each company you’re interested in. Aim for potential hiring managers and team members.
  2. Type a company name in LinkedIn’s search bar and head to the home page. Click “see all employees on LinkedIn.” From there, use the filters to figure out who your potential boss would be. Then you can head to Hunter.io to search for their email. 
  3. Start by engaging with their content online, recognizing their career milestones, asking for advice, and following up with results. Reach out in private messages or post thoughtful comments on their posts. Follow their careers and be aware of any changes they may have made. This will help you stay connected and demonstrate that you care about their success. 
  4. Send a short, direct message that includes the following:
    • Why you’re looking to connect 
    • Tell them you have nothing to sell 
    • Mention one thing you’re interested in learning from them
  5. Establish a consistent cadence with a few touchpoints that can lead to an informational interview meeting. Networking can take some time to make meaningful connections. 
  6. Always remember to never openly ask for an interview and never ask for a job or a referral upfront. 
  7. When making initial outreach, focusing on the other person and showing gratitude will help build your relationship and make them more likely to help you. When you allow someone to talk about themselves, they’ll view you more favorably. Don’t stop connecting with your advocates once you’ve landed a job. Continue to stay in touch and offer your help whenever you can. This will help you maintain a strong relationship and build your network. 

Gain insight with informational interviews, aka discovery calls

The purpose of an informational interview is to learn about the type of industry, company, or role you are pursuing from a professional in the field so you can uncover opportunities where you could illustrate tangible value. It is not a job interview and should not last longer than 30 minutes. Think of informational interviews as a safe environment to ask specific questions. 

Think of an informational interview as a great way to gain firsthand knowledge about a specific position, company, or field. The benefits of these interviews include the following:

  • Gaining insight and perspective.
  • Expanding a professional network.
  • Increasing confidence and interpersonal skills.
  • Enhancing visibility. 

Use a consultative approach by probing into challenges, chatting through problems, and offering up ideas and solutions that could have a meaningful impact on the team. The benefits of informational interviews include gaining insight, expanding a professional network, increasing confidence and interpersonal skills, and enhancing visibility. 

If you’re an expert problem solver or a creative thinker, focus on bringing value to every encounter and conversation using your strengths to add value to the team and company. When you’re in tune with your strengths, you can confidently focus your energy on solely adding this value to others. Do your part and add as much value as you can.

Use the six-question framework to get the most out of your interview: 

  1. What did your journey look like to get to where you are?
    • Potential follow-up question: What did moving from one position to another take?
  2. I understand you [share what you know about their job duties]. Can you provide more details about your typical day/week?
  3. Which skills are most important for a job like yours?
    • Potential follow-up question: Are there any additional skills you think will be especially useful for someone like me entering the field in the next five years?
  4. What are the goals for your team over the next 3-6 months?
  5. What are the most significant growth opportunities?
  6. What are the biggest challenges the team is facing currently?

You can adapt additional questions to prompt conversations to your purposes; the idea is to help you “spot the roles and fields that match your skills and experience and give you an understanding of how top performers are described.”

  • What are the most vital steps someone should take to prepare for a role like yours?
  • ​​I’m interested in speaking with people [in X field / Y role / at Z company]. Who else would you recommend that I connect with?
    • Potential follow-up question: Would you mind making an introduction to [person’s name]?
  • How would you describe the corporate culture?
  • What are the biggest challenges the company is facing right now?

Be open to the knowledge that some calls will be information gathering and some will lead to referrals. If someone is willing to spend 30 minutes on the phone with you, they see potential in you and will likely spend five minutes sending you a referral. Not all connections will lead to a referral – and that’s okay! 

Case Study #1: Before a client landed a job at Google, she networked with three new people each week, but no one referred her to their companies. Everyone talks about networking as the key to landing interviews, but why wasn’t it working for her? Entitlement. She would set up multiple calls weekly, run through a list of 5-7 questions, and end the calls hoping they would give her a referral. It took her months of networking to realize it didn’t work that way.

Always remember:

  • Never openly ask for an interview. Informational interviews are intended to share information, not job referrals. Ask questions to determine whether the company, its culture, and its employees are a good fit for you. Let people know you want to learn from their experience in your field. If you turn around and ask for a job when you meet with your connection, they may feel as though you lied and set up the meeting under false pretenses.
  • Never ask for a job or a referral up front! As you speak with your connections, simply let them know you’re in the market for a specific role, and they would appreciate it if they let you know about any potential opportunities. 

Are you ready to leverage the power of networking to take your career to the next level? With the right strategies, you can land the job of your dreams and make meaningful connections that will benefit your career for years to come. 

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