August proved to be the 2nd busiest month in 5 ½ years of helping clients identify ideal careers. As people struggle to find their footing during a pandemic, I felt it was critical to continue to talk about the importance of “networking.”
Networking is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
I underlined “cultivation” because this is a key point in networking. It is engaging with people authentically. People see through individuals who only want something from them. I have a professional friend who says any time he sees me calling, he answers. Why? He said because he knows I care about him, not just wanting something from him. Networking is time consuming. But when done right, can be incredibly powerful.
For my college clients who are trying to land their first professional job, networking should have started their first year of college. That normally blows their minds when I say this because they are trying to find their classes and learn to live away from home, well enough begin engaging with others for future connections. But it takes time to build your portfolio of connections.
Statistics show that 55% of employers prefer referrals and candidates have a 2% chance of getting hired online. 2%! At that rate, why apply, right? The statistic highlights the frustration a person will experience as they apply, apply, apply, with no response. It is the hardest way to find a job.
As a result, here are 5 ways to successfully engage in networking during the pandemic and beyond.
1. Develop a Plan
When things are hard, we can start spinning. We get in our heads and forget to be methodical in our planning for our future. You need to be able to answer these questions:
a. What type of jobs am I qualified/looking for?
b. What is the salary I need to survive? This is a very important question to ensure you don’t accept a position where you can’t eat. You can determine that amount with a Lifestyle Calculator.
c. What 10-20 companies would I love to work for?
d. Is my resume up to date? If not, I suggest paying someone to craft it in a manner that will get it through the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) which is determined by key words, in addition to other things. Remember the 2% rate of getting hired online. They are worth the money.
e. Do I have a mentor or mentors? The more the better!
f. Do I have a calendar where I’m planning, tracking and organizing my efforts? Remember one of my favorite motto is, “Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan!” This has never been more important than during a pandemic!
2. Use LinkedIn
Spend at least 1 hour a week on LinkedIn connecting with people you know. I get requests all the time from people I’ve never heard of saying, “I think we have things in common and I’d like to connect.” I don’t accept because I know they are trying to add people to gain connections and more often than not, they want to sell me something. There is nothing cultivating about their connections. When connecting with people on LinkedIn, send a personal message with the invite. We have lost social graces in our society and professional touches like these matters.
3. Mentoring Meeting
Ask people you know well and respect if you may have 30 minutes of their time to pick their brain on the direction of your career. Most people will say yes but come to the call/meeting prepared with your resume as well as the ability to articulate what you are looking for. Don’t make the mentor figure it out for you. This is where formal career exploration will help you determine your “ask” and what help you are needing. Also, be very respectful of their time and always, always, always, follow up with a formal thank you. Then engage in at least 2 of these mentor meetings each week. You never know when a conversation will lead to an opportunity that was never on your radar. It’s a number game so be diligent in really committing to this goal.
4. Career Centers/University Department
For my college students, Career Centers are completely underutilized. Remember, they are accountable to their university for “Destination Rates” which is the amount of time after graduation a student is 1) employed in their field, 2) graduate school, and 3) or the military. Companies spend a lot of time building relationships with university career centers and departments directly to help gain qualified new hires. They are also, many times, Career Counselors whom I see at conferences throughout the year. You have paid a lot of money for the degree so set up a meeting to strategize about your future and ask for introductions to companies that are ideal for you.
5. Ask for Help
We are experiencing the most trying times most of us have seen in our lifetime. Getting into your ideal career is going to demand more focus than ever before. But there is nothing wrong with sharing you need help. Help with finding someone in a field that can give you insight. Help in having someone make an introduction to someone or a company you are interested in. Help in saying, “I just can’t do this alone…can you help?” Self-advocating has never been more important and if done right, can land you the job at a company you’ve been working so hard to join. Then remember your journey and see how you can cultivate relationships to help others.