Networking for Job Search gives us random results.
In Job Search, Networking has been seen as an alternative to job applications and often the more effective one. Many have landed awesome jobs through a personal or professional network. The problem is, even if we have succeeded in the past, Networking behaves like that magic wand in Harry Potter’s hands — sometimes it works wonders, sometimes, it doesn’t.
Networking for jobs yields highly random results because it needs all the stars to align.
1. A person in your network who trusts you and knows your capability
2. knows an opportunity.
3. That you are suitable for, aspire to do, and, yeah, you happen to be available now.
Networking is Highly Time-consuming
What does not help is that Networking is a highly time-consuming activity. Creating and maintaining the human relationship is challenging to automate until a robot can deliver emotions on our behalf one day.
Think about it from a process point of view — you can apply for at least 20 jobs in an hour, with tailored templates for resumes and cover letters. (How to Stop Holding Back Your Job Applications)Within the same timeframe, you’ll struggle to have a proper coffee conversation with one person, especially given the extra time for COVID-19 check-ins! Sure, we could make do with instant messengers, which are notoriously ineffective for maintaining social relationships, especially with weaker social links.
Networking is manual labor. It’s not one coffee conversation but a series of coffees, check-ins, exchanges, and of course, first of all, building the connection proactively if life hasn’t granted you that chance. Reaching out to all will be a monstrous task when you have a big enough network.
Conclusion: if we purely focus on job search results, Networking will be highly inefficient with low ROI.
Should we still spend a lot of time Networking during the job search?
The thing is, Networking is not one activity.
It consists of making new connections, nurturing the relationship, and signaling interest. A bit like planting trees, we first have to cultivate the tree before harvest.
Don’t Ask for Referral from a New Connection.
We can’t harvest too fast. Looking up a stranger’s name and asking for a referral in the first interaction is like wanting to harvest from day 1.
The internal referral is overrated. Well, here I’m referring to an internal referral by a person who won’t risk their reputation for you. And a stranger won’t do that.
The most helpful referral is when your referrer works in or closely with the hiring team and personally puts in a recommendation. From my experience, this usually guarantees an interview. Why? The referrer knows you, trusts you, and thinks you are a good match. So much so that the referrer is willing to risk their reputation for you. And the company knows that.
A person who happens to work in your target company but does not know you well might still be willing to refer you because of a common friend or an attractive referral fee. The chances are that they may not know the hiring team. Or even if they do, they would most likely put in a caveat saying that they haven’t worked with you, and it would be at the hiring manager’s discretion.
The actual effect may not be much better than a direct application in such cases. Considering that Networking for a referrer will also cause some delay, I am not sure that this minimum benefit is worth it.
Signal to Your Network about your Intention
“Law of Attraction” was once a popular theory that you get what you truly want. But you have to first ask for it. I don’t know how true this is. It is very accurate that no one else will if you are not actively telling your network about your intention.
Remember this? For job referral to happen, you need the stars to align:
Too often, we rush to build (1) when starting a job search. But building (1) takes much effort and a significant amount of time. During a job search, you should focus on (3) signaling to your network your interest.
Such signaling includes a few crucial elements:
▷ Update them where you are in your career. If you were known as a consultant, tell them that you have been a Strategy Officer for the last two years.
▷ Tell them what you aspire to do next. If you have been in the marine industry and aspire to join a technology start-up, they will not think of you for such jobs unless you tell them this.
Many people are scared of their employers learning about their motivation. But there are many ways to do that depending on the nature of your network and your job. We can do it subtly, too. The art and tactics of signaling deserve a whole article.
Build a Highly Relevant Network
We can’t grow credibility, trust, and relationship overnight. It always takes time. But we can be intentional about it.
Do you have a network optimized for your ideal career, filled with relevant people who will help you in the future? How about intentionally getting to know people in the target field you aspire to grow in?
They don’t have to be senior people who will give you jobs. We learn from everyone. There are many benefits to building a good network, and getting job opportunities someday is only one of them, far from being the most important one. What’s meaningful is what we learn from our co-travelers and how we shape our careers in those beneficial exchanges.
I take much inspiration from my network. I learn about the latest industry trends through what they are working on and how they look at things. I know about significant events in their professional life. I learn about how they choose people to collaborate with and find opportunities to contribute.
Life is long. Drop seeds in the soil, and something grows somewhere. We can’t dictate where exactly the sprout appears. But we can start cultivating and leave the rest to chance. Isn’t this wonderful?