In today’s competitive job market, landing a new position is less about getting a résumé to catch someone’s attention and more about cultivating productive, mutually rewarding relationships that can turn into job leads. Networking is the most effective job-search technique.
Not every advertised job posting represents an employment opportunity. Some are not yet available or are already taken by the time your résumé reaches the employer. Moreover, hiring managers do not necessarily search for impressive résumés. They sometimes hire from within or reach out to people they know.
Job seekers can improve their chances for success if they take the time to build and follow up on their connections. Such sources can help introduce applicants to hiring managers before there is even an official job opening at the company.
In the early stages of the hiring process, there is less competition. Plus, a personal referral can be the difference between getting an interview and getting overlooked.
It’s usually not easy to form and maintain connections. Here are six tips to help you build and strengthen a professional network that can help you land your next job:
- Develop a short pitch—an elevator speech—that helps you define what sets you apart from the competition. Be clear about your short- and long-term career goals and clearly demonstrate who you are, what you do, and how you get it done.
- Be sure to think of relevant success stories that illustrate your problem-solving skills and can quantify the results of your work, such as a time that you helped increase your company’s revenue or reduced its costs. You never know when an opportunity to share one of these stories might come up in conversation.
- Ask those who recognize your talent and skills to vouch for you and introduce you to their connections.
- Identify which organizations and individuals need your talent. Approach them at networking events or with a casual e-mail note and give them your pitch, even if there is no mention of a job opening at the time.
- Tailor your pitch to meet your potential employer’s needs and expectations. Use similar language, adapt to the company’s culture, and be friendly, cooperative, and enthusiastic. Make it easy to schedule a get-together. Always send a thank-you note after a meeting.
- Be patient but persistent. Nowadays, everyone is busy and bombarded with e-mail. Not only do you have to stand out and distinguish yourself, you also need to continuously remind people in a polite, courteous way to keep you on their radar.
Debra Feldman is a career consultant and founder of Job Whiz.