Many of my clients find networking scary, simply because it requires invading someone else’s very busy day. When these feelings crop up, procrastination, avoidance, and resistance set in and their job search stalls. They start applying online to jobs and wait patiently for a response that never comes. They mistakenly think this means they aren’t desirable and want to resort back to doing the same job they did before (the unfulfilling one) just so someone will hire them. If this were a dating situation, the equivalent would be calling up your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and trying to rekindle a romance that you already know is never going to work. Instead, this is the time to ask your friends to set you up on blind dates or introduce you to someone you’ve had your eye on. You’re going to tell your friends exactly what you are looking for so they can help you find a good match.
Translating this back to the job search, this is all leading to one thing: REFERRALS. And you need a plan. It can all be done in four easy steps.
1. Make a list – Using a spreadsheet, create a list of every person you can think of who is a fan of yours (minus adorable children, of course). In the first column, capture the names of everyone - family members, new and longtime friends, and former colleagues and bosses. Use the second column to list where they currently work. If you need help remembering who you know, reference your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. It doesn’t matter whether these people work in the same industry or city as you.
2. Create an email template – of course you don’t want to send everyone the exact same email (personalization is the key) but what you do need are 2-3 sentences describing exactly what you’re looking for in your next job opportunity. It should clearly state the role you’re looking for, the industry(ies) that interests you most, and the type of company you’d ideally like to work for. Like finding your mate, you need to be specific so others can set you up with a great prospect.
3. Be specific about how to help you – sort your list of contacts and reach out to the ones who work at companies you’re interested in first. If there are any open positions that you’d like to be considered for, include links to these jobs (no more than 3) and ask if they’d be willing to refer you. For all others, take the time to think about how you’d specifically like their help and then ask for it. When the shoe is on the other foot, don’t you appreciate it when someone is very clear about what they need and how you can help them with it?
4. Show your sincere gratitude and thanks – never, ever forget this uber important last step. When someone does take the time to refer you, make an introduction to someone else, or go out of their way to help you, please don’t forget to thank them as sincerely as possible.
Before you apply to another job online, exhaust your network first. Once you start putting yourself out there with your connections, the ball will start rolling and picking up speed but you have to take those first steps. Five emails isn’t enough. You need to be contacting everyone. Put it out there and let them come to your side. Believe me, they will but not unless you ask.
If you are not convinced that referrals are the way to go, check out these compelling statistics:
- Percentage of all applicants – Referrals are only 6.9% of applicants.*
- Percentage of all hires – 46% of all hires at top performing firms are referrals**, while for all firms, they range between 28%*** and 39.9% of all hires.*
- Speed (application-to-hire time in days) – Referrals are the #1 fastest time to fill (29 days for referrals, 39 days for job boards, and 45 days for career sites.)*
Wow, only 6.9% of applicants are referrals but they are the ones getting hired by huge margins. It’s the most obvious job search strategy yet people aren’t doing it. Don’t let this be you! Your network is your career’s most valuable asset, and by nurturing that network you will have your best chance at gaining a referral to the next big step in your career.
One last thing...even if you’re not personally looking for a job now, you will be again someday. It creates really good karma to help others in their job search, so think about paying it forward as much as possible. The universe has a wonderful way of rewarding us for our good deeds.
* Jobvite index 2012
** Dr. John Sullivan and Associates research 2008-2011
*** CareerXroads 2011 – 2012