Sometimes you can find a connection to help with the next step of your career when and where you least expect to. It can happen when you're actively job seeking and when you’re not thinking about changing jobs at all. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep your job search radar on, even if you’re not actively seeking a new position.
A friend or acquaintance might hear about a job that would be perfect for you. Even better, the position might not have been advertised yet. You could get a head start on all the other candidates without having to do much to prepare other than getting your resume ready to share.
Using Connections to Help Get Hired
Getting hired through a connection is one of the best ways to get a new job. Employers love referrals because the applicant will have insight into the company before they apply, and many companies have referral programs to encourage employees to recommend candidates.
There are two types of connections you can use when you’re job hunting. Professional connections include people you’ve worked with, such as clients, vendors, colleagues, and peers in your industry. Personal connections include family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and random people you end up chatting with about your career.
There are other connections that cross categories, like alumni from your university. Basically, any of the contacts you have in your life can help you get hired.
Making Personal Connections
Your personal connections can provide a gold mine of job opportunities. There are people who have been hired because of someone they sat next to on an airplane or a ski lift, or because the other mom they were chatting with at school pickup knew of a perfect position that had just opened up. You never know who might be able to help unless you ask.
Some of the places where you can hear of a job opening might surprise you. Just think of all the places you go where you might run into someone you know or get to know someone new:
- Co-working spaces
- Dog parks
- Sports events
- Special events
- Bars and clubs
- Classes and seminars
- School functions
- Volunteer organizations
Watch your social media feeds, too. Your friends may post job openings at their employer or other positions they come across. Remember to be careful about inquiring, and do it via private message rather than replying to the post. It’s never a good idea to advertise the fact that you’re job searching unless you’re out of work and want the world to be aware.
The Best Way to Connect in Person
It can be uncomfortable meeting new people, at first, if you’re not an outgoing person. The more you do it, the easier it will become. After the first few times, it may even seem easy.
Be chatty. Say “hi” to everyone you know—and to some people you don’t know. A simple hello, a smile, and asking how the person is doing can start a conversation.
Make it about them initially. Don’t make the conversation about you—and the new job you’d love to get—right away. Instead, talk about what you have in common—your kids, your dog, the gym equipment you’re using, the game you’re watching, or the event you’re attending. Ask the other person about their job, if you don’t know. If you do, ask them how work is going. That’s always a good way to segue into a career discussion.
Be prepared. At some point, the conversation should turn to you, and that’s when it’s appropriate to talk about work and what you’re interested in doing next in your career. Have an elevator pitch, a quick summary of your background, ready to share.
Have your contact information ready. A business card with your email address, phone number, and LinkedIn profile URL is another way to easily share the details or have it ready to send on your phone. Making it easy for people to get in touch with you will increase your chances of getting job leads.
Maintaining Professional Connections
In addition to building your personal network, don’t lose sight of your professional connections. It’s almost too easy to stay connected on LinkedIn, social media messaging, and email. Those methods work, of course, but if you’re in close proximity to your professional contacts, a chat over a cup of coffee works better.
You’ll be able to cement and build your relationship, discuss other contacts who might be able to help you and have a real conversation. Not networking in person is one of the biggest professional networking mistakes you can make.
As with your personal connections, giving before you get works. Always offer your advice and assistance. People are much more willing to help someone who has helped them. They’ll also be more likely to remember you if a promising job comes across their desk.