By: Alyson Garrido
I regularly talk with established professional women who tell me that they are starting their first job search. They share that they’ve never looked before because jobs have come to them via a friend or former colleague. “I’ve been really lucky and have never had to look for a job,” they say. I disagree wholeheartedly with that statement. These are women who have grown their network, kept in touch and proven themselves to be reliable, smart and professional, so they are called on when a job opens up where their expertise could be put to work. That’s not luck, it’s building and maintaining relationships, so people think of them when opportunities arise. Let’s talk about how you can position yourself to be one of the ‘lucky’ ones, too.
Have you ever heard someone say that networking is farming, not hunting? Take a moment to think about the images this phrase brings up. Hunting is quick. You find your target, aim, shoot and you’re done. You’ll never have to revisit that same experience. It provides instant gratification and if you miss, another opportunity is just around the corner.
Farming, on the other hand, is a long game. You plant lots of seeds, probably over a period of time, and you make sure they get the right amount of sunlight, nutrients, and water. There’s a lot you can control and a lot of variables to consider, too. Will there be an early frost? A drought? Lots of rain and sunshine? Some seeds will never take root, while others will grow.
Let’s talk about some tools to be the best damn farmer you can be!
Find the right spot
Where are you likely to find people with whom you’d like to start a professional relationship? Be yourself and seek out organizations and events that fit your personality and communication preferences. Do you prefer a lot of structure? Try speed networking. Enjoy a cocktail party? Mixers are an easy fit. Prefer longer conversations? Some organizations, like Six Degrees Society (obvs!), create a curated networking experience, matching you with others who have similar backgrounds or interests. Your event is out there, I promise, you just need to put in a little effort to find it.
By the way, this doesn’t mean it has to be a structured networking event. Having a professional relationship with someone doesn’t mean you can’t have a personal one, too. It doesn’t even need to be an in-person meeting. You could find people with whom you want to have a professional relationship at the gym, a dinner party, or listening to a podcast. The key is keeping your eye out for connections and following up (which we’ll get to a bit later.)
Plant the seed
We’ve found the spot and are ready to plant seeds. Now what? How do you initiate the conversation or get people to notice you? Try these approaches:
In Person: At the beginning of a professional relationship, like any relationship, try to get to know the person you’re meeting. Ask lots of questions and be sure not to dominate the conversation with your needs. Don’t forget to exchange information and promptly send a ‘nice to meet you’ note.
Email: If you’ve identified someone you want to reach out to via email, first see if you know someone in common. A common connection who can make a warm introduction will increase the chances that the recipient will respond. Keep the email short and to the point. Mention how you know them, why you’d like to connect and days/times that might work. You are more likely to get a response from a simple request than a big ask.
LinkedIn: Don’t underestimate the impact of a personalized invitation. Many professionals will not accept a generic LinkedIn request from someone they don’t know and it’s no way to start a relationship. It’s like asking for someone’s phone number before you even introduce yourself. You only have 300 characters to personalize your invite, so a quick hello and a bit of information about why you want to connect to the person should suffice. Remember, this is just the beginning.
Leadership Roles: You can get a new group of people to notice you by taking on a leadership role in an organization. These roles will allow you to meet and get to know other professionals and show you as a person of authority. It gets your name out there in a new way with the backing of a trusted brand. This could be a professional organization, nonprofit or even a sports team.
Information Sharing: Consider forming a group, writing or speaking about your area of expertise. It will show you as an authority and your message will come across in a new medium. Rather than you speaking for yourself all of the time, your writing is there as a resource for others. These are also great resume builders to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.
Food and Water
This is the place where the difference between hunting and farming really comes into play. It’s time to nurture the relationship you began, so you stay top of mind and relevant to your new connection.
Send updates: If someone has made an introduction or offered advice, send them a follow-up note to let them know how things are going. I take around 2-3 informational interviews per month and oftentimes follow them up with an introduction or email resource. I’d estimate that only 10% of people reach out with a thank you or update on how the information I provided was put to use. That’s a wasted opportunity to ask me for help again down the line. If someone has demonstrated a propensity to help you or provide introductions, chances are to is not a one-time thing. Nurture the relationships that are fruitful from the beginning. It could be something as simple as going to a restaurant that the person recommended and saying what a great meal you had. A little acknowledgment goes a long way.
Provide value: If you don’t have an update to share, but want to remain on someone’s radar on a regular basis, consider sending an article that you think they’d find useful or a comment on a piece of industry news. Don’t overthink it, the note doesn’t have to be long or complex; it’s simply a thoughtful check-in that keeps you top-of-mind.
Make connections: Connect those who you think would benefit from knowing each other. With permission, send a quick note introducing the parties and sharing a bit about why you think they would be valuable resources for one another. If they hit it off, they have you to thank as their professional matchmaker. Help others grow and tune into their needs so you can connect them when you see opportunities. Hopefully, they’ll do the same.
Email those you’re thinking about: This sounds simple, but it really is meaningful to reach out to those you are thinking about. It could be as simple as ‘Hi Tina, I went to a Six Degrees Society event last night and thought of you. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since we met at their Los Angeles launch. I hope you’re doing well. Best regards, Maria’
Like/Comment/Share: A great way to stay top-of-mind with your professional contacts is to keep up with them on social media. Like, comment or share their content. They will be reminded of your name and grateful for the acknowledgment and boost to their profile. If you comment on a very popular post, it could prompt another set of people to look at your profile, too – back to planting those seeds, right?
Watch it grow
As I mentioned earlier, farming is the long game and you can’t measure progress in job interviews. The benefits you get from relationship building and long-term networking will come in the form of information, connections, and resources. You might not see results immediately, but keeping in touch with your professional contacts in a thoughtful way will surely expand your reach, expertise, and chances of being one of those ‘lucky’ people who are approached about job opportunities, rather than conducting a traditional search.
Alyson is passionate about helping people advance their careers and find jobs they will enjoy. As a career coach, she partners with her clients to identify their strengths and create a path toward a more fulfilling career. Alyson also provides support for interview preparation, salary negotiations and performance reviews, ensuring her clients present themselves and their goals in the best possible light. Learn more at www.alysongarrido.com.