Getting Hired By Proxy
Networking for jobs is a great way to get a position valued to your talent. Here’s how to get started with that.
You’ve got 500+ connections in your Linkedin network, browse job ads on Indeed and Monster, and you are quick to respond to posts in the many job groups you’ve joined on Facebook and Linkedin. But somehow, this networking to get jobs think doesn’t seem to pan out like people told you it would. You’re networking right? So why doesn’t it seem to help you get any jobs?
Who’s in your network?
The first thing you should know is who is actually in your network. Sure you might know a lot of people, but what are these people doing? And what could they do for you? Don’t describe these people in terms of their importance, their big titles or their fancy job descriptions – value why these people are connected to you, and how they bond with you.
We all have them, connections in your list that serve no purpose other than being there. Bosses you felt obligated to add, schoolmates that wanted to connect and you obliged, people you felt flattered to be asked to connect by. Practically, these are likely to be the largest part of your list, on a site like Linkedin. They hardly know you, know only those things about you which you shared on the platform, and potentially don’t even like you.
Like loose sand, only the force of gravity keeps you together – until at some point one of you decides to do spring cleaning on their contact list.
But, don’t discount them just yet. After all, they might grow in the future, just as you are trying to do. And the person you are helping now, when they are at the start of their careers or just friends or colleagues, can be a decisive factor in your career later on.
Some people are really close to you – they read your articles, comment on them, and may mention you sometimes on Twitter and Facebook. They seem to be genuinely interested in you and what you’re doing – and willing to connect you with others. They’re the ones you can always ask for a recommendation or sharing your articles, or who respond positively to being asked to introduce you to one of their connections.
Like bridges, they help you expand your network and improve your visibility. However, they have little in touch with you professionally. They may be interested in what you do and getting involved, but they can’t really vouch for your talents and professionalism to someone looking to fill a job vacancy.
Towers are people who have a business interest in you, your company or your network. Busy people, full of ideas and always working. They’re well-connected managers, fund-raisers, industry leaders and other people with credit and clout.
They’re not going to be involved with you personally, but they can make educated statements on your talents and future potential. If you could get them to vouch for you, they could open doors into new industries or job possibilities – but they are often closed and somewhat impersonal. After all, many people come to them for advice, investment or opportunities – and they want to screen those to get only the desirable ones.
When a Bridge experiences your talent and dedication, or a Tower becomes an acquaintance rather than a digital connection, a Carrier has arrived. They are the people who combine the best of both worlds – they know your professional skills and future potential, and are also willing to spread the word and get you connected with others who can help you achieve that.
In some cases, Carriers might actively pass opportunities you way, without even being asked to do so. They genuinely want to see you succeed, and are interested in your full potential being used. Often, they also become friends and mentors, and this is often a precursor to being asked for a job, rather than asking for one.
Adding Value To Your Connections
The difference between people in your network who promote you and those who don’t is found in how well you are connected. For each person in your network, answer the following questions:
- Do they like you as a person? Do you like them personally?
- Are you interested, and knowledgeable, about each others’ business?
- Do you know what they need?
- Can you ask them for a favor?
Personal attraction of any kind creates a bond, and that is essential to becoming more than just a number in the “connections” tab. But if you don’t really like them, that becomes quickly obvious. Without that interpersonal bond, you can’t really be of meaning to each other.
If you’ve got a connection, a bond, and have some common ideas and interests, you can start building “social capital” by helping them out. After all, you have to build not only credibility but also a degree of reciprocity when it comes to your actions.
Look through your network, and look at those people who put up a lot of posts. What are these about? Do they signify some sort of need or frustration you might help address? For example if one of your connections discusses their problems with change projects going wrong a lot, then see if you can help them out. You could offer a listening ear, for example, and be a neutral observer to their efforts. Perhaps you can hear a common thing that seems to go wrong, or you might find a flaw somewhere that they had not considered. Just showing interest already makes people feel closer to you, and listening to others is often the best way to be helpful as well as inspire confidence.
Perhaps you could introduce them to a change specialist or consultant in your network? Or suggest a Group where these things are discussed? Or maybe you have a particular skill in your repertoire that can help them out directly?
These efforts to help others out or give them a fresh view will give them a reason to pay you back by suggesting you to others in their network, in turn.
How To Turn Value Into A Job
People start to notice you for helping them, in ways that are consistent with your resume. A bit of free consultancy, some advice, connecting people here and there. If you have specific skills you want to market, find opportunities to offer them in use.
Those people you helped now have the double edge of being people who know you, and want to see you succeed. They also know what you can do, because they have experienced the skills that are on your resume.
These are the people that will now be thinking of you, specifically, when they see a job opening appear or when they hear of it through the grapevine. By being suggested, rather than applying yourself, you will already be a step up from the competition. At this point, those people you helped before each will do a little bit of the work of a high-price recruiter. It will feel like little effort to them (just repaying your efforts, after all) but to you that cumulative effect of all the people in your network sums up to a much improved chance at a job.
And even if you apply for one, you can ask for recommendations and support much more confidently, knowing that you have been a positive influence to these people before. You have sown goodwill, and can harvest a break at a (better) job.
Networking for a job requires doing work long before your job search goes live. If you have a job, start looking in your network for people who you have a good bond with based on interests and similarities. Help them out in their career, and build up social capital, which they will seek to repay by helping you out in turn.
Remain genuine and helpful, but do ask for help when you need it, and you will find people suggesting you for jobs, bringing opportunities to your attention much sooner, and endorsing you for proven professional skills.
In the next post on Career Networking I will look into analyzing the profiles of people in your network to support your efforts.