There’s an interesting post on the Humans of New York blog this week that pinpoints one of the biggest challenges job seekers face: networking.
The subject seems to be a struggling job seeker himself, lamenting that: “It’s hard to be taken seriously when you don’t have connections. And unfortunately, when you don’t have connections it seems like the only people you can connect with are other people who don’t have connections.”
He’s not wrong.
Creating connections, especially valuable ones, isn’t easy. But it’s becoming more and more necessary. Case in point: in a recent study from Millennial Branding and Nexxt, 71% of employers said that referral candidates get high priority when making hiring decisions.
In other words, not only do connections help you get your foot in the door, they can give you an edge once you’re there.
So, how do you become connected when you’re starting from square one? Start small. You don’t have to become a super-star networker overnight. Instead, think creatively about how you can expand your network. Here are a few ideas:
Talk to strangers. The woman behind you in line for your morning coffee or your seatmate on your flight to visit Aunt Edith might just know someone at your dream company, or at least be able to offer you some free career advice.
Put yourself out there. Let people know that you’re looking for a new opportunity. If you’re not currently employed, you can even mention it on your social networks since you don’t have an existing employer to consider. (If you are currently employed, you’ll want to be a bit more discriminating about who you tell and avoid posting online about your search.)
Use your existing network. Your network is bigger than just the people you know – it’s also the people they know, and the people they know, and so on. Get the word out to your first tier of connections and see if they know anyone who might be able to help you. If they do, ask them to make an introduction.
When the thought of building up your network gets overwhelming, keep this in mind – most people are happy to have the chance to use their knowledge and expertise to help someone out. Don’t be afraid to show interest and see what you can learn, and ultimately gain, from new contacts. And, once you’re in that position yourself, don’t forget to pay it forward!
The problem I have is that everyone I know, and the people they know are retired. Why? Because I was also. I have over 30 years in Technical Writing and Training/Development in the high technology environment. I decided to go back to work, and started a Customer Service job, only to find that the work environment was highly unprofessional, where customers complained about the background noise. I’m willing to work for less, will work more diligently and be more productive than most employees, but due to my age (78) nobody will consider me even though I’d be an extremely valuable and cost effective employee. I require no benefits.
Be sure to use all your social networks for creating connections. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Step outside your bubble and meet new people. Networking and learning through each connection you make.