One inevitable aspect of the search? Interacting and engaging with connections—extending your network to tap into the hidden job market. Sudy Bharadwaj is the co-founder and chief executive officer of JackalopeJobs.com, which allows you to log in with your favorite social network and learn which of your connections work in companies that interest you. He has seen many job-seekers benefit from carefully accessing their extended network.
Here are Bharadwaj's nine suggestions for successfully networking your way to a job:
1. Connect with your network before you apply for positions. Even if you identify jobs via boards or postings, touch base with connections before applying directly. Many organizations prioritize applicants referred by employees. Some companies even give bonuses to employees who suggest candidates who are hired, so some networking contacts may have a financial incentive to pass along your information. Don't be shy about reaching out and asking for a hand.
2. Rotate your thinking. Bharadwaj suggests: "Instead of finding jobs and focusing on connections in those companies, consider targeting your connections first and investigating who among them may be able to provide a link to a potential opportunity."
To be successful, it's important to know what you want and to be able to articulate how you can help an organization solve its problems. Once you know what you offer and how it relates to companies where you want to work, it will be much easier to leverage your network of contacts who can help you land jobs successfully.
3. Encourage your network by making it easy for them to help you. Bharadwaj reminds job-seekers: "Your connections are busy—aren't we all? It's up to the job-seeker to be specific when asking for a connection. Forward the job description and information about your background and skills. Tell the contact exactly how he or she can help you."
4. Be concise and offer easy access to your information. It's likely your contacts will access your information or email inquiry via their smart phones. Include all key points in the body of your email, such as links to online social resumes or your LinkedIn profile, instead of asking them to download and view your resume.
5. Go wide. Spread out your inquiries; try not to ask one person for too many things. Most people will want to help, but if it seems you are knocking on their door every week, the welcome will wear out quickly.
6. Don't go too deep. Even though social networks allow easy access to distant contacts of contacts, you should focus your interactions on contacts who know you well. Bharadwaj explains, "Unless a connection is very close to you, don't bog them down with numerous requests. Your first-degree contacts are the ones most likely to go the extra mile for you."
7. Limit time requests. Unless you are already good friends with your contact, "Don't ask to meet for lunch or dinner, since it seems like a big time commitment," Bharadwaj says. "Instead, when asking for in-person meetings, offer to bring coffee to the office or to meet at another convenient location for a 15- to 30-minute coffee break."
8. Be patient. Don't give up on a connection if the first targeted job opening doesn't work out. Keep in mind, if a contact believes in you, and future opportunities at the company are good fits, you may be successful connecting with a job that isn't advertised yet. "We have seen successful job-seekers who do not get job No. 1, No. 2, or even No. 3, but whose networking enabled a relationship with a new connection that led them to landing job No.4."
9. Keep track and follow up. No one likes to feel used; be sure to follow up with contacts who help you and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Send a note or an email to let people know where you are in your search, and whom you've met per their recommendations. Send notes, links to articles they may appreciate, and touch base even when you don't need anything. When you do, you'll create relationships that extend beyond your immediate job search needs.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.