Your professional network will be instrumental to finding success as a job seeker. In fact, it’s such common advice that I wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted to tune me out right now.
You’ve probably heard this step before. Something like 70% of job openings are never advertised publicly. They’re filled through word-of-mouth, but bear with me, because I’m not just going to spout the same age old wisdom in this video. Instead you’ll get several concrete steps to engage your professional network as a key part of your job search. There are two tricky pieces to networking when you’ve been laid off. The first is how to actually use your network to your advantage without feeling like you’re abusing your relationships.
The second is trying to tell people that you’re searching, getting the word out about yourself. We’re going to tackle both of these with specific actionable tips. Thankfully, using your professional network as part of a job search doesn’t mean begging people to help you get hired. There are so many things that the people in your network can help you with. Things like informational interviews about their company, department, or job, resume and cover letter advice and reviews, and advice on where to search for jobs and how long your job search might take, connecting to people in your network who might be able to help you, and mock interviews to help you shake off the interview dust.
I want to emphasize a really important point. Professional networking is all about reciprocal relationships. When you’re asking people to help, you should also be offering to help each person if they should need it. So, how do you tell your network that you’re job searching? After all, you’ve been laid off, and having a conversation about that doesn’t sound like any fun. E-mail is the best way to handle your initial outreach, and then from there, you’ll schedule phone calls or in-person meetings. First, start with the people you know really well, the ones that you’re comfortable with. Ask them for specific help, such as their top two or three pieces of job search advice, to connect you with people they know at a specific company, or to review your resume and online profiles. A bit of humor about your current situation can help set the tone for your interactions, and let that person know that you’re in the right frame of mind to be successful. For people in your network who you don’t know well enough to crack a joke with, your goal should be a short and to-the-point message. You might need to remind them of where you’ve met them before, then, tell them you’d really value a bit of their help.
Again, be specific about what you’re asking them so they know how to respond to you. There’s really no need to dwell on your layoff.
What matters now is showing them that you’re feeling ready to tackle a job search. Your confidence will make them more confident about helping you. Before we’re done, let’s talk about when to contact the people in your network.
This really depends on how well you know each person, and what you’d like to ask them. For some folks, having their support and input will be helpful right from the start of your job search, but for others, you might not contact them until you find a job opening at their company and want their insight, so evaluate each person before you reach out. Most job seekers can pretty easily draw the line between their first line of contacts, and the ones that should wait until later.
To recap, first think about the best ways your network can help you, so you’ll know what you’re going to ask people. Then, craft a plan to contact the people in your network starting with the ones you know really well and can be fairly casual with. This part is all about building confidence to take that next step, reaching out to contacts you don’t know very well with a specific request, and don’t forget to offer your help along the way.