8.0   Introduction: Networking to Your Perfect Job

Networking to Your Perfect Job

The key strategy you are going to employ to find a job is to network and go out and conduct informational interviews.  That is how it works.  This is by far the best way to find out about jobs and to get connected to the job you want!

Yes,  you want to look for jobs that are posted or advertised.  

But you need to know that 80% of the jobs out there are never posted.  Some people call it the "hidden job market."   And the fact is that people who go direct and have a conversation with someone are the ones who find the jobs!

The most important tools you need for finding a job are information and contacts:
  • You gather information by using published sources.
  • You gather more critical and timely information through informational interviews.
  • You use your network of contacts to find and get connected with people to interview.
  • You get the people you interview to give you more contacts. 
Informational interviewing is a tool used by job seekers to help get inside companies to find out about what really goes on in various fields, and to explore career options and opportunities with the people who really know.

The people you interview are the ones who really know what jobs are available and what the immediate hiring trends are.  They know who you should talk to and where you should look.

The important thing to keep in mind is that if you ask someone if they have a job,  they're probably going to say "no."  That's the end of the conversation.  Their response is usually going to be different if they know that you're just looking for information:  you want to learn from them,  you're not expecting them to give you anything,  all they have to do is share their knowledge and their expertise.

When you ask someone to spend a bit of time speaking with you,  they are also more likely to say "yes" and let you in the door if you can say:  "this is who told me I should speak with you."  It's always easy for someone to blow off a complete stranger.   People are usually going to be more helpful when you can tell them who sent you and how you are connected.

Everyone who takes my career planning class is required to interview someone who is doing something related to their career interests.  Here is how it worked for one of my students:
The student was an intern at a huge federal agency.  For his class assignment,  he decided he would just interview his supervisor.  That was a contact he already had.   His supervisor shared information about his career and all the different assignments he has had over the course of his career.  It was exactly the type of information the student needed to think about his own career options,  the type of information you can't just get out of a book or off the web.  And then,  he told the student that his wife was an engineer in a private consulting firm here in Sacramento.  He said that he would be happy to connect him with her to explore job opportunities in her firm
What my student learned is that this is an amazingly interconnected world. When you explore your options with one person, you not only learn about their career path but you also get access to their network.

Informational interviewing can also be used prior to an interview to help you understand the position requirements and the company’s expectations.   When you interview, you won’t know the answers you need to give unless you have gathered that information in advance.  

One way to approach a contact is to say: "I will be interviewing for a position with your organization next week and I want to get as much information about the organization as I can before my actual interview."

If you are just exploring your options, all you have to do is call someone you know who is employed in your field of choice and ask to speak with them about their career.
If you don't know someone, ask everyone you know, family, friends, people you meet, or your professors for a name of a contact  in your field. I have coached a bazillion people through this process. The reality is that "who you know" is what will lead you to a job. The object of the game is to get information and to make connections.

When you call to ask for an appointment, be sure to explain that you are exploring your options and that you are a student, a recent graduate or someone who is thinking about making a career change.

Next, tell them who referred you, and that you just want a 20 minute appointment. Be sure to meet with them on site, not on the phone. You will get so much more information and you will forge a much tighter relationship for future hiring possibilities.  

People are impressed when someone takes the time to come in and ask questions.There are dozens of questions you may want answered, but think about them carefully before you arrive at your interview.

Write your questions down just in case you get nervous,  but try not to act like you are interrogating the person. Even though you will have a list of questions, you want to let the conversation flow. You don’t want it to appear like you are a rigid survey taker with a preset script. Be sensitive to the time constraints of the person you are talking with and remember you asked for just 20 minutes.  

The main questions you want to ask your contact is what they do, what is required to be successful in the field, and what advice they would give to someone considering a career in their field or a job with their company. If you decide that you are interested in their organization, be sure to ask about the best way to get in. You also want to ask if they can recommend other people for you to talk with to gather more information.

Never stop informational interviewing. Find as many people as you can to talk to. Do it formally, do it informally... You will find that it either gets you to a better place or helps you realize you are already where you want to be!

And remember, this is definitely a situation in which you will want to send a thank you note later!