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A Fresh Perspective on Networking: Life as the Greatest Teacher of All

Reach out and touch. It's always been the best way to find a job. Isolation may just be the silver lining.

Understanding the power of human connectivity has never seemed clearer than during the events of the past few weeks. Countless articles, books and podcasts have addressed the power of our relationships in context of the job hunt. However, no lesson on networking may prove to resonate more than the one learned by our current state of isolation. Mandates imposed on social distancing evoke a more visceral response for our desire to connect with others. Let’s re-examine how to build relationships in a virtual way now to sharpen our skills and meet one-on-one when the real world is again open for business.   

Empirical evidence has long supported the fact that networking is the most effective way of finding a job. At a success rate of approximately 60% of job landings resulting from networking, it is difficult to argue the point. So, why aren’t more people turning to networking in their search?  Job seekers sometimes make decisions based on expediency over effectiveness. After all, ease of entry into the job market is as simple as submitting an online application. You get both a sense of accomplishment as well as positive energy by throwing your hat in the ring.    

There is always a chance of getting that call from HR and obviously some people do get hired using that method. Use your resources wisely and spend more time throwing the net out to your connections. Continue to apply online, but don’t limit your search to that single source of jobs.  

Could the “Stay at Home Order” be the Silver Lining?

People need people. The world events of late prove we are social beings and truly thrive only when there is human touch. One or two weeks into isolation may have provided the Aha! moment when job seekers no longer struggle to understand or accept the need for networking.

The basic tenets of networking are in plain sight as we observe current events shaping our relationships with each other in a new way. Transform these life lessons into job search strategies and keep the momentum going by applying these principles.

Build A Strong Foundation  

Start establishing the network by contacting your first-degree connections. This group represents those with whom you share a deep, personal bond. The best example of a member of your inner circle is someone who sees your name on caller ID and is eager to pick up the phone to talk. Start with them and grow the circle by asking for introductions to four or five of their friends or colleagues in the same industry, within a similar discipline or who are generally great influencers.

Follow the Principle of Reciprocity    

Networking starts by asking for help. Anyone who takes great pride in self-reliance will find seeking assistance difficult to do. You can lighten your load by planning to pay it back or pay it forward.

  • Promptly answer emails when asked for assistance related to job search, job advice, or introductions
  •  Don’t wait to be asked to help. If you are aware of a colleague looking for a job, initiate the call and offer your assistance.
  • Accept invitations to connect on LinkedIn from colleagues. Take it to the next level. Offer to make introductions to anyone they see in your network who may be valuable in their search.

It’s Equal Parts of What You Know and Who You Know

You must have the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to be considered, but understand your competition probably has a similar skill set. How will you be noticed in a crowded field of qualified candidates?   

Never underestimate the value of your social capital. Take inventory of your people assets and optimize the leverage they can offer in apprising you of opportunities or getting your foot in the door. If you’ve maintained relations with family, friends and colleagues, it will be easy to call on them for assistance.

How to keep in touch? It’s easier than you might imagine. Depending upon the geographic radius of your circle, options include meeting for breakfast or lunch, occasional phone calls if limited by location, or simply by acknowledging a birthday, work anniversary or job change. Send a private message through LinkedIn and refrain from simply clicking on one of the programmed responses (e.g. “thumbs up emoji, “Congratulations”, etc.) Personalize the message and demonstrate your connection is thoughtful and authentic.

Increase the Odds with, Rather than Eliminate the Use of Online Applications  

If you’re still tempted to revert to the comfortable but less effective method of applying online, make sure to approach this option with realistic expectations.  Start by increasing the odds when using online applications.   

Applicant Tracking (Trapping?) Systems can sometimes feel like systems designed to build barriers more than screen resumes. Job seekers consider these systems the bane of their existence as they attempt to navigate the hurdles, outfox the algorithms and position their resumes to the top of the pile.  

There are over 200 ATS systems on the market, representing a divergent set of formatting protocols. Complicating matters further is the programming done by individual employers to establish their selection criteria. You won’t necessarily know what their knockout factors are  and they’ll vary from one employer to the next. In fact, over 75% of resumes don’t proceed to the next round due to formatting and key word filters. Here are a few ways to more effectively apply online.

Face the ATS Challenge

Use online job application tools available to address the wording and formatting challenges posed with an ATS. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Jobscan- optimizes your resume’s key words
  • TheProfessional.Me- conducts a resume gap analysis  
  • WordCounter- improves word choice and writing style
  • Resunate- tailors and optimizes resumes to a specific job
  • RezScore- grades resumes as a match to jobs
  • Wordle- word cloud generator that identifies frequently used terms to match to a desired position  

Optimize the Power of Employee Referrals in Tandem with On-Line Applications

Another way to jump the line and deal with the ATS as gatekeeper is to take advantage of any available employee referral opportunities. Here are a few steps to optimize the process:

  • Contact your colleague and confirm their interest in supporting you as a candidate.
  • The company may have an incentive program for employee referrals. Make sure you know how it works. Some organizations will only pay the referring employee if you have specifically named them on the application.
  • HR will likely approach the referring employee to vet their knowledge of your experience, character, etc. The closer your connection to the referring employee, the stronger their recommendation will be.

The profound effect of our loss of touch is being felt on a global scale. In the current world of social distancing, people are seeking ways to keep human connections intact-by way of videoconferencing, Facetime, texting and calling. There is a great opportunity now to make or strengthen connections. With many in the workforce operating remotely, chances are better than ever to reach people who are free of the time constraints associated with commuting. We’re all in this together unlike any other time in history.  Reach out and touch…you just may find an empathetic ear.

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