It can be daunting in a job search when the advice you’re given over and over is to “go network.” What does that even mean and how the heck do you get started?
Since the verb “network” is so frequently tied to a job search, its true meaning has become muddied, and the word itself has a negative connotation. Networking can feel ambiguous and intimidating because many imagine that it means seeking out some inaccessible group of super-connected professionals who have available jobs falling out of their pockets.
At it’s most basic definition, a network is a group of people with whom you have a relationship, with “relationship” being the key word. Your current network may consist of your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and classmates. So, the good news is that everyone already has a network. What you may need to do is E-X-P-A-N-D it to include new people who may be connected to the job opportunities that you are seeking, which somehow feels less daunting than starting from scratch.
The best way to do it? Engage your 2nd level contacts. Your 2nd level contacts are those trusted resources in your contacts’ network who are not already in your network (e.g., your colleague’s neighbor, your best friend’s cousin, your Dentist’s spouse, etc.). If you have a strong relationship with someone, chances are they would be willing to introduce you to their contacts, which in turn significantly expands your network.
Linked In is one simple way to find your 2nd level contacts because you can easily search the system for the 2nd degree connections of your 1st degree connections (or click on one of your contact’s profiles and view who they have in their network).
Once you’ve done your homework and have a clear job target, ask your current network (1st level connections) for an introduction to someone in their contact list (your 2nd level connections). Linked In makes it simple, but you can also ask directly or via email:
Hi Jenn, How’s the new promotion working out? Things are going well at Acme Company, however, after 6 years it’s time to start considering other options. XYZ, Inc. is a company I’m pursuing and through my research on Linked In, I noticed you’re connected to Carol Kasse who works in HR there. Would you be willing to make an introduction? I would love to learn more about XYZ and gain insight into the culture. Much thanks and hope that your summer is going well!
And there you have it! Your network will continue to expand with each new person you reach out to, and soon you’ll be connected to the person who can help you land your dream job!