When searching for a new job, there are two main ways you can approach the task. Most professionals are very familiar with a “Reactive” approach, which involves searching online job boards such as Linked In, Indeed and specific company websites and applying to positions that are posted for the general public.
While a “Reactive” search is a worthwhile activity, a “Proactive” approach should make up the majority of your strategy. In a Proactive job hunt, you actively identify the companies that you would like to work for and engage your networks to get your foot in the door, regardless of whether the company currently has openings posted online.
There are several benefits to adding a Proactive approach to your job search including: 1) increased opportunities through exposure to jobs that are not public, 2) reduced competition from other applicants since they may be unaware of these openings, and 3) the chance to negotiate a higher compensation package since there may be little to no competition.
Here are steps for adding a Proactive approach to your job search using Linked In:
1) Identify the types of companies (industries, culture, geography, size, etc.) that interest you and make a list of actual organizations that meet these criteria. Places to research include: your local Biz Journal (most major cities have one), Forbes.com (e.g., The Best Companies to Work For, etc.), Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing List, etc.
2) Use your Linked In connections to identify 1st and 2nd level contacts who are currently (or previously) employed at the companies that you are interested in targeting.
3) Reach out to your contacts to relay your interest in learning more about the company and any future openings. If you only have a 2nd level contact, ask your 1st level connection for an introduction. See “Reach Out on Linked In” for sample scripts.
4) No connections? No problem. If the company exists on Linked In (type the company name in the search bar at the top), search the profiles of current employees and try to find something in common. Perhaps you went to the same college, follow similar Thought Leaders on Linked In, or volunteered for a shared cause, etc. Use this as an entry point to introduce yourself and then see what develops.
5) Stay in touch. Networking is about cultivating a relationship over several contact points and building a mutually beneficial partnership. Approach your contacts from an exploration and curiosity standpoint. Avoid immediately pushing your resume or needs on them. Be proactive, but allow the relationship to develop. Soon you’ll be getting introductions to others inside the companies that you’re targeting. Patience and diplomatic persistence are key.
Shy about reaching out? Remember that some companies (especially smaller ones and start-ups) rely heavily on employee referrals to fill their positions, so a Proactive search may be the only way to get your foot in the door. Also, many companies reward their current employees for bringing in new talent, so you may actually be helping your contact to earn a nice bonus by asking him to pass your resume along.