Have you thought of the company or position you want in the future? Or now? Opportunities don’t create themselves, so I’m going to tell you how to create your career opportunities.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know; it’s whom you know.” This is especially true with career transitions. Unfortunately, there aren’t many classes in school about how to properly network.
Employers want to hire someone that:
- Has the ability to do the job
- Will be a good fit for the team
- Comes recommended by a trusted, 3rd party
It’s easy to find someone who has the ability to do a given job. There’s plenty of talent to go around in our industry. It’s difficult for an inexperienced hiring manager, however, to get a good feel for whether or not a candidate will be a good personality fit from just an interview or two. (It’s just too easy to put on an act for a couple of hours during an interview.)
So, a recommendation, and the strength of that recommendation, will often sway a manager towards a candidate, because that alleviates the fear of someone ending up being a poor fit, and allows him or her to bypass the stack of resumes.
The obvious answer here is you should just happen to know someone within the company that would be able to give a trusted recommendation to the hiring manager. And sometimes, you happen to be that lucky.
What if you aren’t that lucky?
Your most powerful tool is your LinkedIn profile. Search for a company on LinkedIn, and it will suggest with whom you’re already connected who work for the company. Do you have any close friends or 1st
-level connections there? Get in contact (email or call is preferred, but if you aren’t that close, then use an inmail.)
Let’s say you don’t have any connections in the company. Now is where you get a bit of luck on your side. Start sending out LinkedIn invitations to those in the department of your desired role in your target company. Also send out invites to those with your same skill set. (They’ll be more likely to accept your connection if you’ve got something in common.) Once you’re 1st-level connections, email or Inmail them.
Don’t underestimate the value of LinkedIn groups either. If those with whom you want to network are members of groups, it gives you something in common, which makes them more likely to accept your invitation. Also, the more active you are on LinkedIn groups, the higher you show up in searches. Show up in searches, and recruiters will be hitting you up.
What about if you’re ashamed of your LinkedIn profile, or don’t have one? This gets a little tougher, and requires old-school networking. Call or email friends or colleagues that may have a connection within the company. Offline networking is always important, and you need to always be involved. You don’t want to be the guy who only shows up when he needs something.
Make sure to keep a current LinkedIn profile, though, because potential employers will compare with your resume.
What Do I Say?
If you ask someone who doesn’t know you to put in a good word, it will most likely backfire. Even someone you know decently well doesn’t want the burden of going out of their way to endorse you. There’s always a risk of it reflecting poorly on them.
Instead, I suggest something along these lines: “I’m interested in a position that X COMPANY has open, and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind telling me a bit about what you like and don’t like about working there. Also, would you be willing to make an introduction with the hiring manager or recruiter?”
This removes a lot of the perceived risk, and most will be happy to provide their opinions and viewpoint. Once you’ve spoken and built a relationship, more often than not, the person will end up putting in a great word for you. While building a relationship, your skills and competence will naturally come out, leading to a pretty natural recommendation when they make an introduction.
While dealing with a recruiter, you could also ask which other positions they are looking to fill. They would be grateful to have help finding qualified applicants. That favor could bode well for how far the recruiter is willing to push you as a candidate.
Do you have any tips I haven’t covered? Share them in the comments!