10 Networking Mistakes Most Job Seekers Are Still Making

I’ve followed thousands of job seekers and one of the biggest sticking points for them tends to be their mistakenetworking strategy. Some people hate the process and find it incredibly daunting; others embrace it but can still get frustrated when things don’t move as quickly as they hoped. Here are the top 10 networking mistakes I see most people make and how to course correct for a smoother search.

  1. Asking if anyone is hiring. Most people you talk to won’t know of a job that is right for you that is available right now. So if you ask them if they know of any open jobs and they don’t, you are unlikely to secure a conversation with them. A better strategy is to tell them you have no reason to believe they know of anyone who is hiring right now, but wanted to talk to them because you are interested in learning more about a particular job role, industry, or company that they have knowledge of. By changing the expectation of the conversation, you increase the likelihood of engaging in a meaningful conversation with the contact, telling them more about yourself and your capabilities, and asking if there is anyone else you should talk to. Successful networkers leverage the relationships they have to gain new introductions to people who can help them in their search. By repeating this conversation with many people in your professional and social circles, you will eventually gain an introduction to someone who is actually hiring for a position that is right for you.
  2. Asking for the name of the HR Manager. Many people think that the HR Manager or internal recruiter is the decision maker for all positions posted within an organization. But in actuality, these people are gate keepers and part of their role is to screen people out of the hiring process. Rather than ask for a contact in HR, ask your network if they can introduce you to someone who works in the department you are interested in, preferably the person who would be your boss or your boss’ boss if you were working there. If that doesn’t work, ask for introductions to others in the company who may be willing to introduce you to someone closer to the department you are interested in. Just because you are a marketing guy doesn’t mean someone in accounting who knows someone in sales can’t introduce you to someone in the marketing group.
  3. Assuming you can only get hired when there is an open job. Smart managers are always on the lookout for talent. If you can build and nurture relationships with the people who will value your talent before there is an open job, you are much more likely to remain top-of-mind with them when an opportunity becomes available. Additionally, many hiring managers who spot talent are willing to create a position for the right person to secure their placement on the team.
  4. Reaching out to people on LinkedIn you don’t know. While it’s true that LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for networking, it generally doesn’t work well unless you’ve warmed up the leads you have there. Reaching out to someone you don’t know and expecting a response is almost as effective as opening up the phone book, picking someone at random, calling them, and asking them to meet with you. A better strategy is to find the person you want to meet and view the “get introduced” feature on LinkedIn to see who is one or two degrees away from you and that connection and ask for an introduction that way.
  5. Expecting too much too soon. If you are in the process of building a relationship with someone, you will need to build it authentically first before expecting that person to help you. Think of ways to give to your network first; engage on LinkedIn by following their feeds, liking, commenting, or sharing their status or agreeing to introduce them to people they would like to meet. Just because you met someone at a recent event or connected to them on LinkedIn doesn’t mean they are ready to share their contact list with you.
  6. Assuming if someone doesn’t respond right away they never will. During a job search, waiting for someone to respond to an email or a phone call can feel like an eternity. When a response does not come right away many job seekers become anxious or even depressed and take the lack of a response personally. Get used to the fact that you may not be the first thing on your contact’s “to-do” list. Let the initial request to speak sit for a few days before sending a follow up. And in the meantime, try to source others who may be able to help you with your search. Often those initial contacts circle back a week or two later and profusely apologize for not responding to you more promptly.
  7. Assuming the people who know you best will be the most likely to help you. This is rarely the case. It’s unlikely that you will find your next job through your old boss, sibling, or spouse. And you might find that the expectations you have for these people helping you hardly resemble what they are able to do. You are more likely to find your next job through your sister’s friend’s boss’ neighbor than you are from your direct contact. It’s just the nature of networking and the web of contacts. You have to talk to a lot of people to find the one who can ultimately help you.
  8. Thinking LinkedIn job postings are more effective than job boards. While it’s true that LinkedIn shows users who they know at a company where a job is posted, it’s still challenging to land a job this way. Like job boards, positions posted on LinkedIn are part of the open market; the listings that everyone gets to see. When you network you are sourcing leads through what’s called the hidden job market; the positions that are filled word-of-mouth and possibly never listed. Your odds of landing a position are much greater when you are one of a few candidates being considered than when you are one of hundreds being considered.
  9. Assuming only people in your professional network can help you land a job. Many people think that if a person is not in their field they have limited value helping them find a job. Most people use LinkedIn as their primary method for staying in touch with connections. Few explore their Facebook contacts but in fact the people you know on Facebook may be stronger affinities than those you know on LinkedIn. You can search Facebook for people who work at certain companies or hold certain roles much the same way you can on LinkedIn. You may find out that you have friends who have other friends or friends of friends who are connected to the very decision makers you are trying to meet.
  10. Giving up. Networking is a lot of work. There are a lot of dead ends; people who will never return your calls, won’t share contacts, will tell you they will help you but don’t…Job search includes a lot of rejection and requires a thick skin. You will learn a lot about people during a search. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince. But you will also meet a lot of amazing people, build new friendships, and receive help from people you never expected to be able or willing to help you at all. Keep at it. Job search is a temporary situation. When the process is completed, you will emerge as a stronger, more self-aware, and more empathic person. And hopefully you will be able to “pay it forward” to others who find themselves in a job search down the line.

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