08/27/2019 Rachel Levy, Career Coach, Amy Cell Talent opportunity-seekers
On Connecting, Not Networking

We regularly work with jobseekers that are subject matter experts, experienced professionals, and academic all-stars. They have deep experience, unique skills, and loads of talent to offer their next employer. And yet, many worry about the prospect of a job search and shudder at the idea of networking. They have read articles telling them that jobseekers must network but they feel wholly unprepared for the process. Their concerns include bothering colleagues, seeming pushy, or not following some job seeker protocol. Other jobseekers struggle to come up with a list of people to contact within their field or larger community. Some have been so focused on their work that they don’t actively make connections on LinkedIn. Others, despite having managed large teams, have only a few connections, providing them a strong group of people they know well but leaving them without the critical ties to acquaintances that often help jobseekers find new opportunities.

One of the first things our career coaching team assures its clients is that networking doesn’t have to be a painful experience, either for the jobseeker or the contact. Jobseekers can’t simply walk up to someone and say “Hi, nice to meet you. I am looking for a job.” Many of our clients have been on the receiving end of these introductions and know that this experience makes the listener’s defense mechanisms flash on. 

For this reason, our team asks clients to think of networking as more of an opportunity to learn and connect with others. We ask clients to put aside ideas of aggressive business card trading, cold calling, and pushing resumes in front of unsuspecting colleagues. (Despite this caveat, printing a simple business card does make it easier to share your contact information and request your prospect’s contact information as well.)  Instead, we ask them to consider how they can help people in their network and learn from them. Could they offer to help a nonprofit or growing business with a project? Could they call a former mentee to ask about their work at a startup and learn about its culture? Could they message a member of a mutual alumni group for ideas about their industry? Could they write an informational post for LinkedIn that would help colleagues? Could an industry veteran recommend a useful blog or upcoming meeting?

“These real moments of connection are what make networking such an effective part of the job search process. Learning from others in your industry, hearing about current issues, and finding ways you can create new solutions have a longer-term impact than just a single job search,” says Senior Career Coach, Michelle Galbraith. “You’re creating connections that have benefits well beyond the period when you’re looking for a new job.”

By thinking of the people that you know as members of your team who can identify where your skills are needed, you too can lower the discomfort of networking. With an emphasis on connecting over relevant, mutual interests rather than meeting as many people as possible, networking can become an enriching experience for both jobseeker and those they know or hope to know. “Highlighting how you are the solution to a business challenge, rather than putting your career goals at the center of your introduction, you’ll be more able to build advocates within your network,” suggests Galbraith. Following your conversations with thank you emails, including links to any relevant information discussed, plus an invitation to connect on LinkedIn helps to reinforce your new connections or to reintroduce yourself to members of your extended network. 

When our career coaching team ask clients to describe how their skills would benefit a specific organization, company, or city, they’re more comfortable describing their ideas to improve processes, build customer experience, or extend the company’s reach. This is a familiar footing for people committed to building products, processes, and organizations. It’s also a more authentic way to connect with those that you meet.

Our team is delighted to offer a new opportunity for jobseekers to connect, build confidence for networking, and help similarly situated professionals at Career Connections and Coffee, September 17th. To learn more about working with an Amy Cell Talent career coach to develop your job search strategy, please visit our Career Coaching & Job Search Assistance webpage.   

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