Personal Connection, Relationship Building, and Networking: Different or the Same?
As a job seeker, you are most likely familiar with the term “networking,” regardless if you are looking for your first “adult” job after graduating from college or a way to enter another industry as a career changer. We hear it from everywhere: network, network, network. But is it really that important?
Networking generally means creating a web of professional connections that you can contact if the need arises. Because it’s one-sided, it’s not as effective as, for example, relationship building. Nobody wants to be contacted by a stranger or even an old friend if it’s only to ask if the company they are working for is hiring. Instead of pointlessly reaching out to people you barely know, focus on building long-term relationships.
Relationship building refers to an act of mutual exchange. This doesn’t mean you have to get on the phone and set up a personal meeting with every contact you have. It merely means that you give before you get – you ask questions, engage on other people’s social media profiles, and help your connection with something simple. Such ties, based on mutual benefit, will help you to get people to vouch for you instead of moving the resume you just sent them into their laptop’s trash can.
How does personal connection relate to networking and relationship building? You can create a personal connection with others when you are genuinely interested in them. You can also develop a personal connection with yourself when you develop a deep understanding of your values, interests, goals, and priorities. The latter is crucial as it will help you feel more confident while networking, building your personal brand online, or interviewing.
If you have been thinking, “I can’t find a job I like,” “I have chosen the wrong career” or “I need a career change, but I don’t know what to do,” your best bet is to connect with yourself first.
Do whatever it takes to gain inspiration. Meditate, listen to music, watch motivational YouTube videos, create a vision board, whatever works for you. Tell your family and friends about your intentions and ask them to support you. Only then move on to taking actions such as crafting your resume, assessing your network, and applying online.
Why is Networking so Important to Job Seekers?
Your network is your net worth. By building relevant personal connections in your current industry and beyond, you are setting yourself up not for a temporary, but long-lasting career success. As you deliberately focus on relationship building you will find potential mentors, clients, employers, colleagues and friends. And more importantly, the majority of available jobs are not advertised, because they get filled even before they are featured on job posting sites. Surveys have revealed that 70 to 85% of all roles are actually filled via networking.
To further illustrate why networking is so important to job seekers, consider these stories from Natalie, the co-founder of Digital Career Change LLC, who found her last 3 positions through networking:
“After I returned to the United States with a Master’s degree in Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology, I had a hard time getting started in my field because I had no experience, and my degree was from Spain.
All the jobs I acquired from then until now have been based on personal connections.
Here are some examples:
Experience #1 – HR Administrator job.
I was living with my brother at the time, and a few of his friends came over one evening. We were catching up, and I told them about my job search. A few weeks later, I got a message on Facebook from one of my brother’s friends telling me about a position her company was trying to fill. She asked if I would be interested in coming to her office to discuss it further. She didn’t say it was an interview necessarily, but I prepared for our meeting as if it was going to be. While I was there, she introduced me to the owner of the company, and we discussed my experience and what I could bring to the table. The interview went well, and they extended me an offer that day!
Experience #2 – Executive Recruiter job.
After working at job 1 for some time, I realized it wasn’t the best fit for me. I was living in the same city as my parents, and I told them that I wanted to look for another job. My dad bumped into one of his friends who happened to be a recruiter, and he asked her to help me find another job. I went to meet with her, and after discussing what I was looking for, she told me she thought I would be a great fit to work at their firm. She introduced me to one of the Managing Partners, and several interviews with other executives later, I was offered the position.
Experience #3 – Digital Account Manager job.
After I moved to Colorado, I was working on establishing a career transition coaching practice. One fateful summer day, a friend of mine was having a birthday barbeque, and I bumped into an old acquaintance from college. Our conversation led to him asking if I would be interested in working as an account manager as his company part-time. Two years later, I am still working with the company but now as the Director of Operations.
Ultimately, I was presented with interview opportunities based on conveying my desire to work to people I knew, and people I knew (friends, family, etc.) spreading the word about my search as well.”
Now that you understand why networking is so essential for job seekers, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Below we outlined the best networking strategies for the job search.
What are the Best Networking Strategies for the Job Search?
Create a Network Inventory
You might think that you don’t know many people, but if you check your phone contacts, add up all people you have connected with on social media, your high-school friends, etc., you will have a pretty impressive amount of connections.
To keep track of your networking efforts, we recommend putting together a network inventory. Identify people you connected with recently, and relationships that have been put on pause for a while. You can still reconnect with your old friends on social media, but remember, you have to make a genuine effort to “give before you get.”
Be Intentional in Your Search
Before you dive into messaging all of your connections announcing that you are available for the next opportunity, you have to know exactly who to contact and for what reason. Make a list of 10+ companies you would like to work for. Identify job titles you’re interested in. Search for positions on Google, Indeed, Glassdoor, and so on. Read through the job descriptions and ensure your skills match 60% of the necessary qualifications before moving to the next step.
Then, go back to your networking log and mark connections that work in your chosen industry or refer you to one of your target companies. Remember that your first-degree connections are your supporters and ambassadors, but they might not work exactly where you want to work. Nevertheless, they most likely know someone who does; this is why your second and third-degree connections are the ones who are going to get you a job.
Establish a Professional Brand
One of the best ways to build a network of relevant connections is to position yourself as an expert and develop your professional brand. You can do it on any platform, but LinkedIn is built for professional networking and, therefore, is the recommended platform.
LinkedIn is not a copy of your resume anymore. It’s an opportunity to show to potential employers who you are at and outside of work. Your professional brand is equivalent to a physical first impression, so make your LinkedIn (and other social media profiles) look professional before you start networking. If you need help with optimizing your LinkedIn profile for job search, check out this article on the Social Selling Index.
How to Effectively Use LinkedIn for Job Search Networking
One of the best ways to network for a job search is to connect with relevant professionals on LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides a fantastic opportunity to send a connection request to a stranger or acquaintance and introduce yourself, even before applying for a job. It might sound intimidating, but after getting familiar with our LinkedIn job search tips and networking templates, you will be well-equipped to make a great impression on potential employers.
- Check if you have any connections who work at your chosen companies. Engage with their content if they are active on LinkedIn, or send them a personalized message complimenting something about their profile. Then, you can also ask them if they would be willing to jump on a brief call to share what they love about working for the company.
- Follow the companies you are interested in. Engage with their content with meaningful comments/shares. Some companies also have dedicated hashtags you can follow.
- Connect with recruiters and hiring managers in your industry and build a relationship with them. Don’t strive to connect with a ton of people, remember: quality over quantity.
- Join relevant groups on LinkedIn. If you get accepted to a LinkedIn group, all of the group members become your 2nd level connections, and you can directly message them.
- Search for relevant internships and temporary unpaid opportunities to help you get your foot in the door.
- Connect with your college professors. They most likely have a vast network and will be able to recommend you.
- Connect with your peers. You will be surprised, but job opportunities might come from someone who recently got a job – there might be other positions available or become available in the near future. Some companies ask for referrals from their new employees because good people usually know good people.
To summarize, you can find countless tips on effectively using LinkedIn for job search networking. But regardless of what you find, you have to remember that authentic personal connections will eventually get you multiple job offers, and transactional relationships will waste your time and others’.
3 Effective Email Templates for Networking
First, it’s important to note that we do not recommend using a mass-send method for networking. Especially if it’s the first interaction you’ve ever had with someone. You only have one opportunity to make a good impression, so do not be sloppy. Instead, use your networking log to select several people in your industry that you want to build relationships with, and stick to it. You will know when you feel like a relationship has been established.
Job seeking can be a full-time job on its own. To help you on your journey and provide you with some guidance, we’ve put together 3 email or direct message templates that you can modify to fit your industry/style:
First-level connection (you know them personally)
I saw your Instagram pictures from your recent hike. Looks like so much fun!
Have you been getting out of the house often lately?
I am searching for a new job currently, looking for an [position] in [industry], would you happen to have anyone in your network who works in the industry?
I would really appreciate it if you could think of someone you might know.”
Warm connection (if you were referred to them by someone or have common personal connections)
Thank you for accepting my connection request.
I noticed that you are connected to Bob. We went to high school together years ago (insert anecdote if appropriate).
I noticed that you’ve been in the [industry] for 5+ years and wondered what it is that you like about it?”
Cold email (you’ve engaged with their content before but did not have personal interaction):
I recently came across an article/post you published on LinkedIn about XYZ, and I got a lot of value from it [specify what you liked about the article/post].
I am currently [your goals], and I am curious about what it’s like to work as [their position].
Would you have 15 minutes to chat over the phone this week about what you love about your current role?”
Remember, you have to invest before you gain a return on investment. You have to give attention to get attention and genuinely want to connect with professionals in your industry and get to know them.
Looking for Further Guidance?
Searching for a job can be convoluted and frustrating, whether you’re fresh out of college, an industry veteran, or trying to transition from one industry to another. To get to the place where your dreams become a reality, it’s essential to develop a strategic plan that will drive your objectives and deliver sustainable results. If you are a service worker looking to transition into the digital workforce, we have created the Digital Career Change eBook, which offers a unique framework to help career changers step into the digital workplace and succeed. The Digital Career Change eBook is an easy-to-use toolkit to help you craft your own path to your desired career with confidence. Strategies, tools, and support are all included!