There’s a hidden power in your network, but it will remain latent unless you know how to leverage it.
Networks are a jobseeker’s secret weapon. As much as 80% of jobs are filled due to a network connection – this isn’t to say that four out of five jobs are unadvertised, but that someone in your network is somehow involved. Perhaps one of your connections spotted a job ad, thought of you, recognized a great potential match, and forwarded you a link. In other cases, someone you know in a target company may put in a good word for you, greatly increasing your chances of success as a candidate.
Before we share some advice on how to work your network, let’s start with a couple of mistakes to avoid.
Don’t just collect connections
Digital transformation experts often preach about the mistake many organizations make in collecting gigabytes of data but failing to put this information to work. Similarly, there’s little point in collecting thousands of network connections (or 100,000+ in the case of The Most Connected Person on LinkedIn) if you are simply connecting with people and never interacting with them again.
It comes down to quality versus quantity. A quality network of 50 highly engaged people who communicate and help each other is infinitely more valuable than a sprawling network of 1000 uncommunicative strangers.
Don’t only reach out to your network when you need something
A network is a fantastic resource in an emergency such as when you unexpectedly lose your job and need help finding another.
But don’t make the mistake of failing to reach out to your network until you urgently need something. This is like a long-lost relative turning up at your house after 20 years and immediately asking for money.
Instead, getting into the positive habit of helping others as often as possible will help seed the ground for the day when you may need to ask your network for assistance.
Look for opportunities to help others
What do you do with a relationship once you’ve made a new connection? You find ways to help them.
Following someone on LinkedIn will often be enough to give you a basic idea of what they do and the kinds of challenges they face. This can provide you with enough information to be helpful – for example, by introducing two people or by sharing articles that might interest them.
But to really help someone, you will need more information about what drives them; their passions, the challenges they are currently facing, and their career aspirations. Often, the only way to gain this information is to meet up and have a genuine conversation.
There simply isn’t time to squeeze in a dozen coffee dates every week, which is why you need to be strategic in thinking about the people in your network to get closest to.
To use a concept procurement people are highly familiar with, consider applying the Pareto Principle to your network: you are likely to get 80% of the value out of 20% of your relationships.
It’s okay to be a bit selfish when you think about who belongs to this group – they should be people who can help boost your career, make valuable introductions, or provide you with advice. Cultivate these high-value relationships, make the time for genuine conversations, and listen carefully to the information they share with you. You may not come up with a way to help someone straight away, but the more you know about someone’s challenges, the more value you can bring.
And, of course, it works in both directions. The more you share, the more others will be able to find ways to help you. Be open and honest, but don’t expect immediate results – it may be months down the track until someone in your network has that “aha!” moment and finds a way to help boost your career. And if you’ve already found a way to assist them, they’ll be even more motivated to reciprocate.
Get started today by making a list of three to five high-value network connections then reach out to arrange a chat. Yes, networking takes commitment, but always keep in mind that investing time and effort in your network is a direct investment in your career journey.