A Quintessential Careers Special 15th Anniversary Report
How does a person continually network and job search even when employed with a demanding, full-time job?
Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
We invited 15 of the top career and job-search experts — our Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds — to share their advice with our readers as part of our 15th anniversary. This question is just one of several, which you can find here: Expert Job-Search Answers and Advice from Career Experts.
Best Methods for Networking and Job Searching When Employed
Your career is as valuable as your job. Treat it that way.
Do you know that most working people give less than 5 percent of their time (far less!) to nurturing and building their careers? Can you imagine running a company and spending only 5 percent of your time doing it? Think you’d be successful?
Paradigm shift here, please! Your career IS your company… whether you are a CEO, a custodian, or a college freshman, YOU are job number one. You are the CEO of Company YOU. It’s time to run your company.
But that’s tough when you are already working for another company. If you’re one of the fortunate workers who are employed, you know that today most organizations expect massive effort (and often expect long hours, too). Yet, even in that environment, you can develop and execute a workable strategy to become known in your field, to become the hunted, not the hunter, to become that most delicious of all career entities — the recruited passive candidate.
Here are three simple steps to becoming a “visible, viable, and valuable” go-to expert and CEO of Company You, while still delivering the value and hours required at your job:
- Create a branded social-media strategy. Becoming known as an expert in your field has never been easier with the now-standard trinity of tools: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you’re reluctant, get over it. Don’t wait to become an expert at social media; you’ll learn by doing. Dip a toe (or toes) in the water first before you jump in, but do it. Choose an area of focus, define your brand, choose your tools — not too many; keep it sustainable — and start building a following. There are numerous books and articles about how to do this. Decide how much time you are willing to give it, craft a schedule, and stick to it. Companies have media plans… this is yours. If you’re afraid that you’ll be “found out,” check out whom from your company is on LinkedIn — you’ll likely find your boss!
- Give to give. You will get. Whether you do it by networking, social media, community service, association volunteerism, writing a LinkedIn endorsement for a colleague, staying late to help finish a project, or in myriad other ways — GIVE. It doesn’t have to use up precious hours’and often these activities are as good for your company as they are for you — they help solidify your position and stature.
Give of knowledge, information, resources, support, time (I know that’s a tough one!). Give a shoulder, lend a hand, share a word of understanding. Do it without thought of return. Purity of intention is rare and appealing in our “it’s all about me” society. Ironically, pure giving builds a bank account of good will, of capital that can be withdrawn when you need a favor, information, an introduction. Start to build your account now, so your funds are available for that rainy day when you need them. Bonus? It feels GOOD.
- Don’t job search. Career build. If you do number one and number two, job search is the last thing you’ll be thinking about. Ideally, you won’t need to. Because the main job-drivers — your branded presence and your network will be robust, sustainable, and build your career. You will attract appropriate opportunities. You will confidently decline “off-brand” opportunities that may be proffered to you by recruiters and contacts. You’ll know the difference between a job and a career move and you’ll not be forced into a job you don’t want. Even in today’s really tough economy, career building via social media and “give to get” networking gives you the best shot at the opportunities that many job-seekers will be pursuing and that top-talent will clamor to. You’ll have an edge… and today you need one!
Finding time to up that 5 percent to a better number isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Be CEO of Company YOU. Prioritize, plan, and act. Make it happen!
— Deb Dib
Automate your networking. You know how all the financial gurus tell you to put your savings on autopilot by doing direct deposit every month? Do the same thing with your on-line social networking. Get your profile up and make sure it clearly indicates who you are and what you are looking for. Then, plan to spend half an hour a week (really) on LinkedIn, answering questions, participating in discussion, updating your profile, connecting people with each other.
Also, GO TO NETWORKING EVENTS, but here’s the secret — go on behalf of your company. Talk to your HR or recruiting department and find out if they need volunteers to go to professional events. For many people, this startegy takes all the stress out of attending — after all, you are there to recruit!
— Maureen Crawford Hentz
Looking for a job is a full-time job itself. When you already have a full-time job, it’s even more important to leverage social-networking tools. When used well, social networks allow you to demonstrate your skills, connect with new contacts, and interact with influencers in your field. You can accomplish many of your goals working from home in your pajamas at all hours of the day and night. (There’s no need to take an afternoon off of work to engage via Twitter or to answer questions on LinkedIn.) Learning how to be efficient and understanding how to navigate the various networks will help you land a job faster.
In my book, Social Networking for Career Success, I provide a lot of tips and resources to help job-seekers use their online time well. If you have an engaging and magnetic online presence, it’s possible to attract opportunities to you — even when you are busy at your current job.
— Miriam Salpeter
It’s a misconception that networking is only done when you’re looking for work. Networking — in person and via social media — should be part of your normal routine. Build your LinkedIn profile so it’s thorough and connect with current colleagues, clients, vendors. Become active on the site in LinkedIn Questions and groups within your field. This effort can be limited to five or 10 minutes a day, but when it’s part of your routine, it isn’t demanding or time-consuming.
— Tory Johnson
This is a tough one, and I’ve been there myself. I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet, but I think it’s absolutely vital to have a job-search plan, broken down into bite-sized pieces. That way you can do a little bit each day, but all those little bits make up a focused and cohesive whole.
So for example, a person might decide that s/he needs to build a strong online presence, but this can seem like an overwhelming task. So break it up into small pieces and schedule each piece. Perhaps you’ll get up an hour earlier, or got to bed an hour later, and each day you’ll chip away at one piece of your plan. The first day you’ll start a LinkedIn profile; on the second day you’ll finish it; on the third day, you’ll use the free tools to start building your network, and so on.
To get started on your plan, just list all the things you’d like to do in order to find your next job, and then break them down week by week, then day by day. The advantage of this approach is that you always feel as though you’re making progress and you always know what you need to do next.
— Louise Fletcher
Networking should never be a laborious task; so just “pecking at the process” can make all the difference in the world. For those pinched for time, connecting with recruiters, colleagues, and former acquaintances is a task that can be passed on to a secretary, friend, or spouse. Also, avoid connecting with everyone and anyone — what I call a spitball strategy. Focus on reconnecting only with those you can help, and who can help you. An effective job-search is better done with focus and precision, so always focus on quality, not quantity.
— Teena Rose
Oftentimes people tell me they have NO time to network. They’re working fulltime. They have kids. They made too many commitments already; how can they make any more?
If you’ve got five minutes, you have time to network. Here are some quick tips, excerpted from my book, Rock Your Network‘.
- Combine networking with things you already do. Take five minutes before activities to rehearse your new sound bite, and if it’s an event, plan whom you’d like to speak with and why.
a) If it’s your first event, sometimes you can get a roster of attendees or at least a list of speakers.
b) If you’re in line at the grocery store, instead of reading The Enquirer headline, network.
c) If you’re at a child’s soccer game, network with fellow parents.
- Send thank-you notes. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in rebuilding your network.
- Provide a genuine compliment. “Nice shoes,” is OK. Better is, “Diane, great post on the e-forum. I really liked the thoughtful way you addressed the issue of the “best of” list. You turned the negative direction to a positive and provided some great tips to help other members get on the list.” Notice how the compliment is specific, rather than general, pointing to a specific action Diane took and how the writer felt about it.
- Send your praises. Take a few minutes and send a congratulatory note to people in your network. [When you get LinkedIn updates, who’s been promoted? Who’s updated his or her profile? Who got a new job? Super easy to take a minute and send a congratulatory email.]
- Send an article of interest. Yes, a link to a great blog post does count. You know your good friend is always on the lookout for great marketing tips, you spotted a relevant tweet, send a copy. You’re reading The Business Journal, spotted an article you know a friend would love, rip it out and snail mail it. You want people to remember you when they need your services so they refer you.
It’s all about quality over quantity. I actually suggest people limit their activities to 20-minutes/day or two hours/week. The key is to plan out how you plan to spend that time and focus on high-payoff activities like talking with people and setting up informational interviews.
— J.T. O’Donnell
There are 168 hours in a week and, no matter how much you work, you can peel off six of them to look for work. It’s easy enough to apply for jobs at night, but that has such a low success rate. If you blog at night about your industry, or post on others’ media, then that’s a form of getting your name out there. The important thing, as is implied in the wording of your question, is to network and gain exposure during the day. So get in the habit of eating lunch with a colleague in your field at least once every single week. Always be active in your professional association, so people know you and you know people. Reach out to others in your own company, so you have lifelines within the organization in case your own department or function blows up.
Here are two odd factoids of interest: My own research finds that people who are looking for work “fulltime” spend six hours a week on the effort. The State of California says they spend 12 hours a week looking for work. I was worried for years about this discrepancy before I realized, Hey, people who are responding to surveys by the State of California are probably drawing unemployment, so they don’t want to say they did absolutely nothing last week. Zero, zip, nada. My own surveys turned up lots of zeroes, lots of nothing. So no matter how hard you work, if you can find six hours a week, you can look for work as hard as someone who is not working at all. Interesting and, in some ways, disturbing.
Here’s a second factoid: It is absolutely normal now to post your resume online or apply for jobs “incognito.” How do you anonym-ize a resume? Well, change your name to something you can easily remember, an alter ego or a childhood nickname, but something that is not that easy to trace back to you. “William Harrison Watkins” might become “W. L. Atkins” or “Willie Harris.” Then, change the name of your most recent employer away from a brand name and into a functional equivalent, for example, “Home Depot” would become, “Big Box Home Improvement Retailer.” Finally, obviously, you use a cell phone that you pay for yourself and an email that you never use at work. Voil’! You are anonymous.
A lot of these techniques come from online dating, where people want to be safe. You have every right to look for work while you have a job, but sometimes the safe way is to go totally incognito.
One warning: If you never leave the office then suddenly start taking four lunches a week, everyone is going to know what you’re up to. You could tell them you’re having an affair (just kidding), or get adult braces and tell them you are going to the orthodontist. My advice is to drive by the orthodontist on your way to your interviews. Then you have told the truth.
— Donald Asher
It helps if you begin by understanding the purpose of networking, before you decide how you’re going to do it. In a tough economy, especially, employers’ need “low-risk” strategies for finding the talent they’re looking for. Their preference: hire from within their company. They’ve already seen how that person behaves; promoting him/her — “the Peter Principle” aside — involves low risk. Employers’ next preferred low-risk strategy: hire someone whom a trusted colleague or employee has seen in action, and can vouch for. You might call that colleague or employee “a bridge-person”: s/he forms a bridge between the would-be employe and the would-be employee. (We used to call these people < >contactsbridge pers ns.) When the job-hunter is networking s/he are searching for those persons. Most job-hunters network by collecting names, the more the merrier. That’s because they don’t know what companies they’re going to want a bridge to; they’re waiting for vacancies to be announced; then search their networking list of contacts, to see who might be a bridge to that company. That takes a lot of time. Better by far for the job-hunter to choose the companies, through home research, where they would like to work — whether or not those companies are known, yet, to have a vacancy. Then, with their target companies chosen, look for “a bridge person” between them and that company. This is a much shorter list than traditional networking calls for; and can be done in much less time. LinkedIn can give you these names, and you can then contact them. Looking particularly for new, small companies, with 25 or fewer, or 50 or fewer, or 100 or fewer, employees, can be especially fruitful. You can easily do this while you are in a demanding, full-time job. And you can do it continuously, week by week.
— Richard Nelson Bolles
Everyone you work with, everyone in your family, and every one of your friends is in your network. Look for ways to help each of them without asking for anything in return. When you need help later with your job search or anything, most will be there for you as they’ll remember what you did for them and they’ll want to return the favor.
Networking is something we all, do but some do it more thoughtfully and therefore better than others.
— Steven Rothberg
A new way of getting visibility and credibility in your has arrived with the invention of the Internet. The Internet has moved from novelty to an essential part in communications. So the art of Internet networking is relatively new. The rules for how to do it are not well defined. But it is certainly a possibility that you can network faster and better using electronic communications and you can by driving all over town to meet people at events.
Internet networking takes less time per connection compared to in-person meetings, but it takes longer the elapsed time per contact; this means that while connecting over the Internet through e-mails, blog postings, and other communication channels may only take a small amount of time in and of itself, the time start to finish, in making a new connection will be longer than if you’re directly set out to meet someone face to face.
Prerequisite: focus. Networking online follows the maxim, “birds of a feather flock together.” If you want to find a job amongst a certain group of people, let’s say architects, you have to be focused on being or becoming an architect. Be “of a feather” with that group. You can’t say, “Oh I am open to any kind of job.” You must share the vocabulary and the experience of the career you are thinking of doing. In e-networking, you are not primarily looking for a job opening — that comes later. Your initial focus should be building your visibility and credibility within the job market.
So assuming that you are focused in the job area, here are the three “get to know you steps.”
Step one: say something positive about someone’s blog post or publish electronic communication vehicle. The first step in meeting somebody is acknowledging their expertise or savvy.
Step two: once you have established a little credibility with the contact you wish to meet, you open a personal online dialogue with them. Remember as you do, that you are both playing the same game. Networking is a two-way street. You may think as the job-seeker, that you are not in a position to return the favor to your contact. On the contrary, when you ask a favor of a brief meeting you must look for ways for pay back not just for you but for your contact also. You may not help them directly, but you may be able to help someone they know. And if not right away, then sometime in the future.
Step three: Once you have identified yourself as one of the “in crowd,” and you have at least the beginning of a relationship online, you can ask for an in-person meeting.
If you build good relationships and take the patient steps to finally see people face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice, you can be building the visibility and credibility you need that people will tell you about vacancies and openings before they get published on the Internet.
So keep in mind that your job is not to find a job opening or a vacancy at the company, but rather to simply establish your visibility and credibility in that particular career field. Building that reputation will keep people thinking about you then when a job comes up; it’s a chance for someone to give you a call to at least interview for it and maybe even give a personal recommendation.
— Jack Chapman
The networking should be built into the existing job. Take every opportunity to attend conferences and pursue continuing education. But if that’s not possible, I would put more priority on maintaining a blog and making it a showcase for my professional skills, my passions, and my life trajectory. Job search has always been about who you know, but in a world where anyone can get a master’s degree online, recruiters like me are increasingly interested in seeing what you can do and have done — not in hearing about it. If you’re good at something and passionate about it, there’s nothing like a blog to communicate that.
— Eric Shannon
See also our The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking.
Our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds
- Donald Asher of Asher Associates
- Richard Nelson Bolles of JobHuntersBible.com
- Jack Chapman of Lucrative Careers, Inc.
- Deb Dib of Executive Power Brand
- Louise Fletcher of Blue Sky Resumes
- Maureen Crawford Hentz
- Tory Johnson of Women for Hire
- J.T. O’Donnell of CAREEREALISM
- Lindsey Pollak
- Teena Rose of Resume to Referral
- Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com
- Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers
- Eric Shannon of LatPro, Inc.
- Wendy Terwelp of Opportunity Knocks
- Susan Whitcomb of The Academies
Find more information about each of our 15 Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds.
Maximize your career and job-search knowledge and skills! Take advantage of The Quintessential Careers Content Index, which enables site visitors to locate articles, tutorials, quizzes, and worksheets in 35 career, college, job-search topic areas.