When I first started networking in my first job search, I was disappointed when I realized that most people wouldn’t have great job leads for me. Even after I got specific about the kind of position I wanted and had a reasonably good career brand statement, it seemed that almost no one knew about any job leads I should follow up on.
I had thought the process was: you tell people about yourself, tell them what kind of job you wanted and bang! You’ll start hearing about all those jobs in the hidden job market. That was what the books said would happen! I started to assume people just didn’t want to share leads with me. As I spent more time interviewing those people I had found who were so fabulously successful with networking, I realized that it wasn’t personal.
The reality is that when we are working in a company, we’re probably not aware of all the open positions even if it’s a small company or we’re in Human Resources. We may know of a few, but if they aren’t in our department or vicinity, we probably don’t pay much attention or have any way to hear about them. When I worked in large companies that communicated all their openings to their employees, I paid very little attention.
So often people simply don’t have a lot of leads to share, or may only have leads in their particular function such as accounting or IT help desk. Good for you if you’re looking for those kinds of jobs. Not so good if you’re a VP Finance. So a Sales Manager is probably pretty tuned in to all the sales openings, but probably not as aware of opportunities in finance or marketing.
The solution: network for the connections, not just job leads. Unless I was talking to someone in my exact field, I would ask for introductions to specific people I wanted to meet. This is an important strategy for networking online as well as offline. Don’t just ask for job leads; ask for connections. Ask for information about the company and for names of other people you should be talking to.
By following those introductions and then asking them for other people to whom I could talk, my job opportunities arose. And it’s how I got my last four jobs by networking my way into the hidden job market.