Whether you are currently employed and interested in learning about potential career opportunities for the longer term or are seeking a new role with a greater sense of urgency, you are no doubt aware that your professional network can be a tremendously helpful resource.
But there are some pitfalls that well-meaning professionals fall into as they attempt to tap into their network for this purpose. The list below is a reminder to all new and seasoned job-seekers that how you leverage your network is as important as who is in your network itself.
Pitfall #1: Passing on too much responsibility
Often phrased as: “Please see my resume attached. Feel free to make any changes before sending it to people who might be interested in hiring me.”
Believe it or not, variations of this statement come up pretty often. What about this statement might put off the recipient?
The job seeker has shifted responsibility to the recipients, giving them a task to do. The job seeker is now essentially saying, “I have done as much as I can on this resume. Now I am putting the next step in your hands.”
The receiver of this message has a choice to make. He/she can either offer some constructive feedback on the resume or send it off to people in her network as is.
Now that might sound good – because either would be helpful, right? But this is a lot of work to delegate to people who have no personal stake in your job search. And it likely means they will not decide on either of these steps and, therefore, may not help you as you had hoped.
Instead try: Making it easy to help you
Take a moment to consider: will these contacts be particularly helpful in providing feedback and advice on my resume? Are they likely able to introduce me to people in the particular industry/ location/ organization that I am targeting?
Deciding who in your network to go to for what will be more productive, and you will be less likely to alienate your contacts.
Pitfall #2: Delegating your resume-writing to your network
Often phrased as: “Can you help me with my resume (or Linked In profile)?”
This question is often followed up with an email, similar to Pitfall #1. In one case, I was even sent the requestor’s log-on details, asking me to rewrite their Linked In profile myself!
It’s ok to ask for help from another professional. But in doing so, it is important to do this in a way that makes it convenient for them to help you.
Instead try: Being strategic and specific
Once you have identified someone you hope will be able to help you to create (or recreate) your resume, go to this person first. Ask if he or she would be willing to help.
If one (or more) of the contacts you select are willing to help, invite them to lunch where you can speak on a one-to-one basis. Or take them for coffee. Let them know that you value their input, and why. Are they resume-writing experts? Well well-regarded by contacts you have in common? Whatever the honest reason, tell them.
If they do not have time for lunch or coffee, ask if you may email your resume to them. Send a personalized email along with your resume. Be specific about the aspects of the resume for which you seek feedback.
If you need more help with the resume, there are resume-writing services available that can help you implement some of the suggested changes you receive. Or you could consider booking a session with a career counselor or career coach.
Only then, after you have done the hard work of getting your resume in order, should you reach out to those in your network who can help make introductions.
In short, rather than asking everybody in your network for everything, be strategic and specific about what you ask for, and from whom.
Pitfall #3: Expressing interest in everything
Often phrased as: “I am interested in jobs at (Company X)?” or “Can you introduce me to people at Company X?”
This is a common statement for new professionals who have not yet developed deep expertise in one area. They legitimately are open to different job possibilities. So what is wrong with this statement?
Similar to the first pitfall, this does not make the job very easy. Your contacts may want to help and may have even offered to pass your resume along.
But by telling them that you are interested in anything, you are making it harder for them to zero in on a specific department or hiring manager. And thus they are less likely to help you make the connection you desire.
Instead try: Doing some research
While you may be concerned about limiting yourself, you can identity the name of a specific department or even a more specific team or job role that you are targeting by doing a bit of research. Do the hard work of tailoring your resume to that particular role and then ask your contact to make the connection.
In short, take the hard work out of figuring out the best or most appropriate connections, so your contacts can make the right introductions.
Pitfall #4: Expecting immediate results
Often phrased as: “I would like to schedule time with you because I am interested in getting a job in ________________”.
While this is an improvement over Pitfalls #1, 2 and 3 above, this request can overwhelm your contacts. They may doubt their ability to help you find a job in this area or know that there is a scarcity of open positions in the company or industry you are targeting.
Instead try: Focusing on the person & thinking longer term
Rephrase the above statement so the focus is more on learning about the role/career path you are interested in and less on identifying the immediate opportunities that might be available.
If you have reached out to specific contacts because they have what you consider to be your own dream job, tell them so. Let them know that you want to hear about the path they took and what they learned along the way. It is, of course, possible that through the conversation, the opportunity to introduce you to someone may arise but do not expect it. People like to help, but if they feel you expect them to make an immediate connection to a job opportunity, they may decline your meeting.
In short, be curious about their career and remember that careers are for the long term. Identifying your next big move may not happen in this meeting.
As shared in our previous post, it is important to remember that networking is about relationships. Keeping this in mind will help you to take a more thoughtful approach to your job search and to build even stronger relationships with the people in your network.
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