Job Hunting For Dummies: The Networking Cheat Sheet

Networking is one of my least favorite words in the English language. Not because I don’t enjoy chatting with people (though admittedly my enjoyment varies according to the people in question), but rather because of the implicit element of commerce. Each party is trying to figure out what they can sell to the other, or what they can get from the other.

Still, as we all know — despite a plethora of websites and online application forms — networking is the only way to get hired. Anywhere. Ever.

That’s not entirely true. According to a thing I read on the internet about 30% of outside hires now come through referrals, though some companies aim for close to 50%. HR managers know that referrals lead to higher quality hires.

Personally, I’ve been hired 4 times through referrals, twice through agencies, twice through physically mailing my résumé to the company (last century tech), and my first two jobs I walked in and filled out an application (retail). I’ve never been hired via an online application. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever even received a response. That makes 40% of my hires from referrals.

What’s never been clear to me in the networking process is what the expected outcome of each meeting is. Of course, it the networkee knows of a job, they might tell you about it. It’s clear pretty early in the job search process whether or not anyone you know knows of an open position that would fit. In my case, there were a few close-but-no-cigars. I’m still looking for the cigar.

I’m working with a career coach for the first time, and she taught me a handy networking tool: The networking profile. Rather than burdening your friend with a résumé that they could pass along without any further info (this is bad… hiring managers need further info), give them a simple one-sheet that contains the info they need to sell you. This includes:

  • A statement of what you want to do
  • Your key competencies
  • A list of potential job titles
  • The types of companies where you might fit

For them, it makes it much easier to talk to other people about you, rather than trying to decipher your CV. This is a forward-looking document, to clarify what’s next, rather than explaining what you’ve done before.

I’ve found the process of doing this helpful for clarifying what I want. Though I’ve now done four different versions, so I still have some deciding to do. Meanwhile, I’m having drinks and coffee with a lot of people I haven’t seen in a million years, which helps keep me sane while unemployed.