Having thousands of connections feels great. But the Internet and social media makes it possible to connect with anyone. If you are searching for a job your connections will only be able to help you if you are able to get the most out of your network. In a job search, quality of connections matters more than quantity.
Here is how you can start getting the most out of your network while job seeking.
1. Figure out who matters most
When it comes to connections in your job and career, look for those connections who actually bring value to your career. These are the people who can help you get where you want to be in your career. Friends, co-workers, mentors, and even customers or clients can end up being the most valuable people in your career.
Tip: Make a list of the Top 20 most important professional contacts in your life right now. Start communicating with these people regularly. Do not just chat on Facebook and “like” posts. Get on the phone with them. Send them birthday or holiday cards. Have human relationship conversations with them. Show them that you believe they are valuable to you!
2. Pick your next tier
The next level of your network will be those that come after your Top 20. These are the good folks you may share similar business interests with and perhaps helped you in the past. Even better, they have the potential to do so in the future. This tier of contacts are those you only end up talking to when it comes to business. You rarely socialize and there is a common understanding of your relationship dynamic.
Tip: Send this tier of contact something like a monthly newsletter to update them on your recent activity. You are not exactly “close” to this group of people, but you both enjoy saying that you know each other and can rely on each other in the future. For example, many college alumni you graduated with can end up being this type of connection. You went to the same school. You had the same major. There is a bond of common interest.
3. Find easy ways to engage everyone else
It is obviously not possible to connect with everyone in the world and make yourself available to millions of people all the time. But you can find easy ways to engage with everyone outside of your Top 100 contacts.
Tip: Find creative and expressive ways to let people in your network know what you are up to. Some of the best ways to do such things could be webinars, Youtube/Instagram/Facebook/LinkedIn videos, or simple blogs that ask people to sign up for newsletters. Talking about yourself is a good way to bore people to death, so always make sure your content “gives to others” more than it “takes up their time”.
4. If you want to connect with someone, find a way to help that person
It is easy to get sucked into the belief that one person is helping another by simply sharing posts on social media. If you truly want to connect with someone, you have to find a way to help that person. At some point in all of our lives, we end up needing something and if you are there to unselfishly help another person in his/her time of need, this person will remember you and stay connected. Even people who can seemingly buy anything they want will eventually need help.
Tip: The moral here is to remember to be decent, unselfish, giving and thoughtful. Never fear being opportunistic if you know in your mind and heart that your desire is to help someone. Opportunistic behavior is more so the result of only doing things for narcissistic, self-serving reasons because the opportunity presented itself and you wanted to look good. Never fear reaching out to help someone if you see they need something you can provide. The end game result of such behavior is always positive and rewarding.
5. Be intriguing
A great way to make a connection with someone, especially a very busy person, is to arouse their curiosities with something completely unexpected. This is the type of behavior seen in those with a trendsetter personality or those who are never afraid to try something new.
Tip: Do not always follow what the crowd does. You can be a lemming who follows everyone no matter where they go, or a non-conformist who stands firm in a belief system. By being intriguing, you are actually targeting the right people to network with.
You are refusing to follow the crowds, and as a result, you attract other leaders like you (and in many cases...new followers). If you see a chance to do something intriguing, then do it. Do not let the thought run through your mind that says, “Will others approve?”. Only lemmings worry about the approval of others.
6. Think people, not positions
Tip: Do not think of connecting with people based on “who they are and what they can do for you.” Try connecting with people based on the premise that you find them interesting and would like to stay in touch. These always make for the most interesting connections that lead to fascinating career experiences.
If you look at the USA’s celebrity culture, you will find people in media connecting with people in politics or writers connecting with CEO’s. Granted, on a business level they may have nothing in common, but when their needs do cross paths you see some very interesting things happen. Interesting experiences may not happen immediately, but the longer a relationship flourishes the greater the chances you will both rely on each other at some point.
7. Give before you ask
This point seems to come up often when it comes to networking and job searching.
Tip: The most important thing you can do while networking for a job search is to give BEFORE ever asking for anything. Something in our human nature demands that we are offered something as a sign of a goodwill before asking for anything in return. Think of the old stories of how people communicated hundreds of years ago when they had no phones, TV, or barely ever spoke the same language. People would travel thousands of miles and come to a new tribe. As a sign of a peace, before asking for assistance, the first thing they would do (in civilized tribes) was offer a gift.
The Internet changed the way we communicated, but as human beings, our expectations and motivations have remained the same: If you need something, show you are willing to give before asking for anything in return. It is a sign of commitment and investment in a relationship. This is called "pay it forward networking".
It may be tough to “need a job” and yet be the giving, networking person described above. But the reality is giving to and helping others is how to make things happen. You should never bankrupt yourself in the process or allow yourself to be taken for granted, but through the process of helping the right people with sound judgment, you will find others begin to think of you more and more as, “The person everyone needs to hire!”