Networking 201 – getting the job you want
In Networking 101, we discussed the best way to build a strong network: just become friends with interesting people. Friends usually help friends out, even when it comes to finding jobs.
However, translating your strong network to a full-time job requires significant time and effort. You will generally need to give yourself at least 4 weeks before you start getting job interview opportunities; the whole process will take at least 6 weeks (and could last several months). During this time, be prepared for hours of research, dozens of phone calls, and interviews at a moment’s notice.
Even though this might sound like “doing things the hard way,” this is hands down the best way to find the job you want – especially when the economy is not doing well. At the end, you will be pretty knowledgeable in your target industry, you will have met a bunch of new people, and hopefully you will have a job offer in hand. Here’s how you do it:
1. LEARN ABOUT YOUR TARGET INDUSTRY AND GET ADVICE FROM PEOPLE YOU TRUST
- Get informed: Use Google to find the leading blog / news source for the industry you are interested in (for example: TechCrunch or VentureBeat for Internet startups; Gigaom or GreentechMedia for cleantech). Spend 15 minutes a day reading these news sources to make sure you can talk intelligently about industry trends, and to keep an eye out for interesting companies.
- Make a target list: Make a preliminary list of companies / organizations you would be interested in working for.
- Contact people in your personal network: Make a list of trusted mentors, co-workers, and friends you have worked with that have some sort of connection to your target industry. Contact them and let them know that you are in the job market, and ask if they have 30 minutes to catch up by phone.
- Get honest advice: Your first round of phone calls will be with people that you know and trust, so don’t be afraid to ask for their honest advice and input.
- If somebody in your immediate network works at one of your target companies, you are in luck! Hopefully they will be able to help you out (give you some advice, submit your resume, etc). If not, you will need to start arranging informational interviews with friends of friends. There are two paths to getting informational interviews with people outside your immediate network:
- Introductions from friends in your network: Ideally, the friends you spoke to for advice in the first round will be able to introduce you to people that work in your target industry, or maybe even at one of your target companies. Don’t be shy about asking them to make introductions for you – they are your friends, after all.
- Cold e-mails to people in your “formal” networks: Universities, fellowship programs, and companies usually have an alumni database that you can search. Find some alumni working in your target industry and send them an e-mail introducing yourself and asking for 20 minutes to chat. Your e-mail message should be professional, but no need to be too formal – it’s not necessary to send your resume or cover letter on your first e-mail.
- Follow proper e-mail etiquette when responding to e-mail introductions:
- Make sure to respond to all e-mail communication within 24 hours.
- In your response e-mail, first thank your friend who introduced you (it’s nice to keep them in the loop for the first e-mail, and then move to “bcc” so they don’t have to hear about all your scheduling logistics).
- Feel free to add a short paragraph of self-introduction in your reply, but generally keep the e-mail short and sweet – just try to set up a time to chat. Make sure you set up a phone chat at the very least; if they are in the same city and not too busy, you could also suggest meeting for coffee.
- Do your research and prepare questions prior to your interview: Make sure to thoroughly research the company / organization of the person you will be speaking to, and prepare a list of questions. They will be impressed if you did the research; they will also be very unimpressed if you did not
- Focus on gathering information rather than asking for a job: Remember, they don’t know you yet! Try to learn more about the industry by asking questions, such as:
- How did they end up in that industry? What was their career path? (People love talking about themselves).
- What are the risks and opportunities of your target industry? Where do they see the industry in 5 years? (This is your chance to provide your own opinion and showcase your knowledge).
- Ask for introductions: At the end of the call, ask if there’s anybody else that you should speak with – if your call went well, they will be happy to introduce you. They might even mention that their company has an opening.
- Usually, informational interviews do not lead to immediately to job interviews: If the person on the other end of the line is impressed with your knowledge / skills / abilities, they might refer you to somebody that can give you a job. Or, they will keep you in mind when an opportunity does come up.
- However, you should be prepared in case your informational interview turns into a pre-job interview: If they happen to know of a job opening, they may start asking you some more serious questions to gauge whether you are a good fit for the job. Therefore, your resume should be in perfect shape, and just in case, you should be prepared to answer questions like:
- Why are you interested in this industry? Where do you think the big opportunities lie?
- What relevant experience / exposure do you have to this industry? (Note: If you don’t yet have industry experience, emphasize your functional strengths, such as finance, marketing, sales).
- What kind of role are you looking for? Do you want to be the sales guy, marketing guy, finance guy? Are there specific experiences or growth areas you hope to focus on (e.g. managing a team, learning financial modeling)
- Always follow up with a “thank you” note, and check in periodically: After your conversation, make sure to follow up with an e-mail thanking them for their time, and check in maybe once a month to remind them you are still job hunting. If their company jobs page has an opening you are interested in, you can casually mention that you saw an opening, and ask for more information.
I have used this method to get every single job and consulting gig I have had since my junior year in college. Sometimes it takes persistence – I had over 35 informational interviews in 2.5 months when I was job hunting in November 2008, just a few months after the financial crisis! If you cast a wide net, eventually you will stumble upon a person that can open the right door for you.
Good luck, and please leave comments below if this method has worked for you.
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