We all know it – looking for a job is rough. Hopelessly sending out resume after resume, usually getting no response at all. And if you’re hoping to break out of your current field or find a higher-level position than you’ve had before? Forget about it.
So how do you convince a perfect stranger that they need to hire you, when you can’t even get them to pick up the phone and ask you in for an interview?
The answer is simple: They can’t be a perfect stranger.
There’s a widespread misconception out there that the only way to find a job is to see a posting, send in your application, and wait for the phone to ring. The fact is that most of positions aren’t advertised, and more than two-thirds of new jobs go to people who have inside information and influence.
Your networks – your personal and professional relationships – are they keys to finding your next dream job. Here’s how you can make them work for you:
- Coffee, Happy Hour, Repeat : When you’re ready to look for a new position, make it known. Make a list of contacts you have at companies you’re interested in working for and then reach out. Having an “inside man” at a business means hearing about openings, restructurings, and opportunities for you to get your foot in the door before anybody else. Grabbing a drink or lunch with a peer gives you a low-stakes forum for starting the conversation and keeping you on their mind. Keep it light, but be direct.
- Seek Opportunity Anywhere: Your neighbor, your aunt, your best friend’s roommate. Even if you don’t have a professional connection with a person, or only have mutual acquaintances with them, don’t count them out. Let people know you’re looking for a job and look out for leads in daily conversation. You never know who you might find out has a connection to a big shot at your dream company.
- Don’t Assume: What’s your thing? When your friend takes your resume to their boss, hiring manager, or CEO, what are they going to say about you? Make sure you know, and make sure it’s accurate. Don’t assume your contact knows everything you want them to. Give them the bullet points, along with any special achievements, ambitions, or skills you have to offer, so they can make the most of their recommendation.
- Use The Social Network: Lots of job-seekers underestimate the value of social media when they’re looking for a job. Having an online presence is absolutely essential for being seen by recruiters and potential interviewers. LinkedIn is a vital tool for job seekers so that you – and all their professional information – can be found when a recruiter checks in. Not only is preparing your own online presence key, but following the social media of your desired employers is a helpful practice as well. Follow that big-name company’s Twitter account to find out what they think is important day-to-day. Subscribe to that executive’s blog to find out the vocabulary used in their organization. That way when you meet that friend-of-a-friend who works there, you already sound like you fit right in.
Take your job search out of the passive resume-submission mode, and plug into your active network. Chances are, there’s a link to a job you want already humming within your circle of contacts, and all you have to do is make the effort to find it. And make sure that you are diligent in seeking out these connections but also making an effort to give good first impressions to those your meet.
Introverts though many of us engineers may be, they key to your next great job is reaching out to people who already know how great you are. Let them open the door for you, then step inside and impress.
Kate Matsudaira has worked as the VP Engineering/CTO at several technology startups, including her current role at Decide and past roles at SEOmoz and Delve Networks. Before joining the startup world she was a software engineer and technical lead/manager at Amazon and Microsoft. She has hands-on knowledge and experience with building large scale distributed Web systems, Big Data, cloud computing and technical leadership — and has conducted over 600 interviews in the last five years. She maintains a blog at http://katemats.com and also helps curate the Technical Leadership Newsletter http://www.techleadershipnews.com