There are many types of people to network with during job search. The key is to be systematic about who you approach. Just be sure you have some from each of these 10 categories.
I often hear job seekers say networking is a waste of time.
They tell me “I don’t have time to talk to people who may not be able to help me, plus it’s faster to apply online, right?”
Well, here’s something that might change your mind.
Companies fill more jobs through referrals than from job boards.
How do you think you get referred?
The truth is, you never know who can help you. But the only way you’ll find out is to meet new people (and reconnect with people who already know you.)
Be purposeful and strategic about people to network with during job search by targeting these 10 types of people first.
10 Types of People You Need In Your Network During Job Search
1. People You Used To Work With
Your past work colleagues have seen you perform in the job and know your strengths and work ethic. These people make an excellent source of information to find out what changes are going on in the business and industry. You want to let them know you are looking for a new opportunity.
Informing people you used to work with of your future plans will help them understand your goals. They can watch for opportunities that might be a match for you. Your colleagues also have connections with people so be sure to ask if they know of anyone they think might be helpful for you to meet.
People you know are most likely to want to help you if they can. Your friends have a vast network of contacts you don’t know about.
Start by contacting the people you know and inform them of your new career aspirations and ask if they know anyone who may be helpful in speaking with.
Even if your friends don’t understand what you want to do next, they may be able to help you meet people inside companies you are targeting. Be sure you mention some of the companies you are interested in working for.
When your friends do provide you with a name, find out some background on the person and how they know each other. It’s important you take immediate action and reach out as soon as possible. This shows professionalism and that you are serious about your career.
When you reach out to the person recommended, via phone or email, you will absolutely want to mention that your friend referred you and why you believe they would be a helpful person to speak with.
3. Past Managers
Assuming you and your previous manager or supervisor got along, it’s a good idea to reach out to them. Your past boss may know of upcoming opportunities at your old company or elsewhere. If you performed well in your role, then it would be easy for your manager to want to help you and introduce you to other people you should know.
4. Target Company Employees
Is there a company you would love to work for? Talking with people who work inside a company allows you to learn what it is really like to work there. Plus they can provide advice and/or insight on the best way to apply.
Research the company on LinkedIn and see who you know. If you do not have any connections, look for someone you know who has a connection in the company. These are called second-degree connections.
Also ask everyone in your network if they know the person and could introduce you. It’s best to get an introduction to someone so you can use their name when you reach out. This increases the odds that the person will respond to your request.
Or, as a last resort, you could reach out cold and introduce yourself.
Don’t forget to tap into classmates, professors, and alumni as another potential pool of people to network with. In many cases you can contact your school’s Advancement or Alumni office to access their alumni database.
LinkedIn also has a powerful resource on the University’s page called “See Alumni.” This allows you to sort alumni by city, company and the type of work they do. You can search for alumni who work for companies you are interested in and alumni who hold a role you aspire to be in.
6. Someone You’ve Just Met
When you attend a networking event or conference or even a baseball game, you might just meet someone who has a background in your field of interest.
If there is synergy and common interests and you feel like continuing the conversation, ask for a meeting. How? If you haven’t already, exchange business cards and ask if you can connect on LinkedIn. Then ask about continuing the conversation over coffee.
Do everything in your power to set a firm date and time and location right then and there. You don’t want your new potential lead to slip through the cracks as can happen once people have left the venue.
The people you’ve served already know you and are familiar with your work. Lean on them as a source of information about what’s going on. Your customers and clients have a feel of the work landscape and future needs. This information will help you position your most important skills and experience.
Former clients and customers may know of other companies that could use your services.
Similar to your clients and customers, your vendors know what it’s like to do business with you. They also have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry because they are still servicing businesses.
Ask questions to understand who your vendor/supplier enjoys working with and which companies seem to be doing well. You can use this information to help you pursue new opportunities with a referral from your contact.
9. Service Providers (Doctors, accountants, hairdresser, etc.)
Don’t overlook the business relationships you have with professionals who provide you with services. These people have their own vast network of contacts. Your service providers also want to maintain you as a customer which you can only do if you are employed. Therefore, they have an interest in helping you.
10. Fellow Volunteers
If you volunteer, you’ve likely established relationships with other volunteers and people within the organization. These people have seen you give your time and effort. The organization also appreciates the work you do for them.
Volunteer organizations have many relationships in the community, from board members to sponsors. Tap into the relationships of fellow volunteers and the organization’s leaders to help you grow your network.
When reaching out to someone, you can use email, phone, text, LinkedIn, Facebook or some other messaging platform. But if you aren’t sure which is best, an email message is almost always the preferred tool to use
Some people you reach out to may want to help make connections for you, however, it is always a good idea to maintain control of the request for a meeting or conversation. Your well-meaning contact just doesn’t have the same set of priorities or sense of urgency as you. It may take them days or weeks to get around to making the introduction.
Instead, offer to de-burden them of that responsibility. This also eliminates the need for you to call them in two weeks to remind them.
Your Next Steps
Make a list of everyone you know from these types of people to network with during job search.
Your goal should be to list at least 100 people.
Use every source available to identify names: your phone, email contact list, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. Consider this a brainstorming session and don’t eliminate people, just list their names. Just be sure to have a list you can work from.
Compile your list of 100+ names using a simple Excel spreadsheet or Word document. You will want to refer to this list and update it to help you keep track of conversations, new names acquired and dates for follow-up.
Now that you’ve mapped out your network, begin reaching out to the people who know you best. Always start your outreach by contacting the people you know best.
Here are additional articles to help you manage your network.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.