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How to Work Your Network

Tim Sanders says your network is your net worth.  At what other time could this be truer than when you are looking for a new job opportunity?  Most candidates we speak to understand that it is easier to get a job when a friend refers them, but they do not understand how to go beyond their friends to make their network work for them.With the popularity of LinkedIn and other online networking tools, growing and using your network has never been easier.   In the sections below we discuss four key steps to prepare your network to help move you forward so that when you are ready to ask for help, you don’t loose momentum when it counts!

1. Clarify what it is you are after
Fill in the blank: If __________________ happens, I will be successful with this effort.  Be specific!  If you are looking for a new job, ask yourself what is the type of company, position level, salary, culture, location and role you are after?  What is your story of where you have been, where you are going and why this makes sense?

2. Update your LinkedIn profile

Once you understand what you are looking for, make changes to your LinkedIn profile to align with this next step.  Take the opportunity to post a new profile picture that shows your face, gives people and idea about your personality, and is of high quality.  Ask existing connections to endorse and recommend you.  Update skills and job descriptions to tell the story you constructed in step 1 so that the logical conclusion is where you have decided to go next.

3. Grow your connections.  
Meg Jay discusses in The Defining Decade how week-ties are more often the ones to move you ahead, siting a famous social networking study conducted by Stanford professor Mark Granovetter.  Mark found that “weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than strong-tie friends because weak ties give us access to social networks where we don’t otherwise belong.”To grow your connections, start with the available connection tools in LinkedIn.  In your day-to-day life, pay attention to who you’ve interact with and make it a habit to add everyone you meet both in a business and personal situations to your network.

Follow and contribute to LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your next career move.  As you interact with LinkedIn groups, add people that you have interactions with.

4. Research your network.  
In the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Malcolm Gladwell talks about the importance of Connectors, Salesmen and Mavens for making ideas tip.  In the case of finding a new job, you want to identify connectors who tend to know everyone and who can put you in touch with the right person, once they understand what you are looking for.  At this point, add them to a list but don’t contact them yet!

In addition to finding connectors in your network, identify key people in the companies and industries you are interested in that have the authority to hire or recommend you to the right people.   With the list of these key people in hand, find out who in your network is connect to them and add them to your list.

Now you are ready for the next step – The Ask.

In our next Recruiting blog post, we will talk about how to ask your network for what you want in a way that provides value, helps them help you and gives you a greater chance of success.

If you have any further suggestions on how to job seekers can prepare themselves to use their network, please comment below!

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