Lesson 1: The Six Biggest Networking Mistakes You Could Be Making
Before we get to the juicy stuff, I realize the modern job search process has become very difficult to navigate. If you have any questions at all as you go through this tutorial, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your question here.
In this first lesson, we’ll cover why networking is important and how people mess it up.
First, why is networking important?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80% of all jobs are filled before the job board phase.
However, only 7% of job seekers in the United States are referred; 93% are not!
Before most companies resort to posting jobs online, they try to hire internally and via referral for two reasons:
- It’s a lot cheaper. It takes a lot of manpower to look through the hundreds of applications they typically receive.
- It’s more effective. Candidates hired via referral usually stick around longer.
If the competition is so minimal, why aren’t more people referred to their dream jobs? Here are a few networking pitfalls I’ve seen people make.
Pitfall #1: Chasing recruiters exclusively.
Reaching out to a few recruiters with a copy of your resume is a good idea, but expecting them to respond immediately, and with a job that’s just perfect for you, is not realistic.
Recruiters are are emailed by hundreds of candidates a week and it can be difficult to stand out unless you are a perfect fit for a role they are actively recruiting for. The chances of that happening are slim, especially because recruiters often are very specialized. A recruiter that I spoke with once, for example, built an entire, thriving business just sourcing candidates that worked in the lighting industry.
I’ve seen a lot of job seekers get very emotionally attached to a recruiter. Do not make that mistake! If you do not fit within their open searches, or if their client decides not to pursue your file, they do not even have to let you know.
Don’t get strung along by a recruiter who you’re not a priority for.
Network with people you could potentially be reporting to. For example, if you are interested in a Sales Associate role, depending on the size of the company, you could be reporting to either a Sales Manager or Director.
- Authority. People who are department-level decision-makers have more hiring authority than an HR person. If they like you enough, your contact go to their HR department and say, “We need to hire three additional Sales Associates this fiscal year, and I actually have someone in mind to fill one of those roles.”
- Executive-Level Relationships. If you are an executive-level professional, building relationships with other executives is a great way to get the company to create a job that draws on your unique intellectual and leadership assets.
- Knowledge of Role. Who would know better that it’s time to hire more Sales Associates, HR or the Director of Sales?
- Timing. While recruiters may only reply to you when there is a perfect, open match for someone just like you, the Sales Director will keep your outreach in mind months in the future if they feel you are a talented candidate. That’s because they’re more involved in the work their department does. They’ll remember what problems you can come in and solve for them.
- Advice. Even if the Sales Director cannot give you a job tomorrow, they can give you valuable advice to help you with your job search and career overall.
Pitfall #2: Fear. “What if people get annoyed by me?”
One of the reasons you may have hesitated to network – I know I’ve personally been guilty of this – is you may feeling that your networking efforts will be off-putting to the people you’re reaching out to.
Even if you are literally the best person in the whole world, someone will not like you. Someone will get upset by the things that you do. Someone will be having a rough day and will be irritated by your polite positivity and will take out the fact that their lunch went bad under their desk on you. Accept it now.
One of the most painful mistakes you can make when networking is putting in all the work and then just not going for the ask.
For example, after having a great networking meeting with someone, forgetting to ask, “are you able to refer me to the decision-maker?” means you’ve just wasted all the time that went into building that relationship.
When networking, it can be a big, big mistake to not follow up and follow through.
Consider which of the following is better:
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to go speak to the people that want to help you. If we encounter a few people that don’t like our approach, we’ll simply move on and continue nurturing our relationships with people that do.
Of course, as we go through this tutorial, I’ll show you what to say so that the likelihood of someone not liking your approach is nonexistent.
When networking, you’re never hurting anyone. Instead, you’re helping people get excited about what you bring to the table.
Pitfall #3: Perfectionism.
A mistake I’ve personally made in the past is focusing on perfectionism. I’ve said things like, “I should first try to figure out how to write the perfect email.”
And by having unrealistic expectations and creating artificial obstacles for myself (“Before networking with this person, I should spend a couple more hours researching their company.”) I’d get paralyzed.
Focus on quantity over quality.
Spending hours researching company websites is not going to move your resume (or candidacy) in any direction. You know what will? Actually moving your resume and conducting outreach, not research.
It’s going to be very counterproductive if you get emotionally attached to one job and put all your resources, time, and energy into networking with that one decision-maker, completely customizing your resume and cover letter, and then later finding out that they weren’t hiring in the first place.
If you were a Sales Director, which candidate would you be more impressed with? The one that mimics the job description you posted almost word-for-word in their cover letter, or the one that a Sales Manager raves to you about?
Your Sales Manager knows sales. If your Sales Manager is impressed with a candidate, that candidate is probably going to be worth your time too, right?
The perfect job search is more about timing than perfection. No matter how perfect your introduction note is to someone, if they aren’t hiring, you’ve just wasted your time reaching out to them.
I want to share one more thought with you. Your best friend will rarely be the best referee for you. Asking your best friend for a referral will be pointless; you likely have social circles that nearly perfectly overlap.
You don’t need to have that degree of intimacy to ask someone to help you with your job search.
If you’ve been guilty of perfectionism, try this – give yourself a deadline of an hour to reach out to 10 people and see how much progress you make.
Pitfall #4: Making a bad impression.
One of the most cringe-worthy mistakes you can make is being completely unaware of how you come across.
Pick a buddy that you know will be brutally honest with you. Ask them to check your…
- Body language
- Physical appearance/body odor
- Resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter
- You can upload yours here for a free critique.
- Internet presence
- Email address
- Tone in emails/phone
Pitfall #5: Making things difficult for your contacts.
Imagine if someone came up to you and asked you for a job, any job; you’d be stuck, right? You wouldn’t know where to begin.
Now imagine if someone sent you their resume in an introduction email and asked for networking leads. Would you immediately answer and help that person? More realistically, you’ll feel overwhelmed, mark that email “read,” and move on to the next email in your inbox. You’ll procrastinate.
Making it easy for your contacts by giving them a concrete and easy item to act on will help them help you.
Sending someone your resume in an introduction message is putting too much pressure on them. It’s unlikely that off the top of their head, they can think of a role that would perfectly match your resume.
Furthermore, not being able to concretely say to your contacts, “I want a sales management role,” can make you sound desperate and it can make it difficult for contacts to help you.
Pitfall #6: Going after large companies or Fortune 500s only.
While larger companies are targeted by a lot of candidates, according to the Edward Lowe Foundation, companies with more than 500 employees; like Google, Amazon, Cisco, and Deloitte; are responsible for only 11.6% of all jobs created in United States.
Additionally, these companies have the luxury of being very picky. For example, most Google openings get a couple thousand applications.
Companies with 0-99 people are responsible for 73.7% of all hires; companies with 100-499 people are responsible for 14.2% of all hires.
By opening your heart to smaller companies, not only do you set yourself up for more opportunities, hiring processes in larger companies may be more bureaucratic. Often, smaller companies’ top priority isn’t to have an outstanding web presence, so they might not show up on LinkedIn or Indeed. But that doesn’t mean that their pay scale, benefits, and culture aren’t competitive.
It also means that these companies rely more heavily on hiring via referral.
Let’s go over in what you can expect in the rest of these lessons briefly.
In this lesson, we’ve already talked about why networking is important and what key mistakes people make when networking.
In my next lesson, I’ll break down how you can avoid making these key mistakes. I’ll also show you how you can draw on two powerful networking principles: the “Benjamin Franklin Effect” and “Greasing the Wheel” to optimize your outreach, get more responses and turn those responses into job offers.
This tutorial also comes with a few bonuses, like how can you navigate networking events, how to leverage LinkedIn for networking, and networking as a foreign student.
You can access all my lessons here:
- Lesson 1: The Six Biggest Networking Mistakes You Could Be Making
- Lesson 2: My Two Favorite Networking Principles, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin
- Lesson 3: “But I Don’t Have a Network!” (How to Identify Your Contacts)
- Lesson 4: How to Reach Out Without Coming Across As Clingy or Needy
- Lesson 5: Conducting Informational Interviews and “Converting” Your Contacts
- Lesson 6: Dealing with Objections and Following Up
- Lesson 7: Bonuses — Networking Events, LinkedIn, and Foreign Students