I think you’ll agree with me when I say: It’s REALLY tough to break into the hidden job market if you don’t have a large network.
Well, I bet you have a larger network than you think, and it’s easy to grow your network quickly if you take this approach. In today’s article, I am going to show you just how to build your network, and start nurturing it so you can uncover the hidden job market.
How Successful Marketers Build Their Networks
Just like there is the ABC of sales, Always Be Closing, there is the ABC of career management, Always Be Connecting. Notice I say career management and not job search. This is because building your network needs to be a constant activity in your life, not just when you need a new job. The “net” from your network can catch you when you unexpectedly find yourself downsized or otherwise in need. It will take a bit of “work” to get it established.
So, I’d like to give you the key to your first 100 connections. Below is a list of 10 areas to group people you know. I am going to challenge you to fill each area with at least 10 names, and then, boom, you have your first 100 contacts.
- Trade or professional organizations
- Service providers – i.e., doctors, hairdresser, dentists, accountants
- Managers, past and present
- Clubs, organizations, hobbies
- Alumni, classes, parents of kids’ friends
- Religious affiliations
- Customers or clients
Is your network suddenly larger than you originally thought? Good! The truth is you never know who may be that lead to your next opportunity, whether you are actively looking for it or not.
Your Network Funnel
Now that you have a list, you need to segment them as it pertains to ways they can help you land your next opportunity. Here is that breakdown:
- Champions – People you know in “real life” who also know, like and trust you. Typically the people you just wrote down in the exercise above.
- Prospects – Second or third-degree connections to whom you’ve been introduced by a champion. They are just getting to know you and learning about your career goals.
- Sponsors – These are people openly promoting you or advocating the benefit of networking with you to others. Ideally, they are in your target companies and would recommend you.
- Activators – These are the people who call you in for an interview. They open a position for you because they have gotten to know you and have a real opportunity.
You can think of these segments as your job search funnel. Obviously, most people will be at the top of your funnel in the Champions area. You can measure the success of your search by seeing how many people you can move from Champions to Prospects to Sponsors to Activators.
Work Your Network
There are two critical ways to effectively work your network. One is to send a networking letter your Champions – people who know, like and trust you. You can send this via email or snail mail; the goal is to simply inform your contacts you’re actively searching and would like their help. It’s not a letter asking for a job. Here is an example (all content has been fictionalized):
Instead of attaching your resume, I would attach an executive summary. This serves two purposes: First, it is not as formal as a resume, so it reinforces you are not asking for a job. Second, it gives them your best achievements so they can get an idea faster of who might be a good connection for you.
Once your Champion says, “Of course, I know just the person you should talk to at your target company.” you can make their job easier if you provide them with an introduction blurb. This is a short note explaining who you are and why they are making the introduction. Then your Champion doesn’t have to do anything except copy and paste your note to their connection. This idea comes from my marketing coach, David Newman. He calls it a referral blurb and teaches it to solopreneurs as a way to get more referrals. With job searches, you’re not looking for referrals, but for more introductions.