Many job seekers believe that the first thing they must do after losing their job is to update their résumé. After updating their résumé, the next step is to apply online to as many jobs as they can and wait for the interview offers to come pouring in. Good plan? Not really.
If you think the above scenario is the way to go, I have a suggestion for you. It would be far better to be proactive in your job search by approaching companies for which you’d like to work. Easy to do? Not really, but your success will be greater.
Here are five steps to take when making connections at your desired companies.
1. Discovering which companies are growing the fastest is the start of the job search. This should be your first step, yet so many people don’t realize how valuable this information is.
I tell job seekers that they should have a list of 10-15 companies for which they’d like to work. Many don’t; they have a hard time naming five. Yet if some of them were asked to name their top five restaurants, they could.
2. Once you’ve located the companies you’d like to researched and decided which companies are the ones for which you would like to work, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites.
Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read pages on their products or services, their press releases (if they’re a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies.
Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you engage in conversation. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.
3. The next step is to contact people in your network–former colleagues and bosses–who might know people in your desired companies. Don’t be afraid to approach them; they’ll most likely help you if you left on good terms.
If you don’t have familiar contacts at your target companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature.
LinkedIn’s Companies feature is something job seekers have used to successfully make contact with people at their desired companies. Again, research is key in identifying the proper people with whom to speak.
You might have first degree connections that know the people you’d like to contact—connections who could send an introduction to someone in the company. These connections could include hiring managers, Human Resources, and directors of departments.
Let us not forget the power of personal, or face-to-face, networking. Reaching out to job seekers or people currently working can yield great advice and leads to contacts. Your superficial connections (neighbors, friends, etc.) may know people you’d like to contact.
4. Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known to your desired companies. Will you be as well known as internal candidates? Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20%-30% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for.
Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pond where a few fish exist. Instead, spend your time researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.
So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?
✔ Send your résumé directly to someone you’ve contacted at the company and ask that it be considered or passed on to other companies.
The risk of doing this is to be considered presumptuous. As well, your résumé will most likely be generic and unable to address the employer’s immediate needs.
✔ Contact someone via the phone and ask for a networking meeting. This is more acceptable than sending your résumé, for the reason mentioned above.
People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
✔ Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets networking email. The approach letter is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold.
Employers are more likely to read a networking email than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
You might prefer sending a message through LinkedIn. If you’re going to do this, make sure there’s another point of contact, e.g., someone the recipient can go to ask about you. Include in your message a person trusted and liked by your desired contact. Here’s an example:
I see that you’re connected with Mark L. Brown, the director of finance at ABC Company. I’m currently in transition and am very interested in a senior financial analyst role.
Although there is no advertised position at ABC, I’d like to speak with Mark about the responsibilities of a senior financial analyst role in ABC’s finance department. It is early on in the process, so I’m also scoping out the companies on my bucket list.
I’ve attached my resume for you to distribute to Mark and anyone you know who is looking for a senior financial analyst.
PS – It was great seeing our girls duke it out in last weekend’s soccer match. I hope the two teams meet in the finals.
✔ A networking meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation At this point you’re not asking for a job, you’re asking for advice and information.
Two things could come out of a networking meeting. One, if they’re trying to fill a position within, your timing might be perfect and you might be recommended to the hiring manager. Two, you’ll ask for other people with whom you can meet. This is a great way to build a strong network.
5. Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contacted at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and the valuable information they’ve imparted. Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact.
People in the career development industry will never say finding a rewarding job is easy. In fact, the harder you work and the more proactive you are, the greater the rewards will be.
Take your job search into your own hands and don’t rely on coming across your ideal job on Monster.com, Dice.com, or any of the other overused job boards.
Your job is to secure an interview leading to the final prize, a job offer. But being proactive is essential to finding the companies for which you’d like to work, identifying contacts within those companies, and getting yourself well-known by important decision-makers.