Networking is usually the best way to find a job. But growing a network takes time so you want to build it before you need it.
Employed or not, spend at least 30 minutes per day actively reinforcing your brand and growing your network through the activities listed below.
Ways to grow your network online and off
The key question to ask is not “what can you do for me?” but rather “what can I do for you?” The more you give to your network, the more you can get from it.
1. Get an email address that’s easy to remember
A good format is firstname.lastname@example.org (or Yahoo.com, Outlook.com, etc.). This address should be for your job search only.
2. Choose your personal tagline
Find a 3-4 word phrase that relates to who you are professionally and puts you in a positive light. You want people to think that phrase when they hear your name, and everything you do work-wise should match your tagline. Use it in your email signature and begin by saying it when people ask what you do. Get ideas by seeing how people describe you in recommendations or reference letters.
In 30 seconds you need to be able to describe who you are and which problems your expertise can solve. Practice until it comes naturally. Tweak as you go, judging by listener response.
4. Build an impressive web profile
A recommendation-filled LinkedIn profile also impresses by showcasing your accomplishments, successes and even your above elevator pitch. LinkedIn will also give you a short, easy to remember vanity url to put in your email signature, on your resume and business cards, encouraging people to connect with you. Use your above personal tagline and job search email address.
Being a LinkedIn Open Networker makes it easier to grow your number of LinkedIn connections to the top level of “500+” but the looseness of these connections means you shouldn’t expect much from them. Still, all it takes is one good connection for this to be worthwhile.
6. Be active on LinkedIn Groups
In particular, hang out in popular local Groups related to your profession, responding to questions and drawing other LinkedIn users to notice you.
7. Join Twitter
Take a few moments to flesh out your profile, putting your personal tagline in the Bio box and customizing the background image. Use SocialOomph to automatically follow back any people who follow you, then search for people to add to your network. Once your network has grown a bit, use Twitter #Discover to find more people to follow.
8. Create a Facebook Page
Use Facebook for more than staying in touch with friends and family. Separately from your personal profile, use a Facebook Page (of the ‘Artist, Band or Public Figure’ type) to promote yourself professionally, giving Facebook users a place to follow you as an expert in your field.
Have business cards with your personal tagline and contact information to give out to potential business contacts. Try to always leave a note on the back before handing over your card. For example, write where you met the recipient (for them to remember later).
10. Ask for referrals when handing over business cards
People are more likely to respond about job leads at other companies than if you ask directly about open positions in their company. Give them extra cards if they have any potential referrals to put you in contact with.
11. Use calling cards
Calling cards are for non-business occasions. They’re like a business card, but with personal information. The novelty aspect alone will leave a good impression.
12. Join real-world business networks and chambers of commerce
You want people in your industry to notice you. Find local networks by googling “business network” and the name of your city.
13. Join general purpose business social networks
14. Join industry-specific social networks
15. Start blogging about your profession
Blogging is a terrific way to not only grow your network and show off your expertise while helping others, but also to attract job offers.
16. Follow industry blogs
Both big and small, subscribe and comment on them so that their bloggers discover and interact with you, especially if you have your own blog too. It’s better to get a lot of attention from 10 small blogs than no attention on 2 big ones. And a good way to find and follow them is using my.alltop.com (hat tip to Jeff Gillisfor that idea)
17. Participate in industry discussion forums and mailing lists
Become the expert that people want to hear from on the topics you specialize in.
18. Become a member of professional associations
Every market has a group of people who are creating the standards and organizing member professionals. Being part of such groups can net you recognition from across the industry.
19. Create an industry newsletter
Become a trusted source of information. Create a newsletter for an industry niche that doesn’t have one. Or, become a contributor to an existing newsletter, with a byline explaining how to reach out to you.
20. Go to industry conferences
Once there, make time to meet people and exchange business cards. Conferences are also a great time to finally meet people face-to-face after having met online.
Have lots of business cards with you and a polished elevator pitch.
22. Organize informal industry events
Launch parties, anniversaries, expert speakers, you name it. If you choose the right type of event and promote it well, the success will carry over to your personal network and people will want you to do it all again so that they can bring along other contacts who missed out.
23. Bring friends along
Whatever kind of event you attend, go with friends. Split up to network separately and later compare notes.
24. Join a job search support club
Also called job clubs or job search clubs or groups. Network with like-minded people. Commiserating is agreat conversation starter.
Meeting new people is one of the best reasons why job seekers should volunteer. If there aren’t many opportunities locally through e.g. religious institutions or NGOs, find them online using a site like Idealist.org.
26. Join a gym
A great place to network with people across different industries and positions, there are also many otherreasons job seekers should exercise regularly.
27. Get a coach
Among the many benefits of having a job search coach or a career coach: they’ll be able to guide you to even more ways to grow your network.
Look for people who have achieved your goals and can help you achieve similar success. Take your mentor out for lunch and pick their brain.
This is a great way to get your foot in the door, and you’d be surprised how often an info interview can lead to a job, even in a different department or company.
30. Email friends and family
Get help from people who want to help you by default. Ask them to put you in contact with anyone that can help your job search.
31. Talk to people you see regularly
Neighbors, parents at your kids’ school, taxi drivers. Cast your net as wide as possible.
32. Offer a cash bounty
Use it as a way to crowdsource your job search.
Mention the bounty in an email to your personal contacts, and ask them to forward your message to relevant contacts of their own, for whom the cash prize could be a big motivator.
33. Join an alumni / veterans’ jobs network
Placing alumni in jobs is usually a major goal of university / college alumni networks and also military veterans’ associations.
34. Send updates to your contacts
If they don’t hear from you, they’ll just assume you found a job, so nudge people in your network from time to time. A simple “any way I can help?” is a great way to stay in touch and not be forgotten.
35. Keep track of your contacts’ needs
Fill those needs whenever you can. The more you give, the more you’ll get. Here are another 9 ways to keep value in your network relationships (lower half of the article).
36. Always follow up
Whether to confirm a referral or send over a link to an article you discussed, find a good reason to follow up with new contacts before they forget about you, which is usually within 24-48 hours.
37. Use thank you notes
Always take the time necessary to appreciate the people in your network. Just because people are happy to help doesn’t mean you should take their help for granted. Handwritten notes, perhaps on a postcard, will stand out more than a quick email but even that will still be noticed in a positive way.