Networking From The Couch: Yes, it’s acceptable, but you’re probably doing it wrong.
Flashback to 2019…
The Patriots and Tom Brady have won their 6th Super Bowl, Jeff Bezos has some non-Amazon news takeover the tabloids, and the US Unemployment Rate was at 3.8%. In addition to this national news, our LearningFuze Career Service’s team felt the need to write an article about getting off the couch and doing some networking.
With such low unemployment numbers, why did we even write that article?
Simply put, job seekers were not effective in their search. It took the average job-seeker 5 months to find a new role! When unemployment is so low it shouldn’t take this long for someone to land a new job, unless their job search was lazy.
At the same time, LearningFuze alumni were finding jobs in an average of 2.9 months and over 93% of graduates that were engaged in the job search process found a role within 6 months. We are happy to have such successful job seekers, but also know that until we get to 100% there is room for improvement.
If networking was important back in 2019…
Then with COVID, work-from-home (WFH), and higher unemployment, it should now be the first thing you think about when waking up and the last thing you think about before sleeping if you are in the midst of a job search!
The chances of your resume standing out from the 250+ applicants were already slim. Mix in more people out of work, more free time, and many people rethinking the safety of their current role and job postings are now seeing double or even triple the number of applicants as before. The easiest way to stand out in the job search process is by having someone on the inside!
Networking used to be difficult for some people. They might consider themselves introverts, had difficulty fitting it into their schedule or were just tired at the end of a workday. Since it is now acceptable to work from your PJs, it means that there are fewer excuses for not networking and now it will be important to make sure you are networking effectively.
Top 5 reasons you’re networking wrong
- You aren’t doing it. When you first read the title of this article you probably thought, “Oh gosh, another article about networking.” The sad part is that even though over 85% of jobs are filled through networking, at least a quarter of readers won’t even take the next step.
- Following up isn’t happening.Having 500+ connections on LinkedIn is great and their algorithm even rewards you for it, but without any action on your part, those connections are useless. Whether it’s a new contact from a virtual event, someone you went to school with years ago, or just someone you sent a connection request to at a company you’re interested in, make sure you are following up and engaging them to let them know that you are looking. And don’t be afraid to check in periodically.
- Everything is about YOU. Yes, your ultimate goal when networking during a job search should be to make connections that will ultimately land you a job. Where active networkers hit a wall is when they make it all about themselves. As much as connections, both new and old, want to help you they also don’t want someone looking for a handout. Show interest in the people you are connecting with, try to bring value to them whether it’s a link or resource you found useful and as ridiculous as it may sound simply ask them, “Is there anything I can help you with.”
- Stay consistent. It is important to prepare for your job search like it is a marathon. Too many people come sprinting out of the gate whether it’s in their applications submitted or the networking they are trying to do. Oftentimes this leads to burnout and negative feelings that end up stopping someone in their tracks. Start with one event per week and as you begin to find a rhythm then work in more events until you find a good balance.
- Don’t be a robot. Networking is all about making connections and as much as we “love” our phones I doubt we would be willing to take a bullet for them. Soft skills are more important than hard skills in any job search and as a result, you need to show your network your personality. At events make sure you aren’t just hiding with your camera off. If you do feel more comfortable with your camera off then try to engage in the chat section. And when doing informational interviews make sure you are being a human because that is what companies are looking to hire at the end of the day.
How to network in 2021
- Get out there. Sites such as Meetup.com, Eventbrite, and LinkedIn Events (currently in beta) all make it extremely easy to find events that would interest you. Whether you are looking for a group of coding newbies to learn with, an upcoming hackathon, or just people to talk Agile with they are all there. In addition to the variety of themes for networking, there is also a huge variety of formats. When most people think of networking they picture a conference room with everyone wearing suits. While those formats still exist, so many more have gained popularity over the years; happy hours, panels, Fireside Chats, Lunch and Learns, career fairs, hackathons, leads groups, and the ever-present LinkedIn.
- Why network when I can sit at home in my sweats and apply online? According to TopResume about 75% of resumes submitted will never see a human eye and the average corporate job posting receives 250 resumes. As a coding bootcamp student if you feel good with those odds then keep submitting resumes into the black hole. ZipRecruiter and Indeed have done an amazing job of showing us positions that we may have never before, what that also means is that anyone else with internet access can also see them as well.
Another statistic that Indeed and ZipRecruiter hope that you never find is that 70-80% of jobs never posted publicly. Before spending anywhere from $25-$500 on a job posting and then having to sift through the hundreds of resumes many companies first turn internally and then to networking events to fill open roles. It may seem like a bit more work but your odds of landing a job quickly, and one that you are excited about, drastically improve when you begin networking.
- If the events are easy to find and they are beneficial then why don’t more people go? Most people don’t go to networking events for a number of reasons; they are too busy, they consider themselves an introvert or the last event they attended wasn’t good. All of these reasons for not going can easily be overcome with some good planning but most important is to first have an open mind. Approach networking events as an opportunity to learn instead of where you will get job offers on the spot and they will quickly become a lot more enjoyable.
Proper prep is also important for networking as it will help avoid most networking misconceptions. Taking a look at the attendee list and seeing what events the group has put on in the past will help you get a better understanding of who will be there and what to expect from the crowd. Setting goals for yourself such as 5 new connections or 1 follow-up coffee will make you feel much more productive and thus more likely to return.
your odds of landing a job quickly, and one that you are excited about, drastically improve when you begin networking
2. If the events are easy to find and they are beneficial then why don’t more people go? Most people don’t go to networking events for a number of reasons; they are too busy, they consider themselves an introvert or the last event they attended wasn’t good. All of these reasons for not going can easily be overcome with some good planning but most important is to first have an open mind. Approach networking events as an opportunity to learn instead of where you will get job offers on the spot and they will quickly become a lot more enjoyable.