COVID-19 is creating a thick layer of stress for a lot of people. Your clients looking for work are likely feeling the brunt, too, as looking for work in a pandemic poses unique challenges. Although job postings are not as plentiful during this time, there are several activities your clients can engage in to continue moving their job search forward. One of those activities is networking remotely.
Often when I speak to clients about networking and reaching out to talk to organizations (cue the eye rolls and blank gazes), the main complaints I receive are:
- I recently moved to Ottawa and don’t have anyone to ask
- People are too busy and will have no time for me
- I don’t know anyone in ABC sector or who works at XYZ company
Looking “through” the network versus “at” the network
When I was restructured from my HR job in financial services 15 years ago and wanted to get into the non-profit sector, I started looking “at” my network and found there was only one person I knew who had worked in a non-profit. Talking to just one person was obviously not going to help me find work. I didn’t realize then that I was missing many opportunities to grow my network – instead of looking “at” my network (to see who worked in non-profits), I needed to look “through” my network to find new potential connections working in my area of interest.
Each person in our network is likely connected to hundreds of people – and any one of those individuals can be of assistance. I needed to think about who my friends and colleagues were connected to that did work in this sector, and who could help me explore possibilities.
Being intentional about the search
Looking for work is an intentional process – a client will be far more successful proactively targeting the organizations they are interested in instead of waiting passively for a posting to appear. This is especially true during COVID-19 where job postings have significantly decreased. In addition to helping your client apply for jobs online, you can support them by giving them strategies to expand their network to uncover those “hidden” opportunities. Here are some ways to do this:
- Encourage your client to list all the companies they would be interested in exploring opportunities with – ones that align with their own values and “non-negotiables.” During COVID-19, companies are demonstrating those values through how they support their clients and employees. Pay attention to how these values “show up.”
- Help your client brainstorm a list of all the people in their network who can help – this may start off as a very short list. Help them consider all the sources – family, friends, friends of friends, former colleagues, parents at their child’s school/sports team, stylist, mechanic, accountant, people at the gym – and the list goes on
- Ask them to identify individuals who could get them in the door to the organizations they want to explore – and what new possibilities are revealed when the client looks “through” the network. Each person in our network likely knows anywhere from 50-200 people – tap into these sources.
- Provide your client with language to ask for an online meeting or phone call – for some, asking for the meeting with someone they have never met is more fear-inducing than actually conducting the meeting. An email containing information about who recommended them, how they can help (eg, provide information about an industry, what their organization is like as a place to work or the career path they chose to enter the company) and a brief capture of skills/experience can support clients with making the ask.
- Remind them of the three principles of networking: ) It is just a big word that means “having conversations” (and we do this every day – talking to someone behind us in line at the grocery store, or meeting a new neighbour); 2.) People love to help (this is so true especially today!); and 3.) People love talking about themselves. Make it all about the other person – and the client should have their “pitch” ready to talk about themselves when the time comes.
- Recommend your client ask for a new connection at the end of the meeting – ask and you shall receive. Not asking is a missed opportunity to grow the network and get connected to someone you would not have otherwise met.
- Remind your client to send a thank you at the end of the meeting that includes something relevant or interesting they learned in the meeting. People love to help – and they also love to know specific ways they helped.
An ongoing process
Watching your network grow is rewarding – and takes a lot of work. Networking is not a linear process; stewarding the relationships and keeping them fresh takes time and effort. Thankfully, social media such as LinkedIn can help with this. Encourage clients to stay in touch with their network – let them know when they “land” and share articles that may be of interest. Your client will likely need to tap into that network again one day.