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Everything You Need to Know About Networking to Land a Job

Updated: Jun 13

Two women shaking hands, showing how to network to get a job

Did you know that more jobs are filled through networking than through direct application? 

And that the majority of jobs aren’t even published because they are filled through connections?

The bottom line? 

Networking well can help you get job opportunities.

But there are better and worse ways to go about it.

And in this post, we’ll show you exactly how to network for a job.

Short-Term Networking to Find a Job

In general, it’s best to think of networking as a long game. 

If you build lasting, supportive professional connections and stay in touch with colleagues, then when they need to fill a role, they might reach out to you.  

But sometimes you can’t think about the long term because you need work right now. If that’s the case, here are a few skillful ways to lean on your network to find a job asap.

The casual-catchup method

With this method, you simply catch up with your friends and let them know your job situation without forcing the issue. Here are the steps.

1. Write a list of your 20 closest friends and family members

It doesn’t matter if these people are in your industry or location. Just think about who you are closest to.

2. Assign two scores to each person on the list. 

Score 1 is how much they love you and would do anything for you 

(1 = You met them once at a seminar a few months ago. They don’t even know your last name. 10 = Someone who would give a speech at your funeral).

Score 2 is how influential they are 

(1 = Hermit who lives alone in the woods. 10 = Oprah).

3. Reach out to each person on the list to connect

The key here is that you are reaching out to reconnect, not to immediately ask for a job.

To reach out, you can write something simple like: “Hi Terry, I was just thinking of you and wondering how you’ve been. Would you be open to catching up?”

Then once you’re face-to-face, if the conversation naturally veers toward the topic of work, then you can mention that you’re looking to find work or make a shift in your career. 

But it’s important not to be tactless and force the conversation in that direction. Otherwise, it might come off as if you are just using that person for your gain.

About 10% of these conversations could lead to a recommendation or a new connection. And in the other 90%, your friend will express a desire to help if they can.

10% isn’t bad! That means if you reach out to 20 people, you might have 2 possible new connections or opportunities. 30 people would lead to 3 new connections. Etc.

How to leverage your network to get an interview

If you are going to apply for a job, there’s also a way to ask your network to vouch for you to get your résumé seen by the hiring company.

When you find a job you’re excited about, instead of just applying through the front door like everyone else, see if you can get someone to send an email recommending you.

It would be ideal if you knew someone at the company who could give you a referral.

But even if you don’t, there’s another great option:

Look at your list of 20 names. Who has experience that the company you’re applying for would respect?

For example, let’s say you’re applying to work at a VR company called VR Pro, and the hiring manager is named Ali.

When you scan through your list, you realize that an old colleague of yours, Hank, is an angel investor who has invested in several VR companies. You also notice that a family friend, Tanya, works as a video game designer.

Depending on how close you feel to either of these people, you can ask them to send an email to Ali at VR Pro.

If your friend agrees to help, it may be helpful to send them a draft of an email they can use. And let them know they can modify it. The draft can be something simple like:

“Hi Ali, 

I saw online that you’re looking for a gifted engineer. 

I’d like to put in a strong recommendation for Sarah Perkins.

I’ve known Sarah for years, and she’d be an excellent fit.

Here’s a copy of her résumé.

If you’d like to know more, feel free to give me a call.


Tanya Lead Game Developer at Futurist Games”

Ali will see right away that Tanya is a peer in an adjacent industry. As such, Tanya’s recommendation will go a long way, and the applicant’s résumé will more likely get looked at.

Why does this work?

If you reach out to the hiring manager directly, you’ll blend in with the sea of other applicants. Everyone will vouch for their own résumé. 

But because someone else is vouching for you (and that someone is a respected peer of the company), you immediately appear credible. 

Based on my years of experience in HR and recruiting, I’d estimate that applying for a job with a referral (compared to without a referral) at least doubles your chance of getting an interview. 

Write a LinkedIn post

If you need a job, you can also let your network know on LinkedIn. 

This tip will be more helpful if you regularly post on LinkedIn and already have a network established rather than if it’s the first post you’ve made.

Bear in mind that the normalcy of sharing about a layoff on LinkedIn varies greatly from generation to generation. It’s a growing trend amongst millennials, but something that would leave the jaws of many Gen Xers and Boomers on the floor.

That said, if you feel comfortable with this type of digital transparency, it can work well.

Here’s an example of a LinkedIn post where someone just got laid off and is looking for work. The post actually went viral and did end up landing this person a job. 

And it’s likely because they did more than just ask for help. They first provided value with an insightful post.

If you choose to write a LinkedIn post asking for job leads, keep these tips in mind:

  • Write something helpful in the post before asking for help (EG, “I just got laid off; here’s what I’ve learned from the process”)

  • Include what you specialize in

  • Include your experience

  • Include your passions 

  • Don’t throw a pity party. Write from a place of empowerment.

Long-Term Networking to Find a Job

The previous tips can work in a pinch if you need to find a job now.

But the most effective approach for networking is to view it on a longer time line.  

Why long-term networking works for finding a job

Here is how to get a job via networking in a nutshell (aptly written by this Reddit user):

“Maintain friendships with people in the industry you've worked with before and sometimes they'll hit you up when there's an opening on their team.”

This is a bit crudely put, but accurate.

When you maintain strong, authentic relationships with colleagues, then when you least expect it, opportunities can get presented to you.

These could be jobs, introductions to investors, or industry insights.

So, while you can use short-term networking to find a job now, if you network over the long term, job opportunities and unadvertised openings may eventually come to you.

Here are some strategies and mindsets to try.

1. Build relationships not leads

It can be tempting to view people as leads for jobs or connections. Where everyone you meet has a target over their head that shows what they’re worth to you.

But one problem with this approach is that others will feel it. You’ll come off as slimy and overly opportunistic.

People want to be viewed as people, not as a means to your end.

Instead, build authentic relationships. These feel better and will actually benefit you more.

Think of it this way: when you are friends with someone, you want to help them. It feels good to help friends.

If you knew of a job opportunity that would be perfect for a dear friend of yours, you wouldn’t think twice before sending it to them!

Similarly, the more connected people in your network feel to you, the more they will want to send you job offers.

You don’t need to be best friends with everyone in your network. But the more authentic the relationships are, the more these people will genuinely want to help you.

Here’s an example.

I had a client once, Diane, who turned down a job offer. But she kept an email thread going with the hiring manager. She knew the manager enjoyed photography, so Diane sent over a picture she had taken. And to this day they still send each other photos! 

That is a genuine connection.

Pro Tip: Instead of viewing your network as people you can ask for help, try approaching each relationship with these questions in mind:

  • How can I offer value to this person?

  • How can I build trust with this person?

  • How can I show interest in this person?

  • How can I spend enjoyable time with this person?

2. Make the time

Here’s a harsh truth: networking takes time.

It takes time to meet new people, build relationships, and keep up with people over email and DMs.

And as we’ve touched on, building a strong network doesn’t happen overnight. To really create a strong network, you have to make networking a habit. Something that you put time into each week. And over the course of months and years, your efforts will accrue.

Similarly, if you want to build muscle, you can’t just lift weights once for a few minutes.

You have to carve time out of your schedule to go to the gym. And you have to do that two or three times a week for months. And to keep your muscles from atrophying, you have to make it a habit to stay in shape.

You don’t need to become the best networker in the world. But if you do want to build your network up over the long haul, it’ll help to make a habit of taking 1-2 networking actions a week. That could be setting up a call with a colleague, sending a birthday text, or commenting on LinkedIn posts.

It all adds up!

3. Take social leadership

If you want to meet new people and nurture your existing connections, then you’ll need to take initiative.

You may have noticed that most people wait to get invited to things. Most people just live their lives and wait for friends to reach out to them.

There is nothing wrong with being passive. But if you want to create the type of network where you can find job opportunities, then it will dramatically help to be a social leader.

This means that you need to be the one to text people and ask how it’s going. 

You need to be the one to reach out and set up a call. 

You need to be the one to say, “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met yet. My name is ______.”

Pro tip: Overcome shyness

For many people, the idea of putting themself out there at networking events is terrifying. They might feel awkward and socially anxious meeting new people because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing or of being disliked.

If you feel stifled by shyness, one of the best things you can do is take an improv comedy class.

Improv comedy is a lot of fun, and it will force you into social situations where you have to talk without a filter and say stupid things. And you’ll discover very quickly that removing your filter won’t actually kill you and might make you feel more confident and direct.

4. Meet new people 

Building your network over time requires a constant interplay between expanding your network and keeping your connections warm.

Naturally, people will fall out of your network over time. So it can help to always have at least some attention on building new relationships so that your network doesn’t fall apart altogether.

There are lots of ways to expand your network, but here are three good ones:

  • Take a cohort-based course. This will guarantee you meet a group of people with similar interests.

  • Attend an industry conference. Conferences are a great way to put yourself in the center of your industry’s social web.

  • Ask for introductions. If you want to know people in your industry, try asking your friends and family if they know anyone they could introduce you to.

If you’d like even more ideas, check out this article on how to expand your network.

5. Warm up your existing connections

It’s not enough to constantly meet people. Your network will never be able to support you if you don’t keep in regular contact with the people in it.

Remember, a network is built out of relationships. And relationships, like plants, require consistent watering to stay alive.

Here are a few ways to keep connections warm:

  • Set up an in-person (or virtual) tea

  • Send a happy birthday text

  • Comment on a social media post

  • Introduce them to someone else you know

  • Congratulate them when they accomplish something

  • Share a relevant article that made you think of them

Bonus tip: If you struggle to stay organized, set up a personal database of your connections to help you maintain your relationships. 

You can use something as simple as Google Sheets or you could try a personal CRM tool. 

My favorite CRM is Less Annoying CRM. And if you click this affiliate link, you’ll get a free two-month trial.

Once you have your database set up, you can: 

  • Organize people by industry

  • Track when you last reached out to each person

  • Take note of personal information like number of kids and personal hobbies

  • Keep track of important dates in others’ lives

  • Set reminders to follow up

6. Be helpful

It’s good form to go into every call and email exchange thinking about how you can offer something useful.

You don’t want to be known as the person who only asks for help. And once they get it, they vanish until the next time they need help.

Can you recommend a relevant book? Can you pass along the details to an upcoming workshop? Can you introduce them to another friend of yours?

The more you come from a place of trying to help others, the more it will eventually circle back to you. Possibly in the form of a job.

If you really look at the world through this lens, you might see opportunities to help people that you didn’t see before. 

When you listen to a podcast, a thought may pop up, “You know, I think Nathan would enjoy this.” Or, when you look at your LinkedIn feed, you may see endless opportunities to connect people to each other.

Bonus tip: join a referral group

There are groups out there where members try to help each other find jobs.

Here’s a free LinkedIn group I co-own called Job Search Advice & Referrals.

The idea is that members form a referral circle so that those looking for jobs can help each other out by providing referrals and sharing their networks.

Takeaways on Networking to Find a Job

If you are looking for a job, try one of these:

  • Catch up with everyone you know. When the topic of work comes up, be honest about what you’re looking for

  • When you find a job you want to apply for, ask a friend in the same industry to send a referral email

  • Write a LinkedIn post that both offers insights and asks for support

But also consider that networking is ultimately a long-game. If you can build a strong and authentic network over time, at some point opportunities will come your way. 

To build such a network, try these tips:

  • Look at people as relationships and not as leads

  • Carve out the time to network and make it a consistent habit

  • Take social leadership. Be the one to invite others to connect.

  • Constantly meet new people

  • But don’t forget to keep current connections warm

  • Always look to offer something helpful

If you’d like further support on finding a job, you may consider working with a career coach. 

Career coaches can be extremely helpful in finding clarity in what you want out of a job, knowing actions to take to get your dream job, and holding you accountable to taking steps to develop your network.

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