Jane (the 56-year-old woman navigating her way back to work) is just about ready with all her job search sales tools (primarily her resume and Linkedin profile), and she is researching companies that she’d like to target. This is when the job search must become very proactive—you can’t wait around for desirable job postings to appear online (and a predominately online search, as I’ve noted before, is a weak and frustrating “black hole” strategy). Instead, through networking, Jane needs to find every way possible to get her foot in the door of her target companies.
To illustrate the very proactive, resourceful and relentless networking process, I’m going to pretend in this blog post that I’m looking for a job in my local area. It can be harder to network into smaller companies or organizations (fewer current and past employees), so for my fictitious search I’m going to target a small, but prominent non-profit that has a focus on women (a real organization that I will refer to in this article as the Sheridan Foundation).
On Sheridan’s web site, there are no jobs listed that meet my profile, but I’m still going to try to make connections–since I know all open jobs are not advertised. This networking process, however, works if you are applying to a job posted online as well: apply online, and then go through this process to get the attention of someone of importance who can flag your resume and cover letter for the company recruiters.
Here are the first three ways I’ll network to find “people of influence” who might be able to help me get inside Sheridan:
See who is in charge. First I check the staff listing on the organization’s web site. I do not know anyone who is listed. But then I look at the Board of Directors and I have better luck: one neighbor, one woman who shares my alma mater and one who I think is married to an old friend of my husband’s family. All three of these directors go on my priority “to connect” list.
Harvest Linkedin. The powerful Linkedin networking engine can be useful in many ways. First, I want to see if I have any Linkedin connections to the organization’s leadership team. I search for each person using the box at the top of my profile page. Right off the bat I have a second-degree connection to the President (second degree means that she is linked to one of my first-degree connections—and, as a result, I can send her an invitation to connect). I also have second-degree connections to six people on the President’s senior team. I put it on my list to send Linkedin invitations to all of these people. Once we’re connected, I can message them on Linkedin or look at their contact information for a private email address.
Though I don’t really need this next step (since I have so many second-degree connections to the senior team), another way to access insiders is to search for “Sheridan Foundation” using the same search box at the top of my profile page. I find that I have 56 first and second-degree connections to current and past employees, board members and volunteers. Starting with my first-degree connections (those I can email directly via Linkedin), I find a former board member and a former director of programs who are likely to know people managing the organization today. I also find a current program consultant (an independent contractor who will still have some “insider” knowledge) and a former volunteer who I know through a different organization.
Second-degree connections (who I cannot email directly via Linkedin since we need to formally connect) are another possible resource. It turns out that I have some very good prospects here: two current Vice Presidents, two directors, and three managers who I can invite to connect on Linkedin and then (if they accept) have direct access to via email. For these second-degree connections I would see who we know in common and if it is anyone I know well, I can ask for a more personal introduction via Linkedin. The same process can be used to connect to many third-degree (those who are connected to my second-degree connections) connections at the organization.
Tap into alumni connections. For smaller, local organizations, it can be difficult to find people who share your alma mater. But it’s well worth a shot. This involves contacting the career services departments of the schools you attended and finding out if they have an online alumni directory. Most schools do—but they are not all an equal bounty. These directories rely on the participation (and updates!) of alumni who can be hard to pin down. You may be lucky—especially if you are searching for fellow alumni at larger companies. In my case, I could not find any fellow alumnae at this small organization. (Note though, as I said above, I did find a fellow alumna via Linkedin.) It would, however, make sense to call the Career Services Department directly to discuss your search targets in general as the staff counselors often know information—and alumni—that are not in the online directory.
Once you have a list of possible connections for a target company, what’s your message? The key is to be as specific possible—no requests to “pick your brain”. Here’s an example when you have an email address:
On the Sheridan Foundation web site I noticed that you are currently the VP of Development. Sheridan is of great interest to me as I return to full-time work. For the past 10 years I have worked part-time primarily as an independent contractor, and I’m looking to ramp back up to full-time work in the fundraising and development areas of a non-profit. Sheridan’s focus on helping women of all backgrounds return to the workforce aligns with my coaching work, and I have also raised more than $300,000 over five years for several community and educational capital campaigns. If you’re willing, I would love to arrange a time to speak with you by phone for 15 minutes about the expertise I could bring to Sheridan, possible opportunities and your overall insights to the organization’s mission and culture…
If you do not have an email address for a potential contact you found on Linkedin, for example, send a slightly different note to a mutual contact who might be willing to make an introduction:
I noticed that you are connected to Nancy Smith on Linkedin—and as you know she is currently the Sheridan Foundation VP of Development. Sheridan is of great interest to me as I return to full-time work, and I am hoping you will be willing to introduce me to Nancy. For the past 10 years I have worked part-time primarily as an independent contractor, and I’m looking to ramp back up to full-time work in the fundraising and development areas of a non-profit. Sheridan’s focus on helping women of all backgrounds return to the workforce aligns with my coaching work and I have also raised more than $300,000 over five years for several community and educational capital campaigns. Your introduction to Mary would help me identify possible opportunities at Sheridan, as well as overall insights to the organization’s mission and culture…
And finally, for the networking contact you approach after applying blindly for a job online (hoping that this contact can influence and identify the hiring manager):
Recently I applied online for the Director of Development position at the Sheridan Foundation. Since there are hundreds of applicants for positions posted online, I am trying to connect to people within the organization to see who would be my best contact, discuss my fit for the opportunity and gather insights about the organization’s mission and culture. If you’re willing, I’d love to set up a time to speak with you or one of your colleagues by phone for 15 minutes.
From my Linkedin profile you will see that for the past 10 years I have worked part-time primarily as an independent contractor, and I’m looking to ramp back up to full-time work in the fundraising and development areas of a non-profit. Sheridan’s focus on helping women of all backgrounds return to the workforce aligns with my coaching work and I have also raised over $300,000 in five years for several community and educational capital campaigns…
When I decided to target Sheridan Foundation in my fictitious job search, off the top of my head I knew two women who could possibly help me get my foot in the door—a neighbor and an old business friend who both have played major roles at the organization. But for many possible reasons, they might not be able to help me. The networking net needs to be wide and deep—and this blog post shows that anyone can rustle up many networking connections to any organization through personal connections, Linkedin, alumni groups, and other resources not mentioned here such as industry and women’s organizations. In less than an hour I identified nearly 60 possible people who could open the door for me at the Sheridan Foundation—and you can find many people to help you with your job search targets, too. —KAS
Keep watching for more on Jane’s Journey Back to Work. In the meantime, what questions do you have about your own back-to-work journey? Use the comments section below or contact me about individual coaching or resume development. And if you like this post, please share by using the social media buttons also below.
Photo Credit: Aleks Melnik/www.freedigitalphotos.net