In Part 1 of Connecting for Success, I discussed broadening and deepening your connections on LinkedIn and invited you to consider how you can add value both to the people you network with and others that are job searching. Before discussing other ways to connect with professionals to learn more about what they do (and where they do it), here’s a response to a recently unemployed reader who asked for help building a LinkedIn strategy. You can adapt this to suit your situation:
After short-listing companies you are interested in working for, connect with 12-15 people at different levels at three of those companies. During your next scheduled period of time on LinkedIn, if you haven’t got more than three or four responses from people at those companies, send invitations to connect with up to a dozen more employees, and then move on to the next three companies on your short list. By the time it comes to composing your cover letter and/or interviewing you will have had ample opportunity to reach out to some of those connections and get the inside scoop on their organization, its culture and their day-to-day experience. And they may be able to connect you with someone in the specific area/unit you’d ideally like to work in.
Companies are far more likely to invest in you and grant you an interview if they can see that you’ve made an investment in them beyond merely googling their mission and values. When your cover letter shows that you’ve taken the time to get to know the company by speaking to employees and can talk about how you identify with the values and people in the organization, this is a great way to impress.
Importantly, the company may have a strong valuation, and the culture may look great on paper, but individual units can be a mess and/or have high turnover. The last thing you want to do is work for a company where everyone’s miserable and/or feels their jobs are at risk. Conversations with people at those companies will help identify things that are important to you and can warn you of potential hazards of employment.
Making the acquaintance of people on “the inside” has the added benefit that one or two may become allies or even a mentor in your broader job search, and could refer you to places they’ve worked for in the past or who they think you’d be a good fit for. They may also offer/agree to inquire on your behalf if you apply to their company and haven’t heard back after interviewing or submitting an application within a reasonable time period (usually two weeks in the pre-Covid era).
Don’t forget to explore alternatives beyond LinkedIn. I use lunchclub.ai to meet with other professionals about areas of shared interest or simply to expand my knowledge and horizons. (Note, this forum is for professionals rather than students.) I don’t get any compensation, but using this URL: https://bit.ly/lunchclubAI will help you skip their long wait list.
Consider joining a group or two on meetup.com, and/or use your shul/community listserv (e.g., Google groups) or bulletin to communicate to members that you are interested in the field of X and would love a short conversation with them or someone they know to learn more about the industry and career paths in the field. (Note: Even though in many industries it is already time to start looking for next summer’s internship, do not ask for this in your initial outreach.)
Tip: Didn’t hear back after a week or only got a few responses? Try again. As with interviews, follow-up is key.
Daniel Coleman, MBA, is a sought-after career coach, passionate about helping people identify their values, find meaning and achieve their career goals. At Yeshiva University, his primary focus is providing coaching, programming and resource development for the growing and diverse multiethnic graduate student population. A former motorcyclist, he’s also a registered organ donor, left-handed, and a patent holder. You can reach him on LinkedIn with questions or suggestions for future columns.