A year ago, there were two available jobs for every candidate.
Today, unemployment is at its lowest level, inflation remains high, and many tech-sector companies are laying off or have instituted hiring freezes. At the same time, other industries continue their struggle to find talent.
The bottom line is that the labor market has shifted substantially and remains very dynamic.
If you’re a recent graduate looking for a new position or thinking about a career change, now is the time to dedicate yourself to expanding and diversifying your professional network.
Time spent now will pay off throughout your career.
According to Iavor Bijinov, assistant professor and Richard Hodgson Fellow at Harvard Business School, “Your digital network can have lasting implications on how your career progresses, not just over the next year, but over your whole life.”
It’s a big statement backed up by an exhaustive research study.
The study determined that a diverse professional network makes you a more valuable candidate to employers and recruiters.
With a diverse professional network, one is more likely to assimilate and learn about new ideas, experiences and opportunities from multiple sources.
In the study, Bijinov demonstrates that expanding and diversifying a network through individuals slightly removed from one’s current role yields a future with an increased number of job opportunities.
Connecting at conferences with clients, vendors, and people from adjacent businesses – especially those a few years senior – substantially increases career growth potential.
However, making productive connections that yield results is more than a simple LinkedIn exercise. It’s equal parts “positioning” or how you talk about yourself (next month’s topic) and polite persistence.
Polite persistence is the art of developing a receptive audience who want to engage with you, learn about your skills and experience and connect you with opportunities.
Polite persistence is a progression of well-timed, well-thought-out, and substantive interactions that begins with creating a positive first impression. Before you jump in and start furiously connecting, spend some time planning.
Develop your list of criteria for connecting
Audit your current connections on LinkedIn and identify those closest to you who have deep networks. From their list of contacts, target whom you would like to meet. Ask your primary connection for advice on your target list. In your introductory email, use your mutual acquaintance as the basis for the link.
If you’re new to LinkedIn, don’t feel the need to connect with everyone. Create a list of your skills and interests, then back into the industries or companies that value those things. Identify people in those companies and send an introductory email. If you are a recent graduate, your target list will include alumna from your school, connections from professors, family and friends. Overwhelmingly, alums like helping recent graduates, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Be clear about why you want to connect
The tone and content of your introductory email determine the likelihood that others will connect.
Draft a brief note introducing yourself and why you want to connect. If you are actively in the job market, let them know and ask for a 10-minute call to learn more about their experience in the field or role.
If a position is open within their company, reference your interest in the role and ask if they have any insight.
If this falls outside your comfort zone, remember that, more than anything, people want to talk about themselves. By reaching out, you give them that opportunity.
Create mutual benefit
For a connection to be helpful, there should be mutual benefit. Share an insight, article or resource that may be helpful.
Offer to put your new contact in touch with someone in your network. Offering further information and pathways is valuable in a networking relationship.
Relationships forged through mutual benefit will most likely open doors to new career opportunities. At the very least, you will expand your knowledge base, making you more valuable in your current role and to future employers.
On average, new connections take three reach outs to gain traction. This is where polite persistence pays off. If you haven’t heard back from your initial email within 3-5 days, reach out again with your request to connect. Acknowledge that you know they are busy and that you respect their time.
Remind them why you want to connect. If you can, add a resource or offer help.
If needed, give your prospect an ‘out’
Only some connections will be successful. If you have politely persisted to no avail, you want to avoid becoming annoying. If, after three outreach attempts, you haven’t gotten a response, end the conversation.
Send the last note thanking them for their time and consideration. Leave the door open for connecting at a future date. Wish them well in their endeavors and move on.
Diversifying your network is energizing and creates opportunities for broad-ranging conversations and the development of ideas. You’ll learn a lot and offer a lot. New ideas and input will give you the energy and excitement you’ll need to be successful in current and future roles.
Input. Options. Choice. Leverage.
When you expand your network, you expand your opportunities, now and in the future.