As a career coach, I see many job-hunting clients stressing out about their resumes. They tinker over the perfect LinkedIn profile, and spend hours drafting email introductions to be sent to prospective employers. Having once been on the recruiting side of things, though, I can tell you that finding a job has less to do with the perfect resume or LinkedIn profile, and more to do with making a real connection with the people in your extended network.
Yes: a real connection. Sure, we are all wired to the digital space that can connect us to anyone at anytime, but that virtual connection just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to changing or transitioning your career. There is really one thing that can help you get your next job, Dorothy, and you’ve had it all along: a conversation.
I learned about the power of conversation during my own transitional career period last year. After a successful career change into full-time coaching and consulting, I found myself cruising along with a host of clients, a shiny new master’s from Columbia, a brand new nonprofit girls leadership organization growing faster than I could keep up with, and a ton of positive quotes from Instagram in my back pocket. I was going to be the no-nonsense warrior goddess of the entrepreneur world and do it differently than everyone else.
Then BAM! An unexpected turn of events left me missing a chunk of my income. It was nothing dramatic — a project was killed that affected myself and two other service providers — but I decided that maybe full-time entrepreneurship wasn’t my bag. As a contract recruiter, I knew the ins and outs of LinkedIn, Indeed, and the like, so I thought I was going to become the job application ninja and land myself a good old 9 to 5-er.
Two hundred job applications later, I thought to myself, “But wait, I haven't actually applied to a traditional job since 1998.” Every other job I’d had I created in (aha!) a conversation.
Having conversations with people in your extended network will not only help you discover jobs that are out there, but will give employers the opportunity to create jobs around your specific skills. Whether you are looking for a new job, planning to leave one you hate, or looking to create something totally different, here are a few quick ways to get ready to converse:
- What the heck do you do? Learn how to say it in three sentences.
- Get out a notebook (or a phone if you’re a digital maven) and make two lists: people who can help you directly, and people who can help you indirectly because they know a lot of the right people.
- Schedule yourself time blocks for reaching out, and then pick up the phone and start dialing! When you call someone nowadays they tend to think someone is dying, so they just might pick up. Flash back to 1993 when you had to actually use your phone for talking, and learn to love it.
- Track everything. I know this is annoying, but do it. Where did you leave off with people? Did you get a specific result? Do you need to follow up? Don’t have conversations that go into an abyss; track conversations until they produce action.
- Go on LinkedIn to see what your people are up to. Who can help you? Who do they know? LinkedIn is actually your No. 2 secret weapon!
- Start endorsing people on LinkedIn! This gets people noticing your profile and seeing if you are someone that they might want to work with. I became an endorsing fool, and it landed me a 30-minute segment on a cable TV show that gave me some serious media footage gratis.
- The last one is hard: Accept this will be a process of trial and error. One person may provide nothing more than a friendly conversation, but another may provide the one conversation that makes a difference. All you really need is one.
Through these conversations, I have kept up my streak of creating jobs for myself. Do I have my conversations panned out? Absolutely. I’m not special. I’m as human and freaked out by this job stuff as you.
Changing or transitioning your career in 2015 is no joke, and requires you to get out there and talk to people. Use your secret weapon — that voice you’ve been hiding for so long — and start your conversations now.
Stephanie Licata is a member of the DailyWorth Connect Program. Read more about the program here.