If you’re reading this article, you probably hate networking events. Here’s the good news: corporate networking events aren’t necessary for you to get in touch with the right people. There are many other ways to get a job without networking like an infomercial or throwing your business card around to anyone who passes by. Here are 5 unconventional approaches that actually worked for real job seekers.
1.) Tell a story. Recruiters and hiring managers are just like you: they respond to story-telling more than data or facts. Stories allow us to relate, to empathize, and lets our brains process information in a more digestible and memorable format. Research also shows that story-telling motivates, inspires, and engages people in the business world – including those looking to enter or advance in an organization.
Job seeker example: Jenna* unexpectedly harnessed the power of story-telling when she was introduced to a gentleman named Marvin at a fundraiser. Over dinner, Jenna briefly shared that due to recent efforts as a volunteer literacy tutor, several of her students were able to pass their state exams. As it happened, Marvin’s brother runs a non-profit to help immigrants adjust to life in the US, and needed a few more literacy coaches and a volunteer manager. Thus, a connection was made, by chance, without networking per se. Marvin ended up hiring Jenna part-time, but 2 years later, Jenna became the Senior Program Manager supervising a team of 5 coaches!
2.) Find your Happy Place. Anything that you do for fun can be a goldmine for meeting other people. Clubs and informal events outside of work tend to be more laid back, and it’s easier to talk about what you enjoy doing than it is in a more formal setting. These are also great places to show your passion for something, and that passion could align perfectly with your next career move. A brilliant way to get a job is just to start talking to people you encounter. Whether it’s at a bookstore, your tennis league, a party, or while travelling, natural conversation happens when both parties are at ease and have something to talk about.
Job seeker example: Richard* loves American muscle cars – restoring them and attending events with other “car geeks.” It was at one of these events where he met his current boss – but ironically, neither works in the automotive industry. “We bonded over a ’68 Mustang,” Richard stated. “I didn’t get a job overnight though. We saw each other at various events over the course of a year or so before we even started talking about our jobs.” Networking doesn’t have to be something to dread or something you force yourself to do. By getting out and doing what you enjoy, you could begin a casual conversation that could lead to a professional opportunity.
3.) Ask for advice. Too often, we think we have to sell ourselves as a know-it-all with a huge list of accomplishments. A better way to build a relationship with influential people is to start being vulnerable, sharing admiration for their work, and asking for advice. Identifying individuals at organizations you’d like to work for before there is a job opening will give you a leg-up on the competition when a position ultimately becomes available.
Job seeker example: Michael* had a successful career as an auditor, but when his wife’s company moved her across the country, he decided to use the move as an opportunity to re-evaluate his career path. Unsure of whether to stay in auditing, Michael instead began his search by thinking about his best-fit work environment. He focused on building a powerful online network – without networking. Michael researched companies that seemed to have his ideal work culture and made LinkedIn connections with people at those companies. When a position became available a few months later, Michael was a top candidate, landing the position due to being a referral.
4.) Volunteer. Though there are many ways to get a job, volunteering will take you to the head of the pack. Many self-proclaimed leaders make it a point to be involved in the community through charitable organizations. Employers want to hire people who can demonstrate that they’re motivated and hardworking, even if they haven’t been getting paid for their efforts. Volunteering can also provide job seekers with an insider’s advantage if there is an opening for a paid position.
Job seeker example: Danielle* regularly donates her time to a local animal rescue group. She has met several other volunteers, as well as individuals looking to adopt dogs and cats, who have become significant business contacts. More importantly, Danielle now has a leadership role within the organization, providing her management experience she was unable to get with her full-time job. This experience, in part, allowed her to receive a promotion at work.
5.) Write thank-you notes. Thank-you notes don’t only have to be sent after interviews. If you express your appreciation throughout your job search, you’ll continually differentiate yourself from other candidates – and be more likely to get the job you want. An attitude of gratitude ensures you continue to show appreciation to those who support you in your job search.
Job seeker example: Melinda’s* job search wasn’t yielding the results she wanted. She saw was angry that employers didn’t seem to appreciate her experience or achievements, and she finally reached the point of giving up. Though it sounded counter-productive at first, I asked her to think about the people throughout her career who helped her accomplish the things she had. I gave her resources to read – including one of my favorite articles from Bob McIntosh using gratitude in social media efforts. It took time, but Melinda’s mentality evolved from victim to survivor, and this led to more meaningful and useful professional connections. I’m pleased to report that Melinda has a new position with a higher salary and more productive teammates than she did with the company that laid her off.
The lesson: The very word “networking” can be intimidating, but the reality is that we all “network” every day. There are no set rules on where or when it can happen, so take advantage of every opportunity. And by all means, have fun with it!
P.S. You can probably think of more than 5 ways to get a job without networking. I’d love to hear your ideas!
*Real career success story; not their real name