How to network strategically and authentically — part 1

JULIE CHASE | FEBRUARY 25, 2021

I recently took Daniel Pink’s MasterClass on Sales and Persuasion (which was excellent). He surveyed 5,000 people and asked them what they thought of when they think about sales. The #1 adjective hands down was “pushy.” Not surprisingly 25 of the top 50 adjectives were negative. He also asked what they pictured when they thought of a salesperson and the overwhelming majority was a used car salesman.

Even though our instinctual response is negative, we all sell — all the time. In our personal lives, we persuade our family and friends on where to dine, what to watch, what to buy, etc. And this may surprise you, but 40% of our time at work is spent selling influencing others for buy-in on ideas, securing approvals, resources, etc.

When it comes to networking, people think of it as selling and even worse, having to sell themselves. They think they’ll have to pressure or force people to help them. It’s no wonder networking is the number one thing our clients want help with.

And just to drive the point home, when people ask me what’s the key to a successful job search, it’s without question — networking.

Never fear, I’m going to share a step-by-step approach to networking, which will help ease you into it. And just like starting to exercise, it’ll be a bit painful at first, but then you’ll grow skills and confidence and soon develop a strong muscle!

First, make a copy of this google sheet to use while going through each step.

Step 1: Identify target companies 

List your target companies on the 2nd tab. If you don’t have any companies, then: 

  • Do a brain dump of all companies that come to mind. Don’t filter or judge, let the ideas flow and write them all down.
  • Once you’ve exhausted your mind, look at news sites and business journals, the best places to work lists and other sites. For example, Seattle has a GeekWire 200 list which focuses on the top private tech companies.
  • Then do high level research. Look at Glassdoor to see the company and CEO review AND make sure there are enough reviews to make it credible. 
  • Go to the company website and look at the careers page. See if they’re doing a lot of hiring by the number of job postings. And check out their vision, mission and core values and see if they resonate with you.

Add the companies that you are initially interested in. This is by no means your final target list, but it’s a great starting point. Your initial list should be somewhere between 10 and 20 companies. You don’t have to rank all of them, but select the top 3 to 5 that you’re most interested in at the top (for networking purposes).

Step 2: Identify target roles via job boards

You want to be opportunistic when there are roles that are aligned with your criteria. I suggest picking one job board and setting up time weekly (preferably same day/time) to search for roles. My go to one is LinkedIn, but some of our clients use Indeed and Glassdoor. Prioritize networking for these roles first and then focus on target companies.

The best advice I can share is to network and get a referral instead of applying for a job online. This will significantly increase your chances of getting a screen. When you stay on top of postings, you have a couple of weeks to get a referral. If a job is posted less than a week it most likely means they have someone in mind for the role. So you’re not losing out. 

Bonus: list the criteria most important to you for your ideal role and company on the 1st tab. It’s an extremely valuable exercise as it helps you focus on opportunities that align to your values. It also serves as a benchmark when you’re evaluating offers.

While the role is important, I encourage you to adopt a company-minded job search. You want to join a company that’s healthy, thriving and fosters lateral and upward mobility. At a good company, you’ll be able to create phenomenal opportunities for yourself. This will greatly contribute to your fulfillment and tenure there. So spend more time thinking about the criteria for your ideal company. 

Step 3: Map out people to reach out to — using the networking matrix

Networking is a valuable activity beyond the job search, but when used for the job search it helps you gain intel on the company, surface opportunities before they get posted, get referrals to roles and receive introductions to hiring managers and recruiters.  

In order for it to be effective, you need to be strategic — targeting specific people and making specific requests. If you just ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of anything, you’ve pretty much wasted an opportunity. So here’s how to make networking strategic. 

  • Look at the 4th tab, which is the networking matrix. 
  • Go back to your target company list and select 3-5 companies and add those.
  • Then go to LinkedIn to see if you have any 1st degree connections. If you do, list them in the target contacts section. 
  • If you only have a couple of 1st degree connections or don’t have any, then look at the 2nd degree connections. 
  • List the 2nd degree person in the “Target Contact” column and list the mutual connections who you feel comfortable reaching out to in the “Connections” column.
  • Reach out to people in your “Connections” list asking them for an introduction. 

For the 2nd degree ones, you’ll reach out to your mutual connections, which are your 1st degree peeps to get introductions. Here are some examples of emails that you can use. Pro tip: if you have their email address, email them as it gets a higher response rate. 

There are 2 key ways to search for people on LinkedIn. 

First way: company page

  • Go to the company page and then use the link that says “So and so work here” or “# employees” 
  • Enter one of your target companies in the search bar
  • Click on the Company page
  • In the header section, you’ll see a message that might say something like “4 connections work here” or “See all employees,” click on one of those links
  • Go to the top nav and click on the Connections dropdown menu. Check the 1st and 2nd boxes
  • Then look at your list of people and pick the ones you want to target and reach out to on your networking matrix

Second way: title search

  • You can enter “Job Title CompanyName (e.g., Customer Success Airbnb).” 
  • Click on “See all people results” 
  • Go to the top nav and click on the Connections dropdown menu. Check the 1st and 2nd boxes
  • Then look at your list of people and pick the ones you want to target and reach out to on your networking matrix

A target contact can be a recruiter or talent acquisition manager — although it’s usually difficult to determine what department they’re hiring for. I recommend looking for people who are on the teams you want to join. For example, if I’m looking for a Customer Success role, I’ll try to network into the Customer Success team. If you don’t have any mutual connections to people on that team, look broader across the company. You may need to network with a few people before you get introductions to the most relevant team.

Networking matrix example

Okay, let’s see what this actually looks like. 

Let’s say I want to apply for a Customer Success role at CompanyX. 

I have one 1st degree connection here, Michael Smith. I also listed a couple of mutual connections which may come in handy during our conversation. 

I have dozens of 2nd degree connections, but selected the most relevant ones — adding to the Target Contact column. 

In the Connections column, I’ve added all of my 1st degree connections who I know well enough to ask for an introduction to the target contacts.

Here’s a best practice: ask a couple of people for an introduction to the same person. Because we don’t know who is going to respond quickly or not. And if both respond, you can let the second person know that you just received an intro, but would love for them to put in a good word for you and/or ask who else you should be meeting.

Here’s another best practice: expand your network across the team, department and/or organization. This will increase your chances of getting in front of key leaders including hiring managers. 

This is how strategic networking works. It’s the process of identifying key people, mapping out who to reach out to and then sending messages. 

In all of the years I’ve done strategic networking and helped hundreds of others, I’ve learned one universal truth: we can’t predict who’s going to respond and help. Some of our clients are sure their close friends or colleagues will make an introduction, but some of them don’t even respond. And then they’re wildly surprised when someone they barely know goes out on a limb, makes introductions and ends up becoming their internal advocate. 

Instead of spending time and energy guessing who’s going to help, spend time reaching out and having good conversations. 

And don’t take it personally when people don’t respond. It’s almost always about themselves. They might be dealing with a family crisis or overwhelmed at work. Or they read your message at a busy time and just forgot to get back to it. Rule of thumb, reach out to them twice (at least a week apart) and then let it go. 

One more thing: don’t discount dormant ties. Studies show that dormant ties can be even more helpful than your closest ties. And by dormant I mean people you worked with or knew years, even decades ago.

Okay, you’ve made your target company and role lists, you’ve filled out your networking matrix and started to reach out to people. Now what? 

Next week I’ll share how to navigate an informational while being your authentic self. I’ll give you a list of questions that you should prepare answers to and a list of questions you can ask to get the help you need. 

Are you looking to land a job where you’ll feel fulfilled, realize your potential and get the salary you deserve?

If so, then watch our video and book a session with one of our job strategists. We’re excited to talk to you!