How to Build a Network That Will Work for You
If job postings were the only way to fill a role, many searches for the ideal fit would never end. In a quest for the perfect candidate, your network is your most valuable asset. However, networks, especially good ones, don’t create themselves. In order for your network to be an effective instrument towards achieving your hiring goals, it needs to be built, maintained and appropriately utilized.
Building Your Network
Your LinkedIn connections may include friends, colleagues, family, people you already know, or occasionally, the somewhat out of context request that you accepted. To build a stronger and more useful network, grow it offline.
“So, what do you do for work?”A simple question with an underlying networking goal. The answer provides context, fulfills curiosity, and most importantly, allows you to categorize this new person appropriately in your network. If this person’s work is relevant to yours or if their career is of interest, creating a relationship and staying in touch may end up being beneficial.
Though organic introductions and off the cuff meetings are a nice way to build your network, they are definitely not enough. Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director of Robert Half, advises recruiters to utilize the same channels job seekers do in a job search to find qualified candidates. McDonald suggests attending industry association workshops, webinars, forums and seminars relevant to professionals with the profiles you are looking for. This allows you as a recruiter to build your knowledge of the candidate marketplace. What do candidates care about? What are they interested in? Awareness of top tier candidate interests can help you tailor your networking efforts to attract top talent.
Another important thing to keep in mind when building your network is maintaining and increasing its diversity. You do not want a network of all the same or similar profiles. McDonald encourages recruiters to connect with a diverse array of potential candidates of varying industries, companies and levels of experience.
“The more people you know, the greater the likelihood that one of them may be able to help you find the new hire for which you’re seeking.”
It is important to have a diverse network in order to have a diverse pool of candidates.
Nurturing Your Network
Putting effort into building a robust and diverse network will ultimately amount to nothing if you do not dedicate time to nurturing your connections. This means understanding what your network needs, taking care to not overtask or overuse it and carefully and strategically prioritizing relationships as they can be useful to all parties.
Casey Renner, Openview’s Executive Network Director, believes that in nurturing your network, there is nothing more important than understanding what it needs. Listening to your network and understanding what it wants will make your connections more meaningful and useful. Asks will be more poignant, likely yielding better results and your network will be more likely to participate in what you are asking of it.
While making asks, always be aware to never over task your network- the goal is to never ask more of your network than you are providing. Casey uses a good rule of thumb: two ‘gives’ for every ‘ask.’ Whenever possible, engage your network in interactions that are mutually beneficial. For instance, facilitating intros, peer connection, asking for content pieces and providing speaking opportunities are all potentially beneficial for both you and the person you are asking to participate.
Naturally, network relationships will ebb and flow. To manage this, you can prioritize certain relationships based on the mutual value for all involved. Casey’s concise advice: “you can’t always be helpful.” It’s important to realize this so that you can maximize the use of your network’s time as well as your own.
To reengage a faded connection, Casey recommends in-person interactions. A face-to-face meetup, like grabbing a coffee, shows a vested interest in the relationship. Not only do in-person meetings show your connections that you are willing to give them your time, but they’re also a great chance to realign what you’re both looking to get out of your relationship.
Ultimately, your network is made up of people with busy lives and jobs that don’t just include talking to you. Casey emphasizes the importance of remembering that all of your connections are people. It can become easy to view your network as a ‘tool,’ and relationships can become robotic and mechanical. “People have lives outside of responding to the emails that you send them. Never take anything personally!” As long as you are responsible and respectful of your network’s time, you should be able to reconnect when a reason occurs.
Using Your Network
Using and nurturing your network tend to coincide. But, aside from building the bases of relationships and painstakingly curating and caring for the product, you must also ask your network for what you need. Looking to hire? Put the jobs out there. Make sure your network is aware of what you are looking for (word of mouth travels far and fast). LinkedIn job posts rarely garner the likes of an Instagram, but a ‘thumbs up’ can go a long way when it pushes your post onto the right candidate’s feed. Refresh your posts often and ask people in your network (particularly those who you are hiring for) to share! You never know who might see the post or who in your network might know the right candidate. If you have built and maintained your network well, a great candidate might just end up in your inbox.
Greg Storey, InVision’s Senior Director of Executive Programs, on standups and standing, evening escape plans and killing elephants.