Job Strategy: The Human Side of Digital Networking

Job Strategy: The Human Side of Digital Networking
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Guest Blog by Bob Corlett of Staffing Advisors

If you have not looked for a job in the past few years, your search strategy is almost certainly obsolete. While job boards can be useful resources, they are a crumbling cornerstone of the modern job search strategy.

The new name of the game is digital approachability. Google is the new business card. If you're trying to avoid the NSA's watchful eye, it won't help your job search - if you're invisible online, you don't exist. In today's marketplace, the most useful weapon in your modern job search arsenal is LinkedIn. Yet, you're probably not using it to full capacity; it's missing a few pages of the instruction manual.

If effective networking is the holy grail of the modern job search, then LinkedIn is the hidden bridge. It makes maintaining and tracking your network connections much easier; no more rolodex, no more cold calls. With it, you can rise above the stack of resumes, extract yourself from the black hole of the applicant tracking system, and become...a human being! Admittedly, there is some irony in needing to go digital to add some humanity back into your job search, but bear with me.

By all means, connect with your close friends, family, and colleagues - talking to these "strong ties" may be all you need for a successful job search. But if you think that's all LinkedIn is good for, you're missing out on the real magic. LinkedIn makes it far easier to connect to and cultivate your "weak ties" and your "dormant ties." Weak ties are your acquaintances. Dormant ties, according to Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School and author of Give and Take, are "people with whom you've lost touch for a few years: a childhood neighbor, a college roommate, or a colleague from your first job."

Sociologist Mark Granovetter found in a classic study that you're 58% more likely to find a job by cultivating your weak ties rather than your strong ones. Why? Both weak and dormant ties offer more novel information than strong ties. They travel in different circles and are connected to entirely different people - unlike strong ties, who tend to travel in the same circles as you do.

You'll likely find that dormant ties are easiest to initiate contact with - after all, you're just catching up with an old friend. But if dormant ties aren't enough, build the strength of your weak ties. This can be more difficult, because you're forging new relationships and friendships where there once might have been only a weak acquaintanceship - or nothing at all. But they are definitely worth the effort, because the chances are that you share very few strong ties in common, thereby benefitting from their vast network that you would otherwise have had no access to. They may even have a useful connection to one of your dream companies.

For either group, the same rules apply. Personalize your "Request to Connect" when reaching out - it can be the first step toward a long, fruitful relationship. Even to this day I'm still pleasantly surprised - and much more likely to accept and reply - when someone takes the time to personalize their message to me. Joining LinkedIn Groups and participating in Group discussions are also great ways to build rapport with your weak ties before making a more personal outreach.

The most important thing to be aware of is that you need to offer reciprocity in every networking relationship. Build a reputation as a giver, not a taker. Ideally, you want them to owe you a favor, not the other way around. So find a way to help them before you ask them to do something for you. You'll find that most people are naturally uncomfortable with owing a debt and will work to repay it quickly (hopefully to the benefit of your job search efforts). The death knell on LinkedIn is being put into connection limbo because you've never returned a favor, so ensure their reciprocity by constantly giving.

Bob Corlett is the founder and president of Staffing Advisors, an executive search firm located near Washington, DC. He writes about innovation, staffing, leadership and performance management for The Business Journals, and is a founding member of the Editorial Advisory Board for The HR Examiner. Bob is collaborating with Keating Advisors on a series of articles on the workplace, including balancing work and life, career strategies, and closing the gender pay gap.

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