Networking remotely

Looks like we’ll all be on Zoom a bit longer.

With working remotely turning into a permanent fixture of our lives, how does networking work during a job search? If you can’t catch up over a beer or cocktails, how can you do your casual networking?  And how can you find the inside scoop?

Well, here’s a bit of advice for making your hybrid networking more effective.

Instead of asking your contacts for a job or for job leads, ask them for a reference

Schedule your catch-up Zoom or walk in the park with your former colleague / classmate / boss / industry peer, and at the right time, ask them if they’ll be a reference for you in your job search.

This turns traditional advice about enlisting your network on its head.  And for good reason.

Don’t ask your roommate from college if she knows of any openings for someone with your experience.  Unless she’s in the search herself, how would she?

And asking your boss from two jobs ago if he can recommend any hiring managers you should speak with puts him on the spot. It won’t lead to a great outcome.

Instead, ask those closest contacts for a reference. Let them know that it’s time for you to be moving on, and you’re out looking for your next great opportunity in life.  Tell them about the types of roles or opportunities you’re hoping to land, and what you think might be the best kind of companies for someone like you.

And then ask them if it would be OK, when it gets to that point in your search, if they would be a reference for you.

This is helpful, flattering, and productive.

It’s helpful because once you let someone know you’re looking, they’re more likely to start thinking about ways they might be supportive. 

You haven’t put them on the spot by asking if they know of any specific jobs – it’s difficult for people to walk around with job openings for others saved in their memory – so they don’t feel awkward.

It’s flattering for them to know their words and their status are highly respected by you, and that you believe their input could help you land a future job. It comes across as a compliment.

It also subtly emphasizes that you’re serious. Any time they spend thinking about your job search will pay off, because you’re in the middle of it. And their help will be timely.

You’re making it easier for them to say “yes”, and to feel good about themselves for being a good friend and helping you out with a little favor.

All of which means that you have a new buddy in your search — one who’s going to be keeping an eye out for their friend with good taste in references: you.

It’s natural at this point for people to reciprocate. You’ve flattered them with your request, and you’ve indicated that you hold them in high regard. You’ll find that, without directly asking, you’ll get more assistance from people in your job search this way.

We naturally want to help others who have honored or helped us.

So in this strange hybrid season, get your Zoom networking on, and ask for a reference.