Are you struggling to gain traction with your job search? Do you feel like you’ve reached out to all of your contacts and no one has any leads?

You’ve probably started with the low-hanging fruit, people in your network with whom you stay in touch and are thus comfortable reaching out to when needs arise. When our closest contacts know of opportunities, that’s great. Sometimes all we need to do is hang out a ‘Now Available’ sign and opportunities flow our way.

But sometimes, no one has any suggestions that convert into opportunities.

To shake the tree, as it were, I have my job search clients activate their full network. Here’s how:

Download your LinkedIn contacts into Excel.

In Excel, delete contacts who aren’t really strong connections. You know the ones: Maybe you met them at a conference five years ago but you can’t really remember their face. Or maybe they’re a vendor but you never did any business together.

When you’ve pared your list down to your true contacts – the people you could call with a question who would answer the phone and know your name – you’ve identified your true network.

Now it’s time to really get to work.

Color code and organize the list beginning with your best contacts – the people who wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you – followed by the ones you know but know less well (think: acquaintances).

Of your best contacts, ask yourself two things:

  • Do they know that I’m looking for a new role?
  • If so, do they know what kind of role I’m looking for?

If the answer to either of those questions is “No,” it’s definitely time to connect. Reach out to these folks via email, text, or phone — whatever form of communication is most natural for each person on the list.

What do you say? You’ll want to have your Elevator Pitch down pat but you won’t lead with that. First, reconnect. Ask about their kids, their job, whatever you normally chat about. Next, modify the elevator pitch so it’s more conversational and geared toward a friend, not the more formal version you’d share at a networking event. Gauge your audience. For some folks, maybe you’ll go into very little detail in your initial note and invite them to coffee / lunch / happy hour. Or perhaps distance or availability will preclude a face-to-face visit and the note will suffice. Whichever route you choose, the more specific you are, the better someone may be able to help. Mention, at a minimum:

  • Your desired industry
  • Your commuting range
  • What level you’re at in a company
  • Whatever specifics may apply to the type of opportunity you seek

Avoid general language such as, “I’m interested in product management.” Instead, say, “I’m interested in owning the lifecycle of a product in the renewable energies space, specifically if it’s mechanical, e.g., windmills or generators, as I have a degree in mechanical engineering.”

Now, assign yourself __X__ number of contacts per week. (You’ll want to connect with everyone on the list but prioritize your best contacts.) If you’re unemployed, that number may be upwards of 20 per week. If you’re currently employed and have small children at home and have very little spare time in your day, that number may be 3 per week.

Don’t stress about the number; focus on the fact that you’re planting seeds. Job searches take time, and if you haven’t activated your network, that process alone can take a while to get moving.

When you’re activating your network, ask about valuable networking events. Are there ways for you to volunteer at an event? Volunteering gives you a reason for being there, a purpose for people to talk to you. It also takes the jitters out of feeling awkward and needy when you’re part of hosting the event rather than merely attending

When you connect with someone from your network, it’s great to ask them if there are one, two, or even three people in their network who are really good at networking and very connected to your industry who would be open to speaking with you. Use your current contacts to grow your network. We’ve all heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that’s never been more true. The people you know are always the best path to whatever’s next in your career.

The majority of my clients find career success by leveraging the people they know to connect them to opportunities. (Read one of the craziest networking stories I know here.)

 The most important thing we can do for our career is to maintain our network.

You’ve invested in these relationships. Don’t let them lapse and languish. Email folks once or twice a year, like their posts on Facebook or LinkedIn, take the time to stay connected. It doesn’t require a lot of effort to keep your network active.

Once, I was at the gym, chatting up the woman on the treadmill next to me. Through that conversation, I was introduced to a director of HR who would soon become my boss for the next seven years.

Do you have a networking story to share? Leave a comment below.

One last thought, on time management: I dictated this post into my iPhone while I was walking my dog on a Sunday morning. I emailed the note from my phone to my computer, cleaned up the file, and sent it off to my resume writer and blog/book editor, Beth, for a final polish.

If time management is something you struggle with, how can you make use of the moments in your day and the tools you have handy? Some of my best ideas come during my long dog walks, and with a dog who’s likely part greyhound – she’s a rescue – I walk frequently. Are you capturing your best ideas?

greyzone Newsletter

Free Career Tips. Delivered.

Join the greyzone mailing list for fresh insights and perspectives to take your career out of the greyzone.

You have Successfully Subscribed!