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12 New Networking Rules You’ll Need to Land That Dream Job

Updated: Jan. 12, 2023

Need to brush up on your networking skills? Career guru Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network, shares the new ways to build and activate powerful networks that will catapult your career to the next level.

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Look beyond LinkedIn

Sure, recruiters are actively searching for strong candidates—with these skills—on LinkedIn. But CEOs and industry professionals share company news on Twitter, and your friends and peers (especially past co-workers) may turn out the best sources for new jobs on Facebook. “The reality is as a job seeker you may need to be networking online in a number of places,” Hoey says. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to neglect LinkedIn. “Maintaining an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn is absolutely essential when you’re actively searching for a new job. A complete, detailed profile highlighting your expertise (and perhaps projects you’ve worked on and/or community service roles) increases the prospect of being found by the corporate recruiters and head-hunters who use the site.” Plus remember that LinkedIn is a great research tool during a job search. Companies list active searches on their company pages (so follow the companies your interested in working for), and you can filter job searches on the site by location, salary, and other requirements. Here are 12 LinkedIn mistakes that can cost you the job.

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Soak it all in

Your best networking tool are your ears, says Hoey. So, listen and observe how people in the industry you’re seeking to enter engage and interact with each other. How do they dress? What are the industry issues that keep them up at night? What are they reading? What organizations do they belong to? How are they presenting themselves online? Do your research so you can tailor your networking approach to the industry you’re seeking to enter. “It’s a bit like the old advice of dressing for the job you want to have.”

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Think about the full picture

Networking is not solely about selling yourself or attending an endless number of social events, says Hoey. “It’s your voice mail message, your headshot on LinkedIn, your business card, or email signature line. It’s grabbing a coffee with a work colleague or volunteering in the community.” How you show up in all of those networking opportunities likely matters more than how you work a cocktail room. And looked at this way, you see that on a daily basis you have many more opportunities to comfortably connect with other people (and network your ambitions).” Here are 12 Golden Rules of conversation.

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Attend a job fair with a goal

Before you register for a career fair, consider: Are you attending the career fair to meet a particular recruiter, to understand the job market, or to learn more about an industry? “Look at attending the fair as a way to start a conversation, as opposed to one-and-done to landing a job,” advises Hoey. Do your research on the fair beforehand so you know when’s the best time to arrive, how to navigate the fair, what to wear, and whether to bring business cards or additional copies for your resume. Also, develop a follow-up strategy for each person you meet!

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Ask to meet with a mentor—but know the rules

When networking, it’s OK to ask an industry insider if they’d like to meet up with you to discuss your career trajectory and seek some professional advice. However, there are rules to follow when doing so. Hoey advises against asking someone to meet with you when you don’t have a specific question or precise need for their advice. “Busy people want to be helpful, so help them help you by telling them why it is you need their guidance or insights. Do your research before you send the meeting request. If you can find the answer to your burning question via a Google search, great! You’re not going to waste someone’s time.” Plus, by conducting a little research before you ask someone to meet you in person, you’ll have the basis for asking a better question (or seeking clarification of the information you discovered online). Also, says Hoey, avoid making, “Can I meet with you over coffee” your default when requesting a meeting. “It’s impersonal, and makes assumptions about the other person such as guessing that they like coffee or enjoy meeting over coffee or allocate time to mentor over coffee. Be sensitive to the demands you’re making on other people when seeking their advice, by putting yourself in their shoes before you send the meeting request.” Be respectful of the time you’re asking others to give you and seek it in the best possible way. Consider starting with, “Please let me know when you’re available, and we can arrange a meeting near your office.” Here are 50 little etiquette rules you should always follow.

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Research the person you’ll be meeting with for the informal interview

Let’s just say a “friend of a friend of a friend” works in a field you’re curious about. How should you approach her for a potential meeting to learn more about what she do? “Sending an email saying you’d like to ‘pick her brain about her job’ emails are a complete turn-off and about the worst way to seek the guidance you’re after during a job search,” says Hoey. Instead, review the bio of the person you’d like to seek guidance from—then ask for an introduction because you’d like to hear her answers to your specific career question, such as, “I’ve been working in the marketing department for a large financial institution for the last 5 years. I’m experiencing a career itch, and exploring ways to apply my internal communications know-how in another industry. I see you made the move from Wall Street to Silicon Valley in 2007. I’d be intrigued to know how you made that transition (and whether it was a big cultural adjustment),” says Hoey. Again, then let the person you’re seeking the guidance from determine how to deliver the guidance to you, such as over email, coffee, or Skype.

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Mention your career goals via social media

If you’ve been out of the job market for a while (perhaps you were a stay-at-home-mom for five years and now want a part-time job), Hoey says to start networking well before the point at which you want to immediately jump back in. “Plan a networking strategy to re-engage your connections to the idea that you’re career-focused not just mom-focused. Review and audit all of your connection points with your network, as your existing connections are the ones most likely to help you.” Take a look at the industries or sectors they are involved in, both career and community activities, as these could be specific employers or types of organizations you’d like to pursue employment with. “Also, consider the information you’re currently sharing with your network. Could you infuse your Facebook posts with updates that highlight your work-related interests or leadership skills? Think about weekly activities that you’re undertaking (school, community, volunteerism, social) and how you can expand those relationships to aid in your workforce re-entry.” The other mom you’ve only scheduled play-dates with or volunteered with at school, may just be the hiring manager for her company. You never know. Speaking of social media, make sure to never, ever post these kind of photos.

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Remember: It’s not 2004 any more

Ways you may have networked even a decade ago are quite different than ways job seekers network present-day. With mobile, social, and the proliferation of in-person groups, there are so many more demands on our focus and so many more options to connect. (MeetUp, for example, launched in 2002, lists over 200,000 active groups globally). All those options can leave us scrambling and overwhelmed. “On the plus side, we have more vibrant online platforms to be smarter about our networking choices (and asks) than in 2004,” explains Hoey. “Back in 2004, you may have ‘heard’ that a particular association was a good one to join. Now, you can search online to find detailed information on recent meetings or conferences the association sponsored. You’ll likely come across images, speaker lists and feedback related to the group too. All this information arms you to make better choices as to where to spend your networking time.”

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Avoid jumping right into the “job” question

When introduced to someone new, Hoey cautions against immediately asking them, “So, what do you do?” “It could turn awkward. Rather, use the conversation at the party as a way to get to know the person, share mutual interests (which can be around work), and then follow-up with them after the event, such as saying, ‘I enjoyed chatting with you at Sharon’s party last Saturday and was delighted to find someone else who is equally enthusiastic about social media companies as I am. You spoke so glowingly about the company you’re working for that I actually spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon researching them online. What they are doing is really impressive—and is exactly the kind of employer I’d like to continue my career working for. I didn’t see any open listing of positions on the company’s website. Is there a recruiting firm they use that you are aware of? Any guidance you could provide would be terrific.'” Here are ways to break the ice and meet new people.

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Mention the mutual friend, if you have one

If you’re meeting a new person at a social event of a mutual friend, ask how they know the host. “Lean in, and listen to their answers, as those will reveal the next question to ask,” says Hoey. “For example, a ‘We used to work together at the bank’ naturally leads to, ‘Were you in the credit group as well and where are you now?’ type of inquiry.” And this is also the type of situation where you could ask the host in advance of the first awkward conversation for the background on who is attending the event. Adds Hoey: “Not all hosts go the extra mile to introduce guests with a starting point for conversation, so be pro-active and seek the information out.”

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Don’t forget the thank you email—and take any advice to heart

“I would advise to send the obligatory ‘thank you for the interview’ email with 24 hours – and then give some thought to your next follow-up communication. Did the person suggest a course to polish up your skills? If so, what did you do with their suggestion? And let them know,” says Hoey. “When I was seeking to make a career change back in 2001, someone did suggest I look into programming offered by NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies as a way to fill in the gaps in my resume. So I did – and then I let the person know I’d not only followed their valuable suggestion, but I’d registered to take a couple of courses as well.” Networking is about relationship building, adds Hoey, and most of the time it takes more than a single handshake or interview or email to make a strong enough connection for another person to offer a job. Want to touch base again a few months after your interview? “Find ways to express your continued interest in working for the company and ways to stay on top of potential openings within the company that don’t have your contact avoiding your communications,” adds Hoey. “For example, stay on top of news about the company or the industry it is in. You can do this via Google Alerts or by following the company on LinkedIn or Twitter. A merger, a new client or seasonal retail trends could mean the firm needs to hire. Use that information to re-engage with your contact.”

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Don’t be closed-off to headhunters

Be open to chatting with a professional headhunter or recruiter. Some you may reach out to online, others may find you via LinkedIn. “Recruiters are actively using online tools to stay on top of industry trends and track potential placements—and so you should be doing the same,” says Hoey. “Make sure you are the type of candidate they want to work with. Be responsive and be able to clearly state the type of role, salary level, and company culture you’re seeking.”