Are you in job-hunting mode? Are you struggling to land interview calls? Let’s dive into the hiring manager's mind. According to the US Department of Labor’s estimate - the average cost of hiring the wrong person costs at least 30% of the individual’s first-year expected earnings. Imagine if you face a situation where you need to hire a caretaker for your loved one. Who will you choose if you have a choice between hiring a trusted recommendation or a stranger? From a hiring managers' viewpoint, if there is a trusted person in their network for that role, they will bring that person in without second thoughts. This speaks volumes about the significance of a network.
There are two popular ways of getting a job:
- The usual approach of distributing your portfolio and subsequently receiving interview calls.
- Through someone you know, or someone's uncle's friend's dog's neighbour. Also known as networking.
Many people think that networking is meant only for seeking a job. I was guilty of such a misconception when I was new to job hunting. I recall attending the university career fair filled with hope. I ensured that my resume made its presence in every booth. However, my expectations were dashed when I heard back only from a handful of people.
I realised that playing this game would not be sustainable in the long run. I was too focused on what I would get out of the transaction without considering how I could benefit the other party. I should have gone above and beyond to earn trust points from my prospective employers. Nurturing relationships and making your presence in the community are just a couple of ways to network.
General advice for networking
“Your network is your net worth”— Porter Gale (The author of “Your Network Is Your Net Worth”)
Networking is about building trust. Building trust takes time, hence networking takes time. You might ask yourself, why put in the effort when I can follow the traditional route of applying? These strategies of networking can increase your chance of landing your dream project and could help maintain future professional relationships.
Make the first move
I recently went to a networking workshop hosted by Matt Stenquist through Memorisely. A common trepidation among students was how to approach people. Stenquist’s advice was to reflect on which values you admire from a potential connection. Once your values are at the forefront of your mind, engaging in further conversation becomes more personalised. Keeping the message clear as people have limited time to offer to strangers. My takeaway from the workshop was not to overthink the consequences of approaching people. You can overcome the fear of rejection by putting yourself in the other person's shoes. As Stenquist mentioned, if you have written a respectful message and did not hear back, do not take it to heart. There will eventually be someone who will be thrilled to lend you a helping hand in your journey.
Networking is reciprocity
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”— Zig Ziglar (author, salesman, motivational speaker)
Networking is give-and-take. You can join a design community where you will encounter individuals who will be happy to book coffee chats with you. From there, you can be part of each other’s growth journey. Believe in yourself. You have a lot to offer to the community. When you help someone today, the other person will remember you with gratitude. Who knows, maybe in the future, that person will recommend you for a position or might invite you to work together.
I recently became a member of Polywork, a platform for collaboration. It is common for professionals to seek participants for usability tests on their products. The co-founder of Wonderpath approached me for a usability test through this platform and we hopped into a chat, and I offered feedback on the user interactions.
After the feedback sessions on Wonderpath, the co-founder and I met a couple of times, where I shared my passion for writing and illustrating. She offered pointers on ways to improve my craft by sharing advice on where to find inspiration, practising the skills consistently, seeking feedback, joining a community and discussing with like-minded folks. Thanks to her invaluable advice, I was introduced to freelancing tools like Contra. Her suggestions helped me acquire side gigs as a UI/UX designer at SoulDoodles, a platform that inspires people to create art.