I’ve been the recipient of some great and many terrible networking notes.
The ones that I usually ignore involve asking me for…
A job outright. (I’m not hiring right now.)
A physical meeting. (I struggle with making time for my own lunch most days.)
Twenty minutes of my time. (Whenever I am asked for twenty minutes, I seem to end up being the subject of a very pushy sales pitch.)
A referral to a person who can help them. (I’m always reluctant to subject my contacts to complete strangers.)
A referral to anyone! (These notes require too much work – “Out of my thousands of connections, who should I send you to?” Also, see point above.)
Bonus: I also receive notes calling me “Dear Sir.”
Once in a while, I’ll receive a very beautifully written, well-researched, well-meaning note with one of these “asks.” I always respond to those because I understand how much work went into writing them, but I do not respond positively. I politely reject the sender and let them know why I can’t help them.
I always feel very bad for doing this, especially when I get detailed “cover emails” and copies of resumes. I know hardworking job seekers spend a lot of time studying their contacts’ LinkedIn profiles and tailoring their notes.
Even when I feel like I’m being mass-messaged, I have a lot of respect for people trying to network. They are usually smart, sophisticated professionals that happen to be the victims of the resume “black hole” – online application systems – and want to supplement their application activities by networking. These professionals are miles ahead of other candidates in that they’re at least trying to tap into their network and the hidden job market.
And while the approach of reaching out to folks on LinkedIn is far better than just applying online, often, the only response job seekers will get to their outreach is something like, “Thanks for your note. Please apply for this job online.”
And the reason this happens is that recipients of these notes are busier, smarter, and warier of connecting with strangers than ever before simply due to the sheer number of bots and scammy people out there.
According to a survey by Radicati Group, in 2017, the average professional was getting 121 emails a day – and opening only a third of them.
So, in order to stand out, not only must our emails be heard above all that noise, we also must delight our contacts and make them fall so hard in love with us that they have to refer us to the jobs we want.
But this is impossible to do with just a single email, or what I like to call One-Touch Networking.
As a result, the notes that people send out often do not get responses because they overwhelm the recipient (“this is too much work for me to deal with right now”) and make it difficult for them to respond immediately and positively.
I’m sure most people wish they had the luxury of answering each and every note they receive thoughtfully. If like me, you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a note like the ones above, most likely, you’ve done what I have been guilty of doing – move on to the next pressing email in my inbox.
The Restless Job Seeker
Sending follow up after follow up to recruiters, applying to countless jobs online, and looking at profile after profile for networking research are not bad things to do, but they’re certainly very time-consuming.
Even though 40% of all hires are referrals, only 7% of applications come in through referrals. When only a third of all sent emails get opened, it becomes very easy to become discouraged by the crickets your networking may be getting.
There are a lot of external factors at play preventing passionate, driven job seekers from efficiently and systematically getting interviews, like…
Recruiters have evolving priorities.
The people you reach out to can’t always refer you.
Because the job market is so saturated with candidates, even the best-on-paper candidates get responses to only about 10% of the jobs they apply to online.
As a rule, the job seekers I work with are willing to do whatever it takes to get to their goals because they are doers. And they’re brave for always putting themselves out there, gritting their teeth, and sending out their resumes consistently, night after night, to company after company.
Yet I think that’s one of the reasons the hiring world is so broken right now. We’ve become addicted to acting. We’ve become addicted to instant gratification.
And when we don’t get that gratification, we don’t stop and question what we’re doing. We keep acting.
When you’ve become sick of your toxic workplace culture or when your bills are piling up, it’s impossible to sit on your hands and not act.
But let’s take a quick break from acting and think outside the box.
We know referrals work. Referred applicants are three times more likely to get hired. How can we systematically and easily get referred for jobs we’re actually excited about?
Here’s my solution – take the pressure to mindlessly act OFF, not just from ourselves, but from the people we’re networking with.
Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture can help identify patterns and better ways to network.
Furthermore, giving people room to breathe actually encourages them to be helpful. The reason for that is we make it easier for them to say “yes” when the requests we send don’t make our contacts feel pressured.
This sounds counterintuitive, but it really works. To demonstrate, here’s an example of one of the best networking notes I have ever received:
Here’s why I like this note:
It’s very easy for me to act on it. All I have to do is copy and paste. I’m not asked to get on the phone or meet anyone face-to-face.
It isn’t vague. It doesn’t leave me scratching my head, wondering who I should refer Nabeel to.
It doesn’t burden me with too much information or reading. It doesn’t take more than five seconds of reaction time.
Nabeel just asked himself, “how do I make it effortless for Fatemah to help me?”
Granted, Nabeel has a background in sales. Reaching out to people like this requires a bit of strategic planning and long-term thinking. Networking this way does not work for people that are addicted to acting.
But when you network this way, you begin feeling motivated. You feel excited to talk to people, not stressed out. And you learn, grow, and apply what you learn all at the same time.
“Traditional” networking involves hours of research, attending lots of career fairs, and blasting your resume out to tons and tons of people. Even though this method of networking takes more time per contact because you’re actually building relationships, it takes less time to get to your goal.
Here’s another example:
This is another note I really like because:
Again, there isn’t too much information for me to process. This note is just under 70 words.
It’s very easy for me to say “Yes, it did” or “No, it did not” and move on with my day.
I feel really good about myself answering this email. “I’m helping a someone better understand the logistics world.” It subtly flatters me as a subject matter expert.
This is exactly the sort of thing you’d say to a stranger face-to-face if you were meeting them for the first time.
You wouldn’t go up to a stranger and ask them to look over your resume. That’s like proposing marriage to the first attractive person you see. You have to warm them up. You have to grease the wheel.
When conducting a “traditional” job search – applying for jobs online, asking recruiters for interviews, or blasting your resume out to strangers – you are coming from a place where you’re asking people to judge and criticize you. You’re asking people to nitpick at your profile.
Compare this to what I like to call Networking Naturally. Think of it like meeting a cute person at a bookstore.
Instead of chasing after them with a screenshot of your dating profile, you ask them…
Is that an author you typically like reading?
Oh yeah? What’s your favorite book from that author?
If I typically like mystery novels, do you think I’d like this author?
Cool! Which book do you recommend I get started with?
And you continue along this “natural” conversation until you build up enough trust to ask…
May I text you later to discuss this book with you?
Obviously, it helps if you are an attractive candidate (aka have an impressive resume), but that’s not the most important thing going on here. If the person you’re talking to is interested in dating, you’ve just…
Made yourself likable.
Made it easy for them to say “yes” at every step.
Shown interest and compatibility respectfully.
Achieved your goal (got the digits)!
Can you think of how you can break down the job-search “ask” (Can you refer me for a job at your company?) into multiple, smaller “asks”?
Want to learn more about Networking Naturally? Click here to access my networking tutorial’s first lesson for free, “The Six Biggest Networking Mistakes You Could Be Making.”