[This is the English version of my post originally published in Portuguese]
When you’re looking for a new job, the first thing you do is to prepare your resume and cover letter, matching the job description. At this point, you probably have already worked on your professional network profiles on LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, Workopolis, to make sure the information about your professional experience, education and relevant facts about your career is accurate.
For each job description, you customize your resume and write a cover letter to send to recruiters or to apply directly on the company’s website. You do it repeatedly and relentlessly for each job posting that matches your profile. However, the days go by, and you do not receive a single invitation for an interview.
After a few weeks, you have sent many resumes, and you didn’t hear anything back. So, you start thinking something is wrong. Why is this happening? You’re a great professional and have extensive experience. You’re a seamless match to the jobs you have applied for. Why don’t you get any response?
You feel frustrated. You think the recruiters are reading your resume and ignoring it. Maybe you’re not a good fit. Perhaps other applicants are the perfect match. It feels like you won’t be able to find another job.
Review your strategy
But here’s the thing: if we’re not getting the results we want, we need to stop, analyze and find the flaws in our process.
It’s already proven: online applicants receive little or even zero return from job applications. Statistics show that people are invited for interviews in less than 1% of online applications. This is because their resumes don’t even pass the automated screening process. Besides, the recruiters have just a few seconds to read your resume. If you’re not able to catch their attention within this short time, your resume will be disregarded. You’re putting a lot of effort in sending resumes while you should be actually focusing on something else.
Job search: you’re doing wrong
When I first started looking for a job as a new immigrant in Canada, this was what I was doing. And I noticed most people do exactly the same: they spend their time sending resumes instead of investing their time and energy on building and strengthening their network.
At that time, a friend recommended the workshops at The Career Foundation, a free service to help job seekers succeed in their endeavours. The workshops were very valuable for me, and I’ve realized I was underestimating the power of networking in my job search.
Many of us think we have to introduce ourselves to someone who works in the company and ask if they are hiring. However, this is a misconception on how networking works. Your network must have people from many different industries, not only from the one you want to be hired for. Sometimes, things happen in our lives in unexpected ways. A friend of mine, for example, was working as an Uber driver. One of his customers referred him to a job in the construction industry, and he was hired as a construction project coordinator.
Starting from scratch
New immigrants have to build their network from zero. Their contacts, friends and colleagues from their home country are not here to make referrals for a new job. And we know that most job vacancies are filled through referrals.
That means they’ll have to build a new network. There are many ways to do it, and you should never underestimate the opportunities you have to meet new people from different areas of specialization.
LinkedIn is also a great tool to help you build your network. Follow these steps if you want to use it as a tool to make new connections.
1. New connections
First, try to connect to people with whom you share a connection, those who are the 2nd-degree connection to you. Ask your 1st-degree connection to introduce you to that person. If you do not feel comfortable to ask your friend or colleague to make the bridge, you may try to connect directly, sending a kind message explaining why you’d like to have them in your network.
2. Introducing yourself
When introducing yourself, DO NOT use the default message set by LinkedIn. Tell a little bit about yourself and explain why you want to connect with them. Make sure you write a short note highlighting essential things about yourself.
If you have the LinkedIn Premium account, you can use the same strategy to connect 3rd-degree connections.
3. Do not ask about open positions
When you’re first trying to connect to someone, NEVER ask if they have job openings. If they aren’t hiring at that moment, they will say NO, and your opportunity is gone. Keep in mind that these first contacts are meant to build your network. The new job will come as a consequence.
An excellent way to start a conversation with someone is asking about the company and what they do in their job. Ask how they landed on that position and what they did to grow in their career. You will learn a lot about the company and about the professional you are connecting to. You can use this new knowledge to help you to get the job you wish.
4. Attending profession-related events
A great way to build your network is by attending professionals’ associations’ events and job fairs. In situations like that, you cannot be ashamed or afraid of exposing yourself; otherwise, you won’t extract the best you can from these events. Again, when introducing yourself to new people, do not ask about open positions. Instead, show that you want to learn more about the company and ask people about their careers. Of course, it’s paramount to do some research about the companies before attending the events. Show your interest and demonstrate that you already have some knowledge about them.
It’s also essential to talk about yourself and your experience. However, avoid long speeches about your entire career and achievements.
Volunteer work is another excellent way to grow your network. Volunteering is a valued form to make new connections, to make new friends and also to improve your language skills (and even more if you’re still struggling with your second language as an immigrant).
5. Coffee chat: the informational interview
After making a new connection, you can invite them for a coffee chat. Usually, it’s a quick meeting that wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. It’s short but long enough to show your interest in the company and in the person. Remember: showing your interest is a great way to spark theirs in you.
Again, do not forget to talk about yourself and your career. This is your chance to let them know about your experience, your knowledge and your skills.
Succeeding in your networking
People who use the informational interview approach frequently mention that they were later invited for a job interview. That was the case for my friend Matt, who invited one of his connections for a coffee chat and received an invitation for an interview a few weeks later. During the coffee chat, the person had the opportunity to learn about Matt’s experience and skills. Besides, Matt showed genuine excitement about joining the company. As such, they found it would be invaluable for the company to have someone like him working with them, and he eventually was hired.
However, it may not be as easy as it seems. Sometimes it takes longer to receive the invitation. Don’t get discouraged, though. You have introduced yourself; you had the opportunity to make them learn about you and your potential. The offer will come, as long as you keep trying and working on your network.
On a different note, it’s worth mentioning that the strategy to hand your resume directly in small companies may also work. I’ve learned about many people that had good results doing this. However, some companies don’t accept cold-calls. For those, keep working on your network to find someone who works for that company and invite them for a coffee chat.
Jobs don’t fall from the sky
Of course, while working on your network, you can also apply for job positions available online. Doing the former doesn’t mean you have to stop doing the latter. Just please do not stop working on your network. This is the most valuable resource you have in your career, any time. Your network will allow you to connect with those that work in the company when you see a job posting that is your fit. Hopefully, soon you’ll have someone in the company that will refer you to the hiring manager, folding ten times your chances of being selected for an interview.
Job search: a full-time job
After all, it’s evident there’s a lot of work to do. Yes, building a new network from scratch is a daunting task. It takes time. It requires a lot of energy and grit. This is the main reason why you need to be careful about your immigration plan. Before coming, you need to save money for the period you will be looking for a job.
Most likely, in the beginning, you’ll be able to find an entry level job at least to help you to pay your bills. This job can also help you build your network. It’s a place to meet new people, isn’t it? But don’t lose focus: creating your network is the most important thing to do. Do not let it fall through the cracks!
These are a few things I learned about job searching since I moved to Canada. If you have already used this strategy, let us know how you did. Share your thoughts, make your comments. Your contribution can help many of those that are still in this process.
Thanks to my friend Cristina Wolff for reviewing this text and making suggestions for improvement. 🙂