Every few years, I pull out my “hire me” email and bcc it to my contacts, which includes old coworkers and bosses — but also former neighbors, landlords, people I trained with for a marathon, and so on. It looks like this:
After a really fun two years of traveling and freelancing — currently sitting in a cafe in gloomy Edinburgh — I'm planning to settle back in New York City on 10/5 and am looking for a full-time job in editorial or copywriting. Above all, really looking for a position at the senior-editor level or above with challenging work and great coworkers.
A bit about my resume: Was last a senior editor in magazines, but left my last job in November 2012, and since then have been freelancing for magazines and websites, as well as writing YA novels — 13 published for various houses. Interests include brand copywriting — can turn around copy fast — health, psychology and relationships.
Resume attached, and thanks in advance for any leads!
Thanks to this email template, I haven’t applied for a job via a job portal in a decade — I’ve always been able to find opportunities through my network. But my confidence in the approach took a dive when I shared it with a former coworker recently. She was job-hunting and frustrated by the lack of response from sending applications through online forms.
“It’s like I’m sending them into a black hole,” she said. “I don’t even know if they get read.”
When I suggested my email trick, she wrinkled her nose.
“Doesn’t that sound desperate?”
I flushed. I hadn’t thought so, but did it? The technique had been successful, but what if it seemed like I was just begging for a job?
A few weeks later, I reached out to the same friend to see if she wanted to take on some freelance work. She replied back, saying she didn’t have time — she had tried the email trick, got five interviews and just started a full-time job. Even though it felt uncomfortable, it was clear: The networking approach works.
While the word “networking” may conjure up visions of people mingling around a badly lit ballroom, bedecked in name tags, it doesn’t have to feel artificial.
“Networking is simply tapping into your social circle and the people you already know, to try to find the best fit for a position that aligns to your interests and abilities,” notes J. Kelly Hoey, career expert and author of “Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World.” Having someone vouch for your skills can go way beyond what a hiring manager gets from your resume and a 15-minute phone screen.
Today, finding jobs through who you know is easier than ever. Jane McGonigal, a video game designer and author, has gotten gigs via Twitter — simply by tweeting what she wishes she could work on. “I’m constantly tweeting about cool projects,” she says, adding that part of her success is due to her 150,000 followers. “But I think this approach can also work for other people. When you talk about the things you love, people take notice.”
The other benefit of networking? It can save you hours spent on job search engines. “I’ve never applied for a job,” says Lelia Gowland, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from New Orleans. “I had a lot of internships in college, and I stayed in touch with all my hiring managers. That’s how I got my first job at the Dallas Zoo, where I stayed for a year.”
Gowland found that having a large network in her corner helped her make the leap to entrepreneurship. “My network is everything,” she says. “I think it’s all about showing interest, seeing what other people are doing, and seeing how your skills match their needs and interests. It’s a give-and-take relationship.”
Here's what I've learned from tapping my network of friends and colleagues — and how you can make it work for you, too.
1. Seek Out Examples
Networking language varies across industries. Some, like mine, can be informal, while others are more buttoned-up. If you work in an industry like finance or law, join professional organizations and go to events, suggests Hoey. You don’t need to pitch everyone; being friendly and engaged is enough.
2. Get Social
Think beyond LinkedIn — Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can be valuable platforms for networking. Having discussions, following people in your industry, and making sure your LinkedIn is up-to-date are all easy ways to stay relevant online.
3. Give In Return
Remember, this is a relationship, so it’s important to give something to the other party, too. A simple “congratulations” when they’ve been promoted, for example, can keep things on good terms, Hoey suggests. Send things that don’t need a response — a short message, an article link, or a forwarded invite to a talk. The other person won't feel like they need to do anything, but you'll keep the conversation going.
4. Know When to Take a Break
It’s enticing to keep in contact with a powerful person you met, but if all you’re getting in return is radio silence, step back and focus on other connections.
5. Say ‘Thank You’
“People want to help, and if their advice or introduction led to a job, tell them about it!” says Hoey. A sincere "thank you" will go a long way.
6. Keep Searching Job Sites
If you already have a large network, it’s easy to get complacent. Don’t. Having a resume on-hand and being knowledgeable about industry news means you won’t need to play catch-up if an interview comes your way.
One of the best ways to meet people is through volunteering, especially if it’s industry-adjacent, says Hoey, who began volunteering with the group 85 Broads (now Ellevate) when she wanted to pivot from her legal background. Later, she was tapped to lead the group as president. When you show your skills in an authentic way, people want to work with you.
8. Be a Mentor
Offer time to talk over coffee or help mentor people at your alma mater who want to get into your industry. They may have no power now, but you have no idea where they’ll end up a few years down the line.