One of the most frustrating aspects of job searching is feeling like you’ve already reached out to everyone you know. You’ve asked every contact you can possibly think of if you could buy them a cup of coffee—from your first boss to that former co-worker you didn't even particularly like. Yet, you’re still just as far away from a new role as you were when you started.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but there is another way to expand your network, meet new people, and make meaningful connections.
Hear me out because it’s almost guaranteed to get your foot in the door.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Identify Your Top Skills
Let’s start on a fun topic: What you do better than other people. No really, what tasks take you less energy to complete than your peers? What comes naturally to you? What can you do that previous employers, friends, or family members find valuable?
Take 10 minutes to brainstorm any that come to mind. Then whittle that down to the ones that come easiest to you.
For some, organizing a budget in Excel is exhausting while public speaking feels natural. For others, helping a colleague solve a technical issue comes easily while coaching them through a personal issue is taxing.
Step 2: Put Them in Order
OK, next you’re going to do a quick “demand analysis” of each skill. That sounds complicated, but I assure you it’s not.
Take a look at that list you made and note whether you think there is a “high,” “medium,” or “low” demand for it in the field you’re interested in. (Skills commonly listed in position descriptions or that would help you excel in a job are “high,” whereas a skill that has little to do with your area of interest would be “low.”)
It looks like this:
Eric’s Top Skills for a Finance Role
- Personal Finance/Investing – High Demand
- Negotiation – High Demand
- Writing – Medium Demand
- Web Design – Low Demand
Clearly, if Eric were applying for a tech role, this list would take on a different order.
Step 3: Find Contacts
The next step is less about talents and more about reaching out to strangers. You’re going to compare your top skills with those of alumni from your alma mater using LinkedIn’s Alumni Tool. And because you’re probably not familiar with this tool, I’ll walk you through it.
Start by going to your LinkedIn Alumni Page, locating the career insights section, and clicking on “See all career insights.”
Find that search box in the upper-left-ish corner of the screen and type in your “high demand” talents one by one. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see people who rank highly for that skill.
One by one, click on these profiles to see that person’s career path, current role, and other skills. Jot down anyone who looks interesting.
Step 4: Send a Message
Start reaching out to the people you’ve identified. Good news: Because you went to the same school—and you share the same ability—you have two things in common, and that makes writing a note pretty easy:
I found your profile on LinkedIn when I was looking for fellow Tigers who specialize in finance and negotiations. I’d love to learn more about your experience at Organization X. Would you have time for a phone call or for answering some questions over email?
Keep reaching out until you have 10 new potential contacts at different organizations. If just half these people turn into informational interviews—and you make an awesome impression—you’re now looking at five new companies where you have your foot in the door.
Photo of person on phone courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Mike O'Connor is the Director of Career Discovery and the Education Career Community at Williams College, where he helps many of the country's best liberal arts students find meaningful work. In addition, he recently started his own website Wake Up, Be Awesome, Go to Sleep, as a means to help more people find purposeful vocations.More from this Author