“It’s not always what you know, but who you know.”
Are you sick of hearing that age-old sentiment yet? I can’t blame you. Sure, it’s helpful if you have a huge network of professional contacts at your disposal who are willing and ready to put in a good word and help you land a job. But, if you don’t? Well, this advice is plain ol’ discouraging.
Today’s “Dear Kat” question is from a reader who has found herself in that exact boat:
“Dear Kat, I hear so much about the importance of having an ‘in’ at a company. I’ve been told that one connection alone can at least get you to the interview stage, which has proved to be challenging on my own. But, here’s the problem: I don’t have a lot of ‘ins’ at the companies I want to work for. Do you have any tips for finding one?”
It’s true—having a connection at a company that you want to work for can make all of the difference when you’re trying to wedge your foot in the door.
But, if you think you don’t have anyone who fits the bill in that regard, don’t count yourself out too early. There are a few things you can do to make that connection for yourself and (hopefully!) land an interview.
1. Ask Around
First things first, it’s important to determine if you really don’t have any connections you can lean on, or if you’re just assuming that to be true.
The best place it start is by talking about your career goals with your current network—including your family and friends. Sure, maybe you don’t know anyone who works at that company personally, but that doesn’t mean nobody in your network does.
Make sure to keep your connections in the loop on the places you’d love to work. While they probably can’t guarantee an “in” that would be willing to recommend you without ever having met you (people usually aren’t willing to stick their neck out for someone they don’t know!), you might be able to find someone to have a coffee chat with so that you can start forming a professional relationship!
The bottom line is this: Don’t write off your current network right away. You never know who they’re connected to!
2. Leverage LinkedIn
LinkedIn is another great place for you to turn when you’re searching for connections at a particular company. Of course, you’ll want to start by perusing your current network to see if anybody you’re already connected with is employed by the company you’re interested in.
If you find one? Great—reach out with a personalized message and a request to get together for a chat over coffee (you’re buying, of course!).
But, if not? Well, that’s just fine too—you’re just going to need to get a little more creative.
Second degree connections (those are people who are connected to the people that you’re already connected with) can also be useful. If you find one that seems suitable, see how you’re connected. If your mutual acquaintance is someone you know fairly well, don’t hesitate to reach out to that person to ask for an introduction!
Still no luck? Turn to some LinkedIn groups that you’re a part of. Is there anybody in those groups who works at the company you’re interested in that you could message? If so, striking up a conversation will be at least a little bit easier, as you already have some common ground.
By leveraging LinkedIn, there are plenty of ways you can get in touch with someone who works at your dream company. However, remember this: It’s going to take a little bit of time. LinkedIn is a tool for you to use to invest in building a relationship with that person. Sending a one-off message asking him or her to recommend you without ever meeting you is far too bold (and, ultimately, not smart).
3. Make Your Own “In”
So, let’s say you’ve gone through all of that and you still can’t find a decent connection to reach out to. Is now the time to throw up your hands and resign yourself to a life in that faceless pile of resumes on the hiring manager’s desk?
Not quite. It’s time to grab the reins and find your own “in”.
Yes, it definitely helps to have something in common—like a mutual connection, shared group, or even an alma mater—with someone you’re reaching out to. But, it’s definitely not a requirement.
If you find someone you think would be worth connecting with—by all means!—be a little bit aggressive and send an email or a friendly message to ask if you could get together for an informational interview.
Is it guaranteed to land you the job? Nope. But, it definitely can’t hurt, right?
An “in” at a company can be undeniably helpful. And, you might be surprised by the connections you have that could help you get your foot in the door!
Use these three tips to your advantage, and hopefully it’ll be just what you need to put your resume right at the top of the pile.