Networking Advice: The Most Effective Tool for Job Seekers

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 11.59.19 PMThe single most effective networking technique you can use is to keep your network informed about what you’re interested in! And for job hunters, there is one trick I absolutely recommend. This is not optional if you want to expedite your job search. Job hunters, you need to send out an Every Other Friday Email (EOFE). Look Mom, I created a brand new acronym in DC! The email should be a blind CC message to anyone in your network interested in your future and you should attach an updated version of your resume. Here’s an idea of what the body of the email should look like:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for all the support you’ve given me during my job search and thank you for continuing to keep an eye out for me as I am looking for employment in the Washington, DC area. In the last two weeks, I’ve applied for 35 positions. Of particular interest, are the following openings:

  • Assistant Director, Practice Groups, The Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies
  • Associate Director, The Federalism Project, American Enterprise Institute
  • Research Associate, The Hudson Institute
  • Office Manager, Ethics & Public Policy Center
  • Research Fellow, Cato Institute
  • Assistant Development Director, Family Research Council
  • Legislative Assistant, Hon. Justin Amash (I have an interview next Tuesday!)
  • Membership Director, The Heritage Foundation
  • Field Representative, Leadership Institute

If you happen to know of anyone connected to these offices and you are willing to put in a good word for me, I would greatly appreciate it. I have attached an updated version of my resume to this email. Thank you very much for all your support. I look forward to returning the favor one day.

Best,
Mike

Why is this so important? First, if you don’t do this, you will fall off of your network’s collective radar. People get slammed in this town and most work well beyond the normal 40 hour work week. It’s very easy for your network to get distracted with work and life and to forget about you…but only if you let them! Individuals in your network may have the best intentions when you speak to them, but most need a little nudge. Additionally, many of us in DC talk with a lot of job hunters, and if we don’t hear from you in a while, at best we optimistically assume you’ve found a job, and at worst, you become a blur.

If a friend contacts me and asks me to send him a healthy stack of resumes, it’s probably going to be the 20 most recent people I’ve heard from whose resumes I will send over. Why only the 20 most recent? Because there’s a limited amount of grey matter up in this skull of mine and I will probably forget you’re looking if I haven’t heard from you in a while. The most recent people I’ve heard from are still likely to be looking and are a lot easier for me to remember. So be sure to reassert yourself every two weeks to the top of the pile! Many people will want to help you, but there’s a good possibility that they will forget about you if you don’t remind them, so don’t allow that to happen.  Yes, you may have indeed had a great conversation or meeting with someone you met with over lunch, but if more than two weeks pass by, you’re allowing yourself to be forgotten.

There’s another reason I’m likely to only send the 20 most recent people whom I’ve heard from. Here’s a typical scenario…I get an email on a Friday after lunch from a friend at a think tank: “Peter, we’ve got an Associate position opening up here. Can you send me a good pile of resumes by COB today? We need someone with 1-3 years of experience.” Now, I don’t have time to check with every job seeker in my network to find out if they’re still looking, so the ones who’ve let me know that they’re still looking will get sent over and the ones who haven’t kept me in the loop won’t. Why? Because in the past, I’ve included ones I haven’t heard from in a month or so and the following Monday or Tuesday, my think tank friend emails me: “Hey, Dumbass! Why’d you send me a stack full of resumes of people who’ve already got jobs?” Well, I didn’t know these individuals had found jobs because they didn’t tell me (a huge networking no-no). And while the smiley face in my friend’s email lessens the blow of the name calling, I’d prefer high school nicknames to remain in high school. Anyway, that’s why I don’t send out “non-fresh” resumes. I imagine that’s likely the case for others as well.

Second, sending out this EOFE is important because it keeps you accountable. Job hunting is fatiguing, and it is very tempting to take a break from it. But if you know you have to dutifully report and “show your math” every two weeks to your network, you’re going to continue to apply for positions. This forces you to be a tortoise and not a hare in the job search, steadily getting to your goal line and not sporadically applying/resting/disappearing/re-applying/re-appearing.  The tortoise wins the race and job hunting tortoise gets the job! Additionally, having a number of accountability partners keeps you honest and forces you to consistently apply for jobs. And sending out this email every two weeks demonstrates excellent follow through. Just like in any sport that requires a ball, whatever happens after you’ve made contact with the ball is just as important as what precedes it (your initial contact). Your energy needs to continue if you’re going to succeed. Plus, people will admire your hustle—you’re not looking for the job hunting equivalent of a handout, so it gains you the respect of your conservative/libertarian network.

Third, by informing your network about where you’re applying, you’re enabling them to help you. By bullet-pointing a handful or two of the jobs you’ve applied to, you’re creating the opportunity to allow your network to email or call on your behalf and vouch for you. You need to help people help you! We’ve all heard that DC is all about who you know, right? The problem is that most people think all that is required is the following: “If I could just meet with John Doe, that’d solve all my job searching woes. He’ll just circulate my resume to everyone.” It’s a nice thought, but in all likelihood, unless John Doe (yeah, that guy again) is a professional headhunter, he doesn’t have all that much time to shop your resume around. About once or twice a year the stars line up, and someone gets hired just by getting their resume immediately in front of me, but generally speaking you’ve got to do your own homework and show your math every two weeks by checking in with me and the others in your network. Eventually it works out and at a much speedier rate than it would otherwise.

Think about how this EOFE is structured. If Mike sends me an email like the one above, how long does it take now for me to contact my friend Bridgett at Heritage and inform her that Mike has applied for the Membership Director position?  Let’s see…I type in Bri in my address book, my address book pulls up her email address, and now I can quickly send her an email and attach the resume Mike just sent me with a brief note: “Hi, Bridgett. I met with this Mike Ike guy a few weeks ago. He seemed really sharp and apparently applied for the Membership Director position at THF. Just wanted to put him on your radar.” How long does that take me? Not even 60 seconds. Make it easy for people to help you! Bottom line: if there’s an opening in an office, you need to be someone’s horse in the race or even better, have several advocates vouching for you. Other applicants will do the same thing, so try to outnumber them with your own referrals. No office wants to make a bad hire, so good words from trusted contacts go a long way.

Some people have told me that they don’t like the idea of sending out a list of the jobs for which they’re applying. Obviously don’t send this list out to direct competition, but not informing your network about where you’re applying is like keeping your blockbuster screenplay locked in a drawer because you don’t want anyone to steal your idea.  At some point, you’ve got to share it if you want it to be made into a movie! Don’t keep your career locked in a drawer either by not telling people where you’ve applied.

A few other pointers about doing an EOFE. Why BCC it? Simply put, no one individual in your network is being put on the spot this way, but you are still keeping them informed.

Why every other week? Every week would probably be too frequent. Nobody minds polite persistence and two weeks is the right balance.

Why Friday? In DC, Friday tends to be the slowest day of the week, and people are in a good mood since the weekend is coming. Basically, your email is more likely to be read and your resume is more likely to be forwarded on a Friday.

Why attach a resume every other week? Well, people misplace resumes all the time. I have dropped emails containing resumes in the wrong Outlook folder and stored PDFs in the wrong folder in my computer. It’s all about making it easy for your network to help you.

This is the single most effective job technique. People that do the EOFE get hired much quicker than people who don’t. Ignore this advice at your peril. Don’t allow yourself to fall off the radar. DC is a fast moving town and it will let you be forgotten if you don’t follow through. So, follow through and stay on the radar by sending your EOFE!

Next week: OPEN SESAME! How to get your emails and cover letters to strangers read!

 

Peter Redpath is Vice President and Director of the Student Division at the Federalist Society. This is the ffith reprint in a series, based on his remarks at the AFF Networking Lunch in November 2012.

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