How to find your next job: Talk to the people you already know.

Networking can feel daunting because it means talking to strangers, but there’s another way to do it: Just have different conversations with the people you’re already speaking to.

Imagine this, you wake up tomorrow, roll over, grab your smartphone and find a message in your inboxes that says: effectively immediately you are unemployed. Where would you begin your job search honestly? On a job board or with your contacts?

You can spend months of building an intimate relationship with your computer, or you can start having conversations with humans, not necessary with strangers, you can start taking with people you are already speaking to.

There’s one belief that anyone looking for a new job needs to get over: We think that if we’re competent and qualified we shouldn’t need help finding a new job. This is largely due to two reasons — our dread of networking and our misplaced faith in the effectiveness of job sites. Regardless of the overwhelming evidence for networking, we’re still seduced into a linear click-apply-send process because approaching people we don’t know makes us feel vulnerable.

But we can’t keep ignoring this fact: Networking is necessary and effective. Hiring managers want to make good decisions, and they want to do it efficiently. They hate hiring as much as candidates hate the job search. They want job candidates whom they know they can trust, and that’s why they prefer ones who come through personal referrals — people who’ve basically been pre-screened for them. As a result, referrals have a 50 percent chance of getting an interview, while non-referrals have only a 3 percent chance. Another eye-opening stat: Up to 80 percent of jobs are never posted because they’ve already been filled — by referrals or internal candidates.

Networking doesn’t just mean talking to strangers. In fact, the simplest thing we can do is initiate career conversations with people we already know. All you need to do is change what you talk to them about.

Think about it: Can the people you routinely interact with — your siblings, neighbours, yoga buddies, classmates, your hairdresser, book club, or the regulars at the dog park — accurately describe your expertise in one to two sentences? Can you explain theirs? Most people in your life have no idea what your career goals are, much less what you do every day at work. We are not talking about surface details like you work at a startup, are a lawyer, or do something in marketing, but your aspirations and particular expertise.

How to start these conversations: “Be curious about their goals first,”. Helping others is a great way to build relationships, and when you ask, ‘Hey, what’s one goal you have for this year?’ most people will reciprocate and dig into your goals as well. These conversations can lead to brainstorming, introductions you might make, relevant news you recently heard, or a job you can be interested in, maybe today or maybe six months from now.

Just remember, “Everyone you know has a network just waiting to be discovered.”



This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, a talk given by Drawn Graham in January 2020. https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-find-your-next-job-talk-to-the-people-you-already-know/