In part 1 of this week’s email series I shared with you the three simple questions to help you optimize your career path:
- Where can you can provide the most value to the world?
- What is your unique creative calling?
- What values are you unwilling to sacrifice for your dreams?
Needless to say, it takes some of my Optimizer students weeks to answer these seemingly simple (but not easy) questions so they can figure out what to focus on next.
👉 If you’re struggling to better understand how your experience, skills, abilities, interests, and passions can lead to more consistent work (or even your dream job), wanna hop on Zoom to chat about optimizing your career path?
If you’re confident you’re on the right career path – or even if you desperately just need a paycheck job right now – standing out in this job market will be virtually impossible if you don’t have → a strong network.
If the first time you’re hearing about job opportunities is on public job sites (or social media posts), you’re toast. It’s virtually impossible to stand out from 500-1000+ other applicants when you’re just another random name.
The most effective way to stand out from your competition is to be the first to hear about opportunities before they ever become public (when you’re only competing against a few rather than hundreds). And the only way to become a part of those “insider” conversations is putting yourself out there.
I know, I know…networking is THE. WORST.
- Who am I supposed to reach out to?
- What the heck do I say to them? And what do I ask?!
- Aren’t I just bothering busy people?
- How can I reconnect without sounding desperate?
- How am I supposed to ask for work…without asking for work???
When done correctly, networking and building genuine relationships can not only lead to more consistent work (even when the job market sucks), but it can actually be a rewarding experience that leads to reconnecting with peers, finding mentors, and even landing your dream job.
In fact, countless studies have proven that the quality of your relationships is the number one determinant of not only the quality of your career but also the quality of your life.
Part 2: Optimizing Your Network
In the Optimizer program we don’t believe in the shotgun approach:
- Applying cold for every possible online job opportunity
- Sending group email blasts with your résumé attached
- Social media posts saying “I’m available!”
Instead my students learn how to become networking snipers and strategically target the right people to build meaningful relationships based on their interests & career goals.
Beyond expanding their networks via cold outreach, my students also learn how to reconnect with peers, mentors, and former colleagues to strengthen their existing relationships such that when opportunities arise, they become the first person on the list.
Despite some of the nuances of cold outreach versus warm outreach – and regardless of whether the outreach is for the purposes of connecting for the first time, reconnecting, finding a mentor, or even pitching yourself for a gig…
The formula is virtually identical for all effective outreach:
Value. Story. Ask.
No matter the purpose of your outreach, it must contain the following if you intend to receive not just a response but a meaningful response in alignment with your goals.
If you have an outreach “template,” i.e. you can copy/paste the majority of your message and just replace a few details Mad-Libs style, you’ve already lost the networking game. I don’t care if you can send 100 outreach emails a day.
Building relationships isn’t about efficiency, it’s about effectiveness.
You must demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and have a unique reason for reaching out to someone. And your value should be such that it’s personal and genuine. Being a fanboy or fangirl won’t cut it. You’ll need to go deeper if you intend to earn a response (much less a job at some point).
Assuming you’ve provided enough value this person is still reading your message, now it’s time to tell a clear story. But what story do you tell? And why?
Let me make one thing abundantly clear – this is not your opportunity to share your life story. This is your opportunity to answer the following three questions:
- Where are you now?
- Where are you going next?
- What’s stopping you?
When building new relationships, I can all but guarantee the people you’re reaching out to don’t need email pen pals (I know I don’t). Most people are willing to help you. They just need to know how to help you. The clearer your story, the better they understand how they can be useful.
When warming up existing relationships, your story is still equally as important. Only now you have the opportunity to get a lot more nuanced based on the context & strength of your existing relationship. But don’t get lazy. Just because you know this person doesn’t mean they know what you’ve been up to recently. Once again make it clear how where you are now, where you’re going, and what’s stopping you.
Now here’s where networking gets really tricky….
What about reaching out to “gatekeepers” who could potentially hire you?
In this case the story of your outreach is vitally important. Only this outreach isn’t about your story anymore, it’s about theirs.
- Where are they now?
- Where are they going next?
- What’s stopping them?
You cannot be the solution to their problems until you understand their problems. So if you’re unclear about how you can provide them value, then just…
The most important part of networking is also where most people drop the ball – the ask. During Office Hours ‘Hot Seats’ I have workshopped fantastic outreach messages that end with questions so bad they deserve an audible record scratch.
If you consistently get really bland, generic, and just plain bad career advice – or even worse you get the outreach kiss of death, “Best of luck!” – it’s not them, it’s you.
You’re probably asking the wrong questions.
Moreover, if you’re reaching out pitching yourself for potential job opportunities and you either get no response or the dreaded “We’ll keep you in mind if we hear of anything,”
You’re probably asking the wrong questions.
Whether your outreach gets no response, a tepid response, an enthusiastic response – or even better if they ask YOU to meet or connect via Zoom – is all dependent on the quality of your ask.
Make your ask clear, make it simple to response to, and make sure it’s a question they are qualified to answer (quickly).
👉 Now let’s address the elephant in the room…
What’s the point of networking when there is no work???
As my friend & former colleague ACE editor Troy Takaki shared on my podcast:
“You don’t network to get jobs. You network to meet people. People get you jobs.”
At the height of the COVID lockdowns I had countless students ask what the point was of networking when there was no work…including my student Malinda Zehner Guerra.
When Malinda joined my cold outreach networking class in early 2020, she was a successful editor working in reality television, but her goal was to “want to watch the shows I work on” and more importantly not get pigeonholed as “just a reality editor.”
Ultimately Malinda’s dream job was editing a premium streaming drama/comedy for a company like Netflix or HBO. The problem is, Malinda HATED networking!
- She was painfully shy
- She was scared of asking too much of people
- She thought outreach meant “bothering people” or “sounding needy”
- She had no strategy (and wasn’t doing anything consistently)
- Most importantly, she had no idea how to reach out to people she already knew – i.e. she sucked at warm outreach
While it didn’t happen overnight, with consistent action Malinda was able to not only edit an independent feature during the COVID shutdowns, she also reconnected with old colleagues. Which eventually led to the following:
But wait…there’s more!
Several months after landing this game-changing opportunity, I then found out Malinda was editing the new season of American Horror Story.
But wait…there’s still more!
Yes…an outreach email not only helped Malinda make a major career transition during global lockdowns, she just won an Emmy for her first scripted project as part of the editing team for HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show.
Needless to say, Malinda is the perfect example of what happens when you make the conscious choice to ignore everything you cannot control, focus on the actions you can control, and take advantage of the opportunities available despite disruption.
Interested In Optimizing Your Network?
This semester I’ll be offering not one but two different live networking classes (via Zoom).
In my introductory networking class you’ll learn how to:
- Become a networking sniper and strategically reach out to the right people
- Write cold outreach emails that people are excited to receive (and respond to)
- Set up “meet & greet” Zoom calls and lunch meetings
- Build the habit of consistent outreach
- Draft follow-up messages that ensure the conversation keeps moving forwards
In my BRAND NEW advanced networking class you’ll learn how to:
- Navigate the complexities of warm outreach such that you can reconnect with former peers, mentors, & colleagues
- Maintain new relationships you’ve already built
- Pitch yourself to the gatekeepers for actual job opportunities
- Organize & track your outreach and build CRM’s
- Maximize in-person networking opportunities
Tomorrow in Part 3 I’ll share the three most important questions you MUST know the answer to in order to optimize your brand and get the attention of the gatekeepers hiring for your dream jobs.
If you’re spending all day watching your résumé disappear into cyberspace, these 3 questions will change the game for you (and can make the difference between getting no response versus getting the gig).