The deal is comparable in many respects to one Apple reached with IBM last year.
For job-seekers there are some major advantages to networking over applying directly. For one, you’ll be able to bypass the gatekeepers. For another, you’ll increase your chances of being interviewed and hired by 5-10X. Even more important, candidates who are highly referred are judged more on their past performance and future potential than on their level of skills and experiences. That’s why I tell candidates not to directly apply to a job unless they’re a perfect fit on skills and experience. If not, they need to be referred by someone who can vouch for their past performance and future potential.
Networking is not about trying to meet as many people whom you don’t know. This is almost as ineffective as applying directly to a job posting. Networking is about meeting people you do know who can both vouch for your past performance and future potential, and willingly recommend you to others. Here’s how this should be done:
- Meet 3-4 people who can vouch for your past performance and future potential. These should be your best first degree connections. Younger people can use their professors, advisors, or important church or social connections as their first degree connections.
- During the meeting review your resume or LinkedIn profile and ask for feedback. Then ask these people if they would be comfortable recommending you to people they know who are connected to others in companies or industries of interest.
- If the answer to Step 2 is no, find out why, and/or find some better connected people.
- If the answer to Step 2 is yes, obtain the names of 3-4 people and their contact information. Then ask the person who is vouching for you if they would call the person on your behalf, or send an email introducing you.
- Research your connection’s connections and ask about specific people. In addition to asking people you know who they know, you can turn this around and ask them about specific people they’re already connected to who you’d like to meet. This is possible using LinkedIn, since you’re able to see your first degree connections’ connections (at least if they haven’t hidden them).
- Network backwards. Start with a job of interest, and using LinkedIn, find out who you’re connected to who knows someone in the company who can refer you.
- Be direct and be proactive. When you meet these second degree connections be prepared to ask about specific people they know, and about specific jobs at their companies. All of this information is on LinkedIn. Asking to be referred to a specific person or a specific job will result in more connections and more interviews.
- Don’t be a pest, but keep your network warm by maintaining an active PR campaign. Spend a few hours each week sending emails to those who have helped you in any way. Make them personal.
- Establish some metrics to stay focused. Treat the job-hunting process as a job, not a hobby. As a minimum, you’ll need to track meetings per week and the number of recommendations per meeting. The overriding goal should by 50-60 people in your job-hunting network within 2-3 weeks.
Networking is how you turn 4-5 great contacts into 50-60 connections in 2-3 weeks. As described above, networking should represent 60% of your job-hunting efforts. It will take about 20-30 hours per week. This is roughly 10-15 new contacts per week via the phone, which should convert into 5-6 one-on-one meetings every week. The rest of the time should be on LinkedIn researching their connections and finding open jobs in their companies. Within 2-3 weeks you’ll start hearing about some real jobs of interest. The person doing the recommending will think it’s a coincidence, but you’ll know it’s a result of your hard work.
Getting referred increases you’re chances of being interviewed and getting a better job by 5-10X over applying directly. This is a pretty good trade-off since it only takes three times the effort. Even better, some of the connections you make along the way will surprise you, and put you on a path you never even considered.
Tracy DiNunzio is the founder and CEO of Tradesy.com, a website and mobile app that connects women who buy and sell fashion quickly, safely and easily. Her mission: to make fashion accessible, affordable and sustainable for all women. This article is her take on Startup networking events.
The tech startup explosion has spawned a vibrant social scene, ripe with enough panels, fireside chats, and fast-pitch events to keep your dance card full most every night. These gatherings promise to connect, educate, and entertain you, the early-stage or future founder, and it can be tempting to hit the town to soak up the excitement of our booming industry. Business cards are exchanged, hands are shaken, cocktails are consumed . . . all in the name of “work.” What could be better?
Lots of things could be better. In fact, even sleeping would be more productive than attending a startup event.
The fact is that unless your customers are startups themselves (in which case you should network your face off at tech events), the people who can truly make an impact on your company–investors, potential partners, and future employees–are not out networking. Important, successful people are, by definition, in high demand. They don’t hit the town to seek out opportunity because opportunity comes to them. And even if you do manage to find them at an event, they’re unlikely to be impressed by your business until you’ve achieved proof of concept. Once you’ve created something of value, those very same people will be compelled to take meetings with you. Meetings that you can plan and prepare for, so that your first interaction with them is impactful and results-oriented.
Your sole job as an early-stage founder is to put in the long hours of focused work that make your product great and
Your sole job as an early-stage founder is to put in the long hours of focused work that make your product great and your customers happy. Doing that right will consume all of your time and energy for a while. So in the rare moments when you’re not working, you simply don’t have the time to stand around sipping wine and chatting up other startup founders about today’s tech headlines. Instead, you should sleep. Eat something healthy. Meditate. Do anything that recharges your batteries and prepares you for another day in the trenches.
When I was bootstrapping through Tradesy’s first two years, I never attended events. Instead, I stayed focused (obsessed, really) on improving our product and technology. I was glued to the computer for 17 hours a day, with my eye so tightly on the ball that I barely noticed when I gained 20 pounds and developed some killer back problems. In that time, I taught myself how to design, code, market, and manage customer service, all via readily accessible, Google-able information online. I woke up every night between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to live-tweet and get on Facebook with our European customers. I rented out my bedroom on Airbnb and slept on my couch to pay the rent.
It was grueling but ultimately rewarding. While our competitors were out networking, Tradesy was growing. Customers who loved the product helped us quickly turn profitable, which got Tradesy accepted into the Launchpad LA accelerator, which led to instant one-on-one connections with advisers and venture capitalists, who eventually funded the company to the tune of $3.5 million to date. Today, Team Tradesy is 17 people strong and touches millions of customers every month.
Of course, I didn’t do it alone, and neither can you. Every entrepreneur needs the support of mentors and advisers, who will help you strategize about your company’s growth and keep you from developing tunnel vision about your product. So how do you connect with these people if not at the next “Using Social Media to Grow Your Startup” panel? It’s easier than it seems, as long as you can respectfully entice them to meet with you in a way that’s targeted and efficient. I like to call my favorite method “The World’s Best Approach to Networking Without Even Having to Put on Pants.” It goes a little something like this:
Send a brief email that includes: a) An expression of your appreciation for their specialized expertise; b) a “quick” explanation about why 20 minutes of their feedback would be relevant and valuable to your business; c) a statement that acknowledges how busy they must be, but that even busy people need to eat, and finally; d) an offer to bring them a meal of their choice at any convenient time and place.
This no-fail approach to efficient networking lets you connect with key people without wasting time, which is your most valuable resource when your company is pre-funding. Every minute is currency that you’ll never get back once it’s spent, so even your networking strategy has to be designed for maximum results with minimal resource drain. When I used an approximation of this method, I had a 100% response rate and eventually developed long-term relationships with several key advisors. And I’ve since made time to meet with every single entrepreneur who has contacted me using this technique.
Smarter networking isn’t about all-work-no-play. It’s about developing the crucial skill of relentless prioritization, which will position you for success while leaving enough time for the things that make you feel good, like sleep. While other startup folks are out on the town, broadcasting plans for things they have yet to achieve–a habit of founders that is both unimpressive and ineffective–you’ll be inching ever closer to your next milestone. When you get there, take an evening off to celebrate with family and friends. Then get back to work. You’ve got a business to build.