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Working, but daydreaming of a better job?

What if you could just chat with a colleague, maybe at a conference, and hear the magic words, “Hey, we’d love it if you’d come work for us”? When you get into a spirited professional conversation, career magic happens. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

It’d be much easier if you already knew plenty of colleagues who could tell you if their workplace is awesome — or awful. And put in a good word for you. But you don’t know people at every company. Most of us don’t network as much as we should.

Your challenge is to get your foot in the door, get to know the company and get them to know you, without the knuckle-biting stress of an interview.

Here’s a trick few people have tried, simple as it sounds. But it works.

1. Find a colleague in a company, someone with a cool job at your level. If you’re a senior software engineer, for example, look for another senior software engineer.

2. Ferret out their email address, then cold-email them. Introduce yourself and give a link to an online profile or two; they’ll most likely answer. They enjoy chatting with other smart professionals. (That’s you, right?)

3. Set up a phone call and maybe grab a coffee. The two of you can talk about your profession and experiences on the job.

They’re your peers, not managers or HR people. You can trust them to tell it like it is.

The groundbreaking career book What Color is Your Parachute? suggested the unemployed should do informational interviews to ask experienced professionals about opportunities in the industry.

You, the employed professional, should do informational interviews from a position of strength. You have the skills employers need. Talking with you is a privilege.

You can chat with your colleague about the technical side of your job: “We’ve been diving deeper into JavaScript recently.” They can also tell you about their workplace: “There’s lots of adrenaline here, and it’s sometimes a bit draining. But the people are top-notch, and we never go beyond 40 hours in a week.”

Employers want these conversations; they’re sick of mass-spammed irrelevant resumes

Employers have started using a straightforward but underestimated recruiting trick: offering access to their top professionals to attract their peers. They want to make it easy to send those cold-emails.

This sort of friendly conversation goes beyond the usual dull interview questions to find ideal pairings. Will Critchlow, CEO of the digital marketing agency Distilled, says, “We love hiring people who are passionate about working for us specifically.”

And Critchlow isn’t worried engineers lack sales skills. “We find that the right people just want the unvarnished truth about what it’s like to work here,” he says.

Don’t be shy to contact an interesting company. The Internet startup Kloudless, of Berkley, CA, draws in candidates this way. CEO Eliot Sun says that cold-emailers love hearing about the corporate culture and end up choosing Kloudless over larger companies across the Bay.

Interesting colleagues are more effective in attracting top candidates than boring job ads

If you’re among the lucky few who are completely happy where you are, consider volunteering yourself as a company ambassador. If it’s done right, you’ll get a great opportunity to talk to smart people across the industry and bring the best ones on board.

Many companies already have some sort of ambassador program, but even if not, it’s simple.

Here are the steps:

1. Ask your manager to set up a small ad highlighting you at the company’s careers page, with your name, title, photo and online profiles like GitHub, LinkedIn or StackOverflow so other professionals want to talk to you.

2. Potential candidates send you a message, with a few of their own professional profiles, to prove they’re worth talking to.

3. Your manager or HR screens each contact. You’re busy, but you enjoy talking to smart, experienced professionals, and it’s their messages that’ll get through to you. About one to three of these contacts a week is ideal.

4. You answer briefly. If you and the incoming contact hit it off, you can do a phone call or lunch. And maybe, if it goes really well, refer them for a job interview.

This way is better for everyone. If you’re a potential candidate considering a new job, you go into discussions with the confidence that insiders already support you. If you’re an ambassador, you get to talk to some fascinating potential colleagues and create a rapport as you pass the good ones on for interviews. What could be better?

Josh Fox decided that peer-contact programs should be fast and simple for employers and software developers, so he created an easy way for employers to provide an ambassador program, based on FiveYearItch.com. If you’re an employer who’s considered the idea of an ambassador service, please be in touch.

13 Comments

  1. David Hunt, PE

    Cups of coffee? Good luck. People are far, far too crazybusy for that. And there are costs to that, of course…

    http://davidhuntpe.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/the-cost-of-crazybusy/

    • Josh Fox

      Good article! The CEOs and CEOs who you mentioned in your article are the busiest.

      But if a software developer, for example, contacts another software developer, they may find someone who, though busy, is glad to talk to a professional peer.

      • David Hunt, PE

        I’m a Mechanical Engineer. I can barely get other ENGINEERS to interact. Let alone the networking targets of people who could actually hire you.

        • Josh Fox

          > could actually hire you.

          For the sort of conversation I’m advocating here, you specifically choose not to talk to the people who could hire you. Your professional peers will “tell it like it is.” You’re not desperate, you have a job; so you want to find out what a workplace is like.

          And I find that professional peers will at least answer an email (include your LinkedIn or other profiles to show them who you are). They, whether they then do a phone call or meet you depends on how it goes from there.

  2. chothongminh

    always dream of a better job…?! haizz
    __________________-
    http://www.annguyenco.com

  3. Jagoda

    What a great idea. This type of networking for laid-off job hunters works too.

  4. Josh Fox

    Yes, but the dynamic is quite different there. Employed people, particular in in-demand professions like software development, truly are just seeking information about a company.

    They may end up working there, but it’s their decision whether to move ahead.

  5. Nigel Burke

    Great article Josh, I think you’re absolutely right with your observations.

    The importance of networking can’t be over estimated, particularly in todays age of information overload, where your connections can help focus your attention on the intelligence that’s actionable and relevant.

    Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman put this really well in his book “The Start Up of You”, where he states :

    “People offer personalized, contextualized advice. Friends and acquaintances know your interests and can tailor their information and advice accordingly…People can filter information you get from other sources. People can tell you which books to read; which search results to ignore; which people to trust or not trust.”

    I also agree with the idea of reaching out to peers rather than managers or HR people. However I would point out the importance of building a diverse network.

    People tend primarily to seek out others who do what they do and see the world as they do, decreasing the odds of developing truly innovative insights outside of their narrow domain of expertise. On the other hand, the most successful networkers are those who are look to connect people across different groups.

    This concept was first observed by the sociologist Mark Granovetter who identified the importance of “weak ties”. In terms of career development, Granovetter demonstrated that our most valuable connections are often those we may not know very well but who are to provide a bridge to new opportunities outside of our normal social groups.

    When looking at networking therefore we should not rely on contacts to whom we are close, hoping that they in turn will know somebody who knows somebody who will want what we have to offer. Nor should we simply try to make as many new contacts as possible in the hope that one in a hundred will pay off. Instead we are looking to bridge these gaps in networks, areas in which we are clearly qualified to add value.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

  6. David Perry

    This is an excellent piece Josh. Great ideas which should accelerate anyone’s “job find”.

    If I may add to this please, we often talk about “networking with the newly departed” as a simple way to get to the front of the line quickly.

    Rather than rewrite the piece let me provide a link: http://www.putamericabacktowork.com/networking/zero-60-how-to-network-like-a-headhunter/

    All the best.

    David Perry
    coauthor, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0

  7. Lee James

    People can filter information you get from other sources. People can tell you which books to read; NFL Snapback Hats

Comments are closed.