Why You Need a Networking Letter (Maybe Even More Than a Cover Letter)

By Karen Friesen, JobJenny.com

We know that you know how important networking is to landing a new job. It’s got to be among the oldest (and most important) tricks in the “how to get yourself hired” handbook.

Since you're a diligent, proactive person (of course you are), you’ve likely racked up 587 Facebook friends, 829 LinkedIn connections and cultivated an extended network of friends, professional contacts, and family members who think you. are. the. bomb.

When it's time to make a job change or career pivot, these people could be downright instrumental in helping you, right? If you play it right,  absolutely.

After all, the people in your posse already know how fantastic you are at…all kinds of stuff. Maybe you bake like Betty Crocker. You kick the pants out of every karaoke competition, or you’re the one everybody calls when they need a shoulder to cry on or a ride for Johnny after lacrosse.

That’s all great (obviously), but the pivotal question is, do they know what makes you kill it at your job? More to the point:

Do your people have any idea what you REALLY do at work all day?

Unless you're something like a nurse, fire fighter, writer or professional violinist, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘probably not.’ So, when you to enlist help from these people who will forever have your back, guess what they're going to say? 

“Sure, yeah, I’ll keep an eye out…”

And they probably mean it with every ounce of their being. However ... and here's the challenge ...

Do they have any idea what they’re keeping an eye out for? Truth is, the majority of people you know likely have no clue specifically how they can best help you.

There IS a solution to this quandary, and it’s one that job seekers often fail to consider (or have possibly never heard of).

The Networking Letter

The networking letter lands squarely among the top three pieces of correspondence (in addition to the cover letter and thank you note) that can make a huge difference in how your job search fares.

There are plenty of ways to tackle writing a networking letter, but the goal remains the same: you want to get word of your job search out to the people who know you best, and give them clear information about what you're looking for, and how (specifically) they can help.

Here's one approach to crafting a high-impact networking letter:

1. Kick it off with a friendly introduction.
Explain the transition you’re embarking on, and request help. Your intro might look something like this:

Dear Friends, Just a quick note to say “hi” and give you an update on what I’ve been up to. After 15 years of managing the IT Department at Orbit Consulting, I’ve decided to switch things up and pursue my long-term goal to work in large-scale technical project management.

2.  Share a brief list of skills you’d like to put to use in your next job.
For example, you could say, “I’d really like a job in which I can use my digital marketing strategy and large team project management skills.” Or perhaps you could say, “I’m well suited for roles that involve building and motivating sales teams.”

3. Offer up a short list of potential job titles / companies of interest.
Here’s your chance to really help your network know what to be on the lookout for, because the type of job you seek could very well be called different things at different companies.

“Here are some of the job titles that would likely align with what I’m envisioning…”

You may even throw out the names of some companies that are of particular interest.

“A few companies I’m specifically targeting include Gerber Knives, Yakima and SawStop.”

And then wrap up your networking letter by asking the recipient to let you know if he or she knows anyone that may be helpful or influential in your search. (And, perhaps, could they introduce you?)

An effective networking letter’s power lies in the fact it goes beyond asking people to “keep an eye out." It specifically spells out what it is they’re keeping an eye out for, and what they can do if they know of something that may be a fit for you, or someone you should meet.

Even better, the networking letter doesn't always have to be distributed as a letter. It could be an email, or maybe you have it in front of you over cocktails or during a coffee meeting, to help guide the discussion.

Remember ...

The people around you – especially the ones you know will always have your back – will absolutely be willing to bend over backwards to help you, IF they know exactly how they can be useful to your effort.

So offer up a big “thank you” in advance, and always be ready and willing to return the favor. It’s dishing up those kinds of positive vibes that – more than anything – make you somebody people want to stand up for.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Matt)