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November 19, 2012
Networking Outside the Box: 4 Ways to Stand Out to Employers
The question on the mind of every job seeker I meet is consistently, "How do I stand out and get noticed in this job market?" For a lucky few, the traditional resume-cover letter combo can sometimes get the job done, making it to top of the application pile and wooing the attention of hiring managers. But for the majority, it's a struggle of understanding the strategy behind self-promotional marketing, making sure you have the best tools for the job, and of course, a little bit of luck.
The good news: You need not rely simply on luck to stand out from the crowd in today's job market. But you do have to think beyond the resume to overcome the challenge of getting lost in the shuffle. Networking is not a myth; it works. Creating human connections, developing and leveraging them, is key to creating potential opportunities to "cut the line" and get on the radar, while your competition waits in the middle of the resume stack.  
I get it, though — you've been to hundreds of networking events, have worked every angle of LinkedIn, and have reached out to ever former colleague you've had in the last 10 years, and you're still waiting for your "in.” So is everyone else, and it's time to try something new, something more original. So what alternative resources can you utilize for networking, and how can you tap into them to reach out, make connections with, and get on the radar of the organizations you want to reach?
Get Out & Meet Up
I cringe when I hear people talking about how they spent hours researching and reaching out to complete strangers on LinkedIn, hoping that their friendly plea for a connection with result in an invite to the inner circle of consideration. Occasionally someone will respond favorably, but more often than not, they will ignore you. LinkedIn is fantastic for research, for finding out who works where, and identifying potential connections and relationships. But it's in how you execute that effort that really matters.
A better idea would be to utilize a tool like Meetup.com that is designed to encourage very focused networking and relationship building, from casual to professional. Meetup groups are a great way to connect with your potential peers, on a casual level, in places where it's easy to strike up a conversation, and create a mutual connection based on shared interests. Think about what topics of interest would draw in members of your industry, and then do a search for groups that cater to those subject matter areas. Often Meetup groups will offer a wide range of meet-and-greet opportunities, learning-focused events, and other opportunities to meet key players within a particular professional area. And when the setting is less formal and the expectation of swapping business cards or recruiting advice isn't there, it's a lot easier to create connections with people who can potentially help you out.
Start Pinning
Many companies, particularly in the creative sector, are actively on Pinterest, pinning everything from examples of their latest work to photos of their latest company function. Because of its visual nature, Pinterest is a great way to get a sense of a company's culture — what kinds of events do they organize internally? What types of brands, products and subject matter do they follow as an organization? Make it a point to follow their boards, repin their content, and comment on different pins. While it might not lead to a job offer, it's certainly a vehicle for increasing your visibility as someone who appreciates and understands the company culture and the type of work that goes on there. Even better, Pinterest is fully integrated with other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so the content you share can easily be shared with potential followers from other channels.
Learn to Share
Blogging is an excellent tool for building your personal brand, and it isn't just about being a great writer. It's also about sharing interesting and relevant content with others in your field who share those same interests. Sharing your opinion and insights can help you position yourself as someone who is knowledgeable and up on the specific trends, topics and goings-on in your industry. One great thing about having a blog is the nearly infinite ways to promote it and use it as a platform for connecting with people. From using social media to attract followers to your blog or website to content-sharing sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon, there are literally hundreds of resources out there to help you promote and build visibility for your blog, connect with other folks, and find other blogs that cater to the same subject matter areas. Communication is two-way, so while it's great to build your own following, make sure you're out there engaging with people, commenting on, and sharing their content as well. 
Not a writer? You can still build your visibility by identifying three or four blogs to consistently follow, and contribute your own comments to. Many companies have their own blogs that often highlight news of what's going on within the organization, interesting projects they're working on, or trends within the industry. Try following some of the thought leaders in your industry who may have industry-focused blogs of their own. 
Try Some Strategic Coworking
A less common but extremely valuable and overlooked resource is company-sponsored coworking spaces, and you don't have to be a freelancer to reap some of the benefits of visiting a coworking space. In fact, some companies even offer free or low-cost work space on a daily or hourly rate, right in their headquarters if they have extra space, unoccupied offices, or empty cubes in their facilities. How to find it? Utilize a workspace search engine like LooseCubes.com that offers local listings of available coworking spaces in your area. Keep in mind that the purpose of the space isn't to function as a networking event, as people are there to do work. But that doesn't mean you can't introduce yourself to people you meet around the water cooler or lunchroom. Take a day and rent some space for free or cheap, tackle some of those personal projects on your list, and make some potential connections in the process.
Of course, your resume and cover letter are still critical elements of your job search marketing efforts. But the more direct connections you can build and leverage, the better shot you will have at getting to the top of the resume pile, or bypassing it altogether. And these days, you have to be creative about finding opportunities to make those connections. While the tried-and-true tools liked LinkedIn are still excellent networking platforms, remember that It's not just about finding names and conducting outreach. It's about creating trust and rapport with those people so that you give them a reason to want to help you, and confidence to act on your behalf. There may always be an element of luck attached to the job search game, an element of "right place, right time.” Any game of luck is also a game of strategy, and your job is to take the actions and effort necessary to build your greatest odds.

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Dana Leavy-Detrick is founder, chief creative scribe and resume writer at Brooklyn Resume Studio, www.bklynresumestudio.com.
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