Happy First Week of MLB Baseball! Before you read this post, I would like to preface it and emphasize networking is about connecting with people. One of the best ways to connect with people, especially when you are first trying to meet them, is to find and speak to commonalities. What, in essence, do both of you have in common? Whether your went to the same school, grew up in the same city, have a similar contact in common, watch the same sports, or enjoy the same hobbies, it’s easier to speak to someone about a topic, issue, or activity of similar interest. With that in mind, your initial focus should be speaking to a commonality, then the relationship will grow from there.

The easiest way to apply for a job is also the most difficult way to get noticed. According to Richard Nelson Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute?,” 4-7% of people are successful when applying for jobs online. That means out of every 100 resumes you send out, four to seven will result in an actual interview.

And those four to seven opportunities are just for interviews. Add to the mix how many actually get hired and you’ll find the odds are (not) ever in your favor.

You'll have better luck surviving The Hunger Games than getting a job by applying for it online

This strategy (if you can even call it a strategy) is not particularly successful because you aren’t standing out. Since you are one of a thousand people who see the job posting, you become one of a few hundred who actually apply (some won’t even bother). You remain a number in a stack of papers instead of a human being. And anyone who knows how to network will always be a step ahead of you in this competitive world.

You cannot rely on the online job search alone. You’ve got to find other ways to get your foot in the door. You’ve got to network. You’ve got to reach out. And you have to connect.

The power of follow up is key. Simply applying for a job and waiting rarely works anymore. You have to be proactive, even if it’s uncomfortable. You have to get into the game. Be the athlete, not the spectator.

There are many ways to reach out and follow up. Google (or any search engine) can be your best friend. Type in a company name and you’ll often get a phone number and an address. Don’t know who to talk to in an organization? Try conducting a company search on LinkedIn or utilizing a database such as Hoovers.

Whatever you do, make sure following up becomes a habit. Now, following up is an art within itself. You cannot be overbearing. In fact, you should be politely aggressive. You need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you were them, what would be acceptable and what would be pushy?

… And how often is too often to follow up?

As a general standard, I believe in the three strikes rule. This means you have three opportunities to connect with them before you give up. Three strike you’re out.

Not one, not two, but THREE.

We all live busy lives, and there are multiple reasons why we don’t respond. We might have had a bad day. We might be incredibly busy. We might simply forget. Your email message might have ended up at the bottom of our inbox and marked as read (out of sight, out of mind). Our LinkedIn settings do not notify us when someone wants to connect unless we actually go into LinkedIn (for best practices on making an initial connection on LinkedIn, click here).

Whatever the reason, you simply cannot give up on the first try. Of course, you’ve also got to have a first try as well. Hence, following up. And sometimes you’ve got to try again and again (if at first you don’t succeed…). And when you try again, you might need to try a different way. If you sent an email the first couple of times, you might need to make a phone call next.

We all like to communicate in different ways. Some prefer email and texts, others prefer to speak, so you are doing the person a service by trying different methods of connecting.

Just when you try the second or third time, make sure you give them space. Trying three times in one day…bad move. Reaching out three times over the course of a month…much more considerate.

Many of my clients who follow up and successfully connect (that is, they get an interview) ask me if they would have been considered if they hadn’t followed up. To this I simply shrug my shoulders. You never know. Yet, these same clients see their success rate increase from 4-7% to 40-50%.

After three attempts, you can assume they aren’t interested. Before then, you still have a chance to hit a home run…

…so get in the game!