The single most critical step in the job search is networking and unfortunately it is the most frequently overlooked step. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 80% of jobs are filled through networking. Many jobs aren’t advertised or publicly posted these days. Networking helps you successfully tap this hidden job market. If you are looking for a job, you can’t afford to avoid networking any longer. Here are some tips for successful networking:
Why network? There are several benefits to networking. You will learn about different companies, different functions and roles that interest you, the critical skills required in your desired field and gain insights in the company hiring practices and priorities. Your networking efforts also build you a network within your target companies to provide access to the hidden job pool, to act as an early warning on open positions and serve as an internal advocate. Networking is the most critical step in the job search.
More is not always better. So often, frustrated job seekers feel that spending more time on the computer looking at job boards and applying for open positions will increase their chances of landing a job. The majority of online applications are never seen by the hiring manager. You could be the most perfect fit for the job and if your only connection is through an online job board the chances of you landing that job are slim. Resist the urge to spend hours behind the computer and get out to network. It will greatly increase your chances of landing the job. Check postings at your target companies at least once a week and do a weekly scan of the online job boards. You should spend ten times more time and effort in networking than you do on the computer if you hope to succeed in your job search.
Getting Started. I always encourage job seekers to start with the low hanging fruit – people you know when starting a networking process. Ask your friends and family who they know in the companies on your target list and in the field you are most interested in. Ask your friends’ parents and your parents’ friends. Use your alumni network. Look for former colleagues on Linked In. Starting the process with “warm” contacts helps you build your confidence so you can continue to expand your network.
Build Your Network. Always ask each networking contact who else they can introduce you to. Once they know more about what interests you they likely have contacts who can be helpful. If you respect their time, listen well and say “thank you” they are likely going to be willing to make referrals. Ask them what professional associations they belong to and what meetings they find most valuable. These groups can provide many valuable connections.
Be Open To Random Connections. If you are focused on networking and have a clear sense of your target companies and your career interests, it can be amazing where you will find connections. You could find your next connection at the neighborhood barbecue, a social event with friends, an adult education class, or sharing a seat on the train or plane. Ask people what they do and where they work. You can learn a great deal and can make valuable connections.
Networking is the key to job search success but it is also an interesting journey. Enjoy the people you meet along the way and learn as much as possible from each connections. You don’t know which connections just might lead you to your next job.