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Networking involves the exchanging of information or services with others. “Career networking” is the cultivation of relationships for employment purposes and has become an integral part of the job search process. Experts state that 60% or more of all jobs are filled through networking. It is also not uncommon for a job to be filled through networking before a vacancy is even advertised.
So if you are in the job search market, it is imperative that you brush up on your networking skills. In fact, even if you are presently employed, you should have an effective network in place. You never know when you might need to tap into it.
The purpose of networking is not to ask for a job, but to talk to individuals who can connect you with people who can help you get a job. You’re simply trying to expand your job search possibilities by getting referrals and contact names. Networking changes a “cold call” to a warm one – if you are able to say, “I received your name from so-and-so” you stand a much better chance of getting somewhere with them. They may not have an obligation to you, but they most likely think enough of the person you mention to at least talk with you and try to help you out.
Whether you realize it or not, you already have a personal network. Everyone does. Your family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are all part of your existing network. Make a list of everyone you can think of, regardless of whether or not you think they will be helpful. Think in terms of groups or categories. Some areas to explore include:
Joe Girard, the World’s Greatest Salesperson (according to Guinness Book of World Records) came up with the “Law of 250”, which states that every person on the average knows at least 250 people. How many contacts can you come up with?
In today’s job search world, it is also necessary to network online. There are many avenues for online networking, but an increasingly important one is LinkedIn. Many employers now check out professional applicants on LinkedIn before they do anything else.
LinkedIn can do more than present your credentials and experience. For an immediate reference, get colleagues or clients to write a Recommendation. To provide a “work sample” of your expertise, answer relevant questions in the “Answers” section. Get your colleagues to recommend you for specific skills and abilities. Join relevant interest groups. And explore all the other ways that LinkedIn can help.
There are many other websites that promote networking, including Facebook, Classmates.com, and Monster.com. And don’t forget your professional association or alumni group.
In addition to networking online and via telephone, it’s important to get out in person as well. This will help to keep your spirits up and give you more opportunities to network. A few ideas for mingling include:
Think of your network as an extension of yourself. You will be able to reach many more people if you enlist the help of your contacts. Not in desperation, but rather to let them know you are looking for work, in case they know of someone who might be interested in giving you an opportunity. “I’m exploring other avenues in my career and wanted you to know.”
It’s not uncommon to feel nervous or intimidated about the prospect of networking. You can reduce your anxiety by being prepared; having a script you can follow if necessary. You will also become more comfortable after you’ve made a few calls. Remember to:
It’s important that you remain fresh in the minds of people in your network. Here are a few ways to distribute information about yourself:
You can do this any way you’d like, including using a journal, a set of index cards and dividers, or an online database. (If you use an online database, be sure to keep it backed up!) Be sure to include the following information:
If you’ve agreed to touch base again on a certain date, be sure to enter that information in your calendar. It’s important that you do what you say you are going to do when networking. It builds your personal credibility. And be sure to follow-up with thank-you notes or emails whenever appropriate.
Once you create a network, be sure to maintain it. The key to successful networking is to have mutually beneficial relationships. If you only use your network when you need something, it will not be nearly as powerful as it could be.
Networking isn’t hard, but it does require planning, organization, and a little elbow grease. The more effective your network is, the better your chances are for obtaining a job. You must be willing to invest the time and energy into the process in order to reap the benefits.
There are numerous resources to help you through this process. Several websites offer Career Networking advice. You can get started by typing “networking” into your favorite search engine. Many books and articles have also been published on the topic of networking. Here are a few we found helpful:
The Ultimate Job Search by Richard H. Beatty
The Unofficial Guide to Landing a Job by L. Michelle Tullier, Ph.D.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi