How often have you heard, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know”?
It turns out that statistics back that up. In fact, some sources note that as many as 85% of jobs are filled through networking. This huge statistic reflects the fact that many jobs are never advertised because they are filled by a person the employer already knows or by people who are referred by trusted contacts. This doesn’t mean that you should never apply to jobs you see online; it just means that you need to incorporate networking in your job search.
When you network effectively, you will meet people who know of job openings, who can give you advice on your search or even connect you with other people. However, before you start networking, you’ll want to prepare. To help you make your networking activities pay off in finding job opportunities, we’ve put together some practical tips:
Consider online and in-person options
Most people start to build their professional network beginning with those closest to them, and moving outward to circles of people they may have less connection with. To start your network, write up a list of the individuals you know directly such as friends, family members, teammates, current or former classmates, current or former co-workers, etc.
Then, using this list, move your inner circle outward. These are people you share something in common with—a common contact, a professional association membership, an educational institution—but you haven’t necessarily ever met them. Getting contacts from friends, making LinkedIn connections with someone whom you share a connection with and utilizing college career services or alumni offices is a great way to build on these connections.
Whether it’s calling, writing an e-mail or sending a message on social media, let your contacts know that you’re looking for a job. Let them know whether you’re looking for a reference, a job lead or more information about the industry. Make sure to provide an update on your qualifications and recent job experience. Be clear about your employment goals and how you believe you can help fill this contact’s needs. You can also find connections in person by attending career fairs and volunteering with organizations working in your desired field.
Utilize your contacts
An important first step is to organize information about your contacts in a way that is meaningful to you. Then track your ongoing communication with them. Some people use a spreadsheet, e-mail system, notebook or reminder file. Reflecting on your priorities at the time you start networking, you might want to reach out to your network to:
- Research your industry and companies that interest you or influence the industry.
- Request informational interviews with people who work in your field or company of interest to learn “boots on the ground” information that you can’t get from general researching.
- Request connections to contacts in specific organizations you want to work for or to ask about job openings.
- Build relationships with professional contacts for mutual support/connections throughout your career.
Maintain your network
Keep a list of people you consider key to your search and others you need to reconnect with and schedule time for a phone call or meeting. Check in periodically to see how they’re doing or to say thank you. It doesn’t always have to be about your job search. Just staying in touch will help you keep a network of people you can count on for ideas, advice, feedback, support and possible opportunities in the future.
Sources: Ticket to Work, CareerOneStop