Networking to Enhance Your Job Search
We bet you have a network you don't even recognize.
According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of network is "a usually informally interconnected group or association of persons." T hese associations can be personal relationships with friends, family, and others you meet in an informal gathering. They can also be business relationships you develop with vendors, customers, supervisors, subordinates, and even competitors you encounter during the course of your career.
In her article, Everyday People Key in Job Networking (Denver Post, March 30, 2003), Kelly Pate wrote that "Friends, friends of friends, a barber, a neighbor and former co-workers are often the best resources for job seekers, especially in a market with far more people out of work than job openings, job placement experts say." Your network is only limited by the company you keep, both on and off the job. Just don't think the only time you are networking is during a job search.
You are networking when you...
- attend professional meetings, conferences, or conventions
- visit with other parents during your child's sporting or music events
- volunteer for "clean-up" day at the park
- visit with other members of your social clubs or religious groups
- talk with your neighbors
- strike up a conversation with someone else waiting at the veterinarian's office
- search out friends (current as well as former) on Facebook
- re-connect with former colleagues on LinkedIn
- talk to sales persons visiting your office
In Terms of a Job Search, Networking is the way to Go!Networking is consistently cited as the Number 1 way to get a new job. You know how everyone says that "80% of the jobs available never get advertised? This is how you find them and get them!
According to CareerXRoad's 9th Annual Sources of Hire Study (Feb 2010, PDF) "referrals make up 26.7% of all external hires (new employees hired from outside the organization). [...] The yield for referrals is one hire for every 15 referrals, making this category the most efficient source by far." (Since we know you will ask, "Hires attributed to Job Boards represent 13.2% of external hires.")
Those who make the actual hiring decisions would much rather talk to someone who has been recommended by someone they already employ. This is your first reference check, which saves the hiring manager considerable effort sorting through all the resumes and phone calls an advertisement will generate.
The Riley Guide Founder's Networking Story"I am where I am now because of networking, especially networking online via mailing lists. When I was ready to make the transition from university librarian to private consultant, it was my network that presented the initial opportunities to get me going (an introduction to the senior management at Drake Beam Morin, a request from the Employment and Training Administration for project work, an invitation from the National Business Employment Weekly to do some writing, and even an offer of a book contract.) The network I did not realize existed provided support and assistance when I needed it, and I work to return the favor as much as I can."
What Networking Isn't
Networking isn't a process of making cold-calls or sending Friend or "Join my Network" requests to people you don't know. It's connecting to people you do know through a valid connection.
What we mean by a valid connection is someone who may be a member of the same professional association, a fellow alumnus of your undergraduate or graduate school (or even high school), or the friend of a friend to whom you were introduced either personally or professionally.
Networking does not have to be a carefully-choreographed process of meeting and greeting people. For some people it's more manageable on an informal basis, but always remember that networking is a two-way street. It must benefit both persons to be most effective, so as you ask your network for help when you are in need, be prepared to return the favor when asked.
The Internet can be a great way to begin those casual relationships that turn into wonderful networking opportunities. Since we aren't face-to-face with the other person, the stress of making these new connections is greatly alleviated, but don't think that it's an easy market out there. It is very important that we begin these relationships in the right way. Since we can't use our voices or body language to express ourselves, we are limited to making sure the words we use and the ways in which they are presented properly represent our intentions. To be blunt,
Don't make a mess of a great opportunity
to connect with people in hiring places!
And we're not just talking to the new Internet users. A lot of Internet oldie-moldies need a reminder that there are real people behind the electrons, and real people make real decisions based on your electronic communication blunders.
Advantages of Online Networking
- There are thousands of discussion groups and community forums covering hundreds of subjects.
- You can "break the ice" before meeting someone in person.
- You can listen, engage, or be engaged as you wish. No one can see you sweat, and you don'thave to feel like a wallflower since no one can see you standing off by yourself.
- Many recruiters are lurking the lists to find potential candidates.
- Networking online is just as difficult as networking in person! It may actually be even more difficult because you can't establish a true connection online.
- First impressions count even more. Be very careful with your first public posting.
- Your online behavior matters more than you think. Don't be a jerk! I really mean it!
You may chuckle at that last one, but a friend of Riley Guide who participated in a mailing list for professional engineers told us that one participant on the list was so nasty online that no one would attend his presentations at conferences nor refer business opportunities to him. Talk about having your online persona affect your offline reputation.
The basic rule:
Do not go boldly where you have never gone before!
We have several articles discussing Netiquette on our page of Networking Tips along with some alarming information on The Internet As A Job Reference. They are required reading before you start strutting your stuff online.
- Stopand learn the rules of behaviour in effect in this particular group and follow them!
- Lookfor a list of Frequently Asked Questions (the FAQ) so you don't ask the same questions that everyone else has many times before.
- Listenpatiently to the discussion groups you have joined and learn the tone, language, and culture of the group.
- Neverpost your resume to the list nor openly tell the entire list you are job searching and ask if anyone can help you unless the group is specifically set up for this kind of service.
This is where discussion boards, social networking sites, and mailing lists come in. Many professionals use these communication mediums for networking, discussing recent developments in their occupation or industry and asking questions of each other. Anyone involved in a job search or career exploration can benefit from following these online, public discussions, learning about current trends and developments and the interests and concerns of those involved.
Vault.com Career Discussions (select Companies, then Discussions) offer you the opportunity to create your own virtual meeting space.are like your office water cooler. Conversations can be highly professional or very informal. Numerous web sites and online services like the
Facebook, LinkedIn and Networking for Professionals. Some may be more casual, while others are focused on professional linkages. We have more information and a list of several of these sites on our page for Networking and Support Groups. Job-Hunt.org has terrific information on using Social Media in Your Job Search.are a little different in that they work the "six degrees of separation" concept to the extreme, using the Internet to turn who you are, who you know, and what you know into a monster-sized spider net of connectivity. These include services like
What Might You Find?
These many networking and discussion sites can cover a broad variety of topics and fields. Many carry occasional job postings, usually in advance of print announcements, and they are a good resource for networking contacts, industry trends, and other developments. Look for sites and services dedicated to the industry you want to target, the employer(s) that interest you, or even the community where you want to live.
Public participation in discussions is necessary to get networking contacts. You will also need to provide your own credentials at some point to make connections with others. This may include your name, current employer, a vague (yet correct) job title, and email address (see why under Making Contact, below).
We recommend you use a free, personal email account for your networking and community discussion groups. Many employers have policies against use of their resources (i.e., email) for personal pursuits and many more monitor employee email. You can also protect your primary email account from spam and malware.
When you begin checking out these various discussion forums, it is best for you to monitor the discussions for a while after joining. Looking for information on the field or discipline. You should not participate in the discussions until you are quite comfortable with the group. Before you start actively participating, read over and memorize the rules of Networking Netiquette.
How do you know with whom to connect online?
- In mailing lists and discussion boards, look for postings by someone who seems to be knowledgeable about the topic being discussed. Note his or her email address at the top, and look for signature information citing their organizational affiliation, position in the organization, and more complete contact information.
- In a social networking site, limit yourself to contact with whom you can claim a valid (if limited) connection -- you are both former employees of X, you are both graduates of X, you are both members of X association, mailing list, or discussion group. If you cannot make any of these claims but you know someone in their network who is also in your network, ask that person to introduce you.
- Be sure to contact the person directly and not through the list.
- Be concise. Identify yourself, state why you are contacting this person, and list some of your interests and where you noticed some correlation with his or her interests as noted in the postings you've read.
- Do NOT send this person a copy of your resume. You are networking, trying to establish a relationship that extends far beyond just "please help me find a job." A resume will blow everything to bits at this point. Just relax and let the relationship build to a point where a resume will be requested or you feel comfortable asking for advice on preparation.
- Request a follow-up to this email, via phone or email. Give your contact the choice of how to continue.
If you are trying to make a connection through a site such as Facebook or LinkedIn, we suggest you add a personal message to your request. Again, keep it concise but also cite your connection, such as "I recognize you from last year's alumni gathering at X university. May I add you to my professional network?" This type of introduction and request will garner many more positive responses than the standard "may I add you to my professional network" generated by these services.
We also have information on Networking and Support Groups, How to Network Online (and Why), and Networking and Support Groups. The resources on our page for Job Search Advice may also have helpful ideas for you.