The majority of people get their job through a networking contact rather than responding to an advertised job. Hiring companies prefer to use word-of-mouth rather than advertising an open position because it saves them lots of money and can bring in quality candidates. The referrals generally come from an employee who knows the position’s requirements and the company’s culture. The insider’s knowledge of the candidate’s background and qualifications also help make a good match.
Networking means getting yourself out there and communicating with others so those who are aware of a position know that you’re looking for a job. No one is going to help you find a job if they don’t know you’re available. It’s really about meeting people and building relationships.
Networking comes naturally for some people but many of us freeze up at the thought of contacting other people to ask for help in the search. If you are uncomfortable with networking, or new to it, start with your family and friends. They are a supportive group and might surprise you with some early leads. Then move on to their friends, again probably another supportive group. Begin by telling the person that you’re looking for a job. Give them a brief summary of your background and the kind of job you are hoping for. Most people you contact may not immediately know of a specific opening but they may point you to someone who might. You just expanded your network.
Experienced networkers use a technique called an informational interview to reduce the tension in a contact. You make it clear that you’re not asking the person in front of you for a position. Instead, ask them if they know of someone who might know of an opening. You can also use these interviews with a knowledgeable person to gain more information about an industry or a company and it’s a great opportunity to ask the contact if they have any advice that might help you in your search.
The internet, particularly LinkedIn, is a great tool for locating people in a company or industry who might be willing to have a brief meeting or phone call with you. But, while the internet is a powerful tool, its use can become excessive if the applicant spends far too much time in front of the computer rather than out there making great contacts.
Networking can become frustrating if you don’t land a job quickly. It’s important to have a plan for managing the network challenge. The plan should be an actual written plan, not a hazy construct in your head. Plan how many new contacts you want to make in a period of time, e.g., a week or a month. Make the number realistic – too many and you will fall behind and get discouraged; too few and you will never reach your goal. Monitor your progress objectively against the plan and modify your activities or the tasks as needed. It might help to have a small group of friends who meet regularly to exchange ideas and leads and hold each other accountable for accomplishing what they planned to do.
Even though you may feel you just aren’t a networking type, you probably are already doing more of it than you realize. Even a casual contact with another person is a form of networking. Now all you have to do is shape that contact as a part of your search. Let the person know you’re genuinely looking for a position and do it in a way that’s comfortable for you. They may offer something that moves you closer to finding that first job. You never know.