Job Search Networking
Now that you’ve completed your research and have some background about your target industry, you’ll want to establish personal contacts who can also help you locate jobs.
Networking is the process of talking to people in order to get additional contacts or information about possible hiring opportunities. Studies show that as much as 60 percent of the jobs available are filled through this process.
To give you an idea of how effective networking can be, consider the following. The average American knows about 300 people. If you know 300 people and each of those people knows 300 people, you instantly have 90,000 potential contacts! As you begin to network, you’ll probably be amazed at how many of them know someone who works in your area of interest.
Networking discussions are beneficial for providing information about employment trends, salary ranges, job leads, potential target companies or industries, and the names of individuals who make hiring decisions. They also yield tips that will:
- Expand your list of contacts
- Help you hone your interviewing skills
- Give you individualized feedback regarding your job search strategy and resume
Begin networking by contacting people in the following categories:
- Alumni in your target industry
- College professors
- Departmental advisors
- Community business people
- Former co-workers
- Church members
- Classmates and school acquaintances
- Members of professional or social organizations
- Acquaintances and friends
Make a list of the people you know who fall into these categories. Include their full name, address, and home and work telephone numbers. Use a small notebook to keep track of your growing list of contacts and take notes about the conversations that you have with each one. For instance, if someone sounds eager to help you and encourages you to call back, write it down.
When you begin networking, clearly communicate your qualifications, desired position, geographic preference, and, if the topic arises, salary requirements. Be clear about your goals. It will be easier for people to help you if they know what you’re looking to find.
When speaking with a contact, avoid simply asking for a job. Instead, mention that you’re interested in a certain industry, and ask her if she has any suggestions about how to approach your job search. Ask if she knows anyone in the industry who might be willing to talk to you – not about a job, but about your job hunting strategy. If she suggests getting in touch with someone else, ask permission to use her name, and then follow up as soon as possible.
Keep a record of everyone you talk with. Include the correct spelling of their name, the date, and the content of your conversation. These notes are useful for recalling names and conversations, and as a reminder for thank you notes, which you should send to everyone who helps you.
You may wish to make your initial networking contacts by mail rather than by telephone. In the letter below, notice that the opening sentence mentions the name of the person who referred you to the reader. This establishes a connection with the reader before moving on to your request.
You can view a sample networking letter or go to our Sample Resumes. Rather than simply copying it, try to communicate your own unique style and personality to the reader. Be sure to avoid asking for a job directly.
Typical Flow of Network Meetings
Gather information by talking with people who work in the type of industry that interests you. Save your best contacts for last, after you’ve had a chance to practice.
When you set up meetings with people, be sure to differentiate between informational interviews and potential employment interviews. Most employers are generally open to meeting for informal, informational interviews. If you’ve made it clear over the phone that you’re looking for employment, however, it’s appropriate to bring a copy of your resume with you to the meeting.
Acknowledge the support staff you talk to. They are sometimes your most direct link to the person who has the power to hire you, so their impressions of you can make a difference.
When calling to set up a meeting, try to remember the following points:
- Explain why you’re calling. Be direct about whether you’re calling to ask about the industry, or actually looking for a job, but never ask for a job outright.
- Ask whether this is a good time to talk. Give your contact a chance to speak with you now or to make arrangements for a time that is more convenient.
- Tell her why she is a special contact for you. If you have a mutual friend or acquaintance, mention his or her name.
- Describe your skills briefly.
- Let the person know how she can best help you. She can’t read your mind, so depending on what you want, ask if she has time to meet with you, insights about the current job market in that field, or if she knows other people you should talk to.
- Be positive!
- Thank her for taking the time to talk with you – be sincere and professional.
- Keep a record of all interactions for future reference.
Many people are uncomfortable asking others – especially people they don’t know well – for help. When asking for assistance, don’t apologize, and don’t take it personally if someone can’t talk with you. You are not doing anything wrong by asking for assistance.
Think of how you would feel if someone called you at work and asked for help – especially if you were able to offer advice and support. When you approach people appropriately, they will usually be happy to be of assistance.