More than 70 to 80 percent of job listings aren’t published online, according to Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons. Most jobs go to friends and acquaintances, and much of the time, unless you’re one of these people, you would have no idea the company was looking to hire anyone. Making new connections through networking is a worthwhile investment of your time that can help you land that new job.
Networking seems like a daunting task when first approached. Like everything else in life, the only way to get better is practice. You can’t hone a skill you don’t use.
Starting your network
Eighty-five percent of jobs are filled through networking, according to a survey on LinkedIn. Networking can lead to your next job opportunity, and getting started is a crucial part of your job search. Start building your network by reaching out to those closest to you. Reach out to your friends and acquaintances; networking is easier with them because your previous relationship gives you a way in. When you reach out to strangers it is more difficult to convince them to share information because they don’t know you. Asking strangers for jobs outright tends not to go over well.
When you meet with people, remember that you’re looking for information, not jobs. People you’ve just met don’t know you and don’t owe you anything, so they will be more hesitant to help you. It’s important to be visible. Whether you’re networking online or in person, you must cultivate your image and reputation so that people know who you are. The more people are familiar with you or your work, the more open they will be to talking with you.
When networking, it’s not just important to be able to approach people; you need to be able to connect with them. You’re not simply using people to connect you with job opportunities; the connections themselves hold value. These people will be part of your network, so you have to cultivate a relationship with them. They already know what you do, but you have to make sure that they know that you’re good at it. Building a strong, positive relationship with your network connections is vital if you want them to recommend good job opportunities to you.
Be generous with your connections. If you’re just looking to use someone, they will not want to help you. Help others before you ask, and do so without expecting anything in return. People will be more likely to help you if they can remember a time when you helped them.
Reaching out to your network
Don’t spam your list of contacts with a mass email informing them all that you’re looking for job opportunities. Ask each contact individually for information, and ask them for referrals — you never know who someone in your network may know. Reach out to the referrals and be sure to thank everyone for their information and time.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to people or dismiss people who aren’t in your field. You never know who other people may know. While they may not be a hiring manager for a specific company, they may know someone that you can contact for a job opportunity. It’s always helpful to have someone refer you for a job. A referral makes it more likely that you’ll be contacted for the position.
You want to be specific about what you want. Sending people vague directions about what your preferences will likely garner few replies. Be direct. If you need to get in contact with a specific person, say that outright. You should also be prepared not to be contacted by a few people. Sometimes, people just don’t have the time, or they simply forget — don’t expect everyone to answer your request, and remember not to take it personally when it happens.
Takeaway: Networking leads to more opportunities
A majority of people find jobs through networking. That means if you’re only scouring the internet for opportunities without talking to anyone personally, you’re hindering your chances. Building a large network allows you to tap into other people’s networks. While they may not personally be able to help you with what you’re looking for, they may know someone who can open that door for you. People you add to your network today are valuable assets who will be able to help you in the future.
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