The people you know can be the best way for you to find your next job. The “tried and true” path of networking is still the most successful way to find your next position.
According to a recent surveys person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, with 70% of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job.
Research consistently identifies networking as an important job search tool — anywhere from 40-80% of job placements are attributed to networking. Networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.” (The “hidden job market” refers to jobs that are not advertised publicly. These positions may be filled through employee referrals, recruiters, or direct contact with hiring managers through networking.)
It happens all the time. Someone in your network says, “You know what? You should talk to John Jones at the XYZ Company. They’re hiring.”
This guide will help you identify who is in your network and how to use these connections to find your next job.
Build Your Network Before You Need It
The single biggest mistake most job searchers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them! But don’t wait until you’re out of work to start developing relationships with your network.
As author Harvey Mackey says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Develop your contacts, be willing to help these folks with their needs, and they will be there when you need them!
The more people who know you are looking for a job, the more eyes and ears that will be available to help. Networking is about getting the people you already know to help connect you to the people who will help you land your next career opportunity.
You can also tap into your network for specific assistance. For example, if you want to work at a particular company, ask people in your network if they know anyone who currently works for — or used to work for — “Company X.” Then contact that person and ask about the company, culture, and hiring practices.
Who Is Your Network?
The first step is to identify who is in your network. This can include: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), and your doctor, financial advisor, or attorney. Your holiday card list, if you have one, can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.
If you don’t already have a list, start one! Make a list of all of your contacts — past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, bankers, and others. You never know who may have a great lead or know of an unadvertised opportunity.
Then, expand that list. Here are some ideas for other people to add to your network.
- Parents of children’s friends
- Parents of your friends
- Relatives of friends
- Club members (country club, swim club, sports club)
- Military service personnel
- Sports team members
- Current co-workers
- Previous co-workers
- Previous managers
- Vendors and suppliers
- Seminar, conference, and workshop attendees
- Business owners
- Venture capitalists
- Members of industry associations
- Contacts you make at conventions and job fairs
- Real estate brokers
- Financial advisors and bankers
- Mortgage bankers/brokers
- Insurance agents
- Travel agents
- Elementary, middle, and high school friends and teachers
- College classmates and friends
- Alumni association contacts
- Graduate school classmates
- Other alumni of your schools
- University career-placement office staff
- Former professors and advisors
- Civic and political leaders
- Chambers of Commerce
- Community groups (Kiwanis, Rotary, Scouts)
- People you meet while volunteering
- Health club members
Assemble the contact information for these individuals and add them to your list.
You can also brainstorm contacts you need to make. Write your desired job target at the top of a piece of paper. Then, make a list of possible employers on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, make a list of people you know who can connect you with these companies.
Here are some more opportunities to develop your network:
- Attend networking events (for example, those hosted by your professional organization, Chamber of Commerce, and tips groups). Attend association meetings and take advantage of educational opportunities.
- Work as a volunteer. For example, in your industry association, the Membership Committee is a great place to start. The Program Committee (that plans events) or the Finance Committee (that helps line up sponsors) can also be good choices. Getting involved in any organization is beneficial. Volunteering is one of the best ways to network your way to new contacts.
- Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com), or your trade association’s website (which might have an elist or message board to connect members).
- Contact your alumni groups. Your college or university should have an alumni association (often with a directory of members) that can be useful. You can mine the directory for contacts in your field, even if they didn’t graduate in the same year as you. Your alma mater connects you.
- Read your local business journal to find out about growing companies. Pay particular attention to the “People” section (the section that highlights promotions and new hires at companies) and see if there are any contacts you can make.
- Reference directories can also lead you to the right people. For example, the Manufacturers’ News (www.mnistore.com) sells databases and print directories of manufacturing businesses and contact information for the decision-makers at these companies.
How to Use Your Network
There are a few ways to use your network to find a new opportunity. The first is to contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals. Create a networking cover letter (samples are included in this guide) and send the letter with your résumé to each of the contacts in your network. This is the broadest way to use your network, and can be useful if you are currently unemployed and not worried about jeopardizing your current job by visibly pursuing a new one.
A more effective way to use your network is a more targeted approach. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific job goal.
For example, if you see an advertised opening for a position, go through your network and see who might be able to provide you with access to the hiring manager (or someone else who works at the company), information about that specific company (or the company’s position in the industry), or information about the specific position you’re seeking.
You can use your network contact to make an introduction to a hiring manager — either asking them to pass along your résumé to that individual, introducing you directly, or allowing you to use their name when making an initial contact.