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Job Search Networking: How to Make it Work for You

Most people, when they think about their job search, think mainly in terms of browsing and responding to job ads.  Pinning all your hopes on this method damages your chances of getting a job, however.  The majority of jobs are never actually posted, and likewise, it is estimated that at least 60 percent of jobseekers actually find their new positions via their network.

There is something about the word “networking” that alarms many people.  Especially if you are shy or dislike asking anyone for help, the thought of asking everyone you know for a job may seem intimidating and distasteful.  Networking is much more than that, however.  Networking allows you to maintain professional connections and keep up on what is happening in your industry, as well as find out about job openings and get advice on companies you are considering working for.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make job search networking easy and painless.

1) First things first: Prepare your resume.

Nothing is more embarrassing than being handed a job opportunity, and having to ask them to wait while you get your resume ready.  This step should be done right away, before you even start calling around.  That way, when someone says, “Send me your resume and I’ll give it to my boss,” you have it all ready to go.  You will be more likely to make a good impression if you are prepared.

2) Start with the people you know best.

Family and close friends are your best resource, and therefore the best place to start.  They know you better than anyone, and can be your biggest advocate in helping you to find a job.  Even if they don’t know of any job openings at their company, they may know of someone else who could help.  They are also easier to talk to than complete strangers, and can serve as a gentle introduction to networking.

3) Reconnect with old co-workers.

Old co-workers and bosses, business acquaintances, and others you have had contact with over the years are a good next step to job search networking.  Make a list of every old co-worker or work acquaintance you can think of, and cross them off the list as you get in touch with each one.

Since you do know these people, even if it has been a while, it should be easy enough to get in touch again.  If you don’t still have contact information such as phone numbers, a little detective work may help — for instance, you can sometimes find their email on their employer’s company website, and even if you can’t find it you may be able to guess what it is, based on other people’s email addresses on the site.  Most companies follow a reliable pattern when assigning employee email addresses.

Once you get in touch with your old co-workers, you can start out by asking how they’ve been and getting caught up on their career advancements and family news.  When the conversation turns to you, simply mention that you are looking for a job, and ask if they know of any openings or anyone else who could help.  Don’t worry about feeling like you are imposing on them — you are simply asking for information, and you will be surprised how many people are eager to help when they can!

4) Follow up on any leads you are given in a timely manner.

Don’t hesitate to follow any leads you are given.  Most likely your friend or acquaintance will tell the person whose name they’ve given you to be expecting your call, so if you wait too long you may fail to make that positive first impression that is so crucial to your success.

Don’t forget to add any names you are given to your list of contacts.  Even if they can’t help you find a job now, they might be able to help you in the future.

5) Attend networking events.

In addition to the job fairs you attend, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for local networking events in your industry.  Although your attendance may not directly result in a job offer, you will be meeting others in the industry who might be able to eventually help you find work.

Because it involves talking with strangers, this is the part of networking that many people have the most trouble with.  It may help to remind yourself not to think of it as asking someone for a job.  You are merely making friends who have similar career paths to your own, and who might eventually be a source of job leads.

6) Maintain your network.

Once you have created your network, it is very important to maintain it, even after you have found a job.  Jobs don’t last forever, and no matter how good everything seems now, you never know when you will be looking for another one!

Maintaining your network doesn’t have to be difficult.  You can send out the occasional email to old co-workers and contacts you have met through your networking efforts, just to check in and see how they are doing.  They also might be able to give you pertinent information about what is going on at their company or in other parts of the industry.  Just because you have found a job doesn’t mean you no longer need your network!

The Key to Networking

The key to successful job search networking is persistence and maintenance.  Think of networking as almost organic in nature: Start slowly, with the people you already know, and gradually allow your network to grow by following leads and making new contacts.  Don’t forget to maintain the contacts you’ve already made — remember, they are not strangers unless you don’t keep in touch!

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