These job-search career networking tips — how to build and strengthen your network, the power of informational interviews and networking, and more — have been gathered from numerous sources throughout Quintessential Careers and organized here for your convenience.
To understand the importance of networking, it’s helpful to examine how people get their jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor says that only about 5 percent of people obtain jobs through the “open” job market — consisting primarily of help-wanted ads on the Internet and in print publications. Another 24 percent obtain jobs through contacting companies directly — the cold-contact method of job-hunting. Twenty-three percent obtain jobs through such means as employment agencies, college career-services offices and executive-search firms. The remaining 48 percent — nearly half of all jobhunters, obtain their jobs through referrals — that is word of mouth. How do they get referrals and find out about jobs through word of mouth? By networking. See a graphic representation of how people get their jobs.
Because communication is growing increasingly global, a person’s career network can include persons from a much larger geographic area, observed career development therapist Janet Scarborough in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “This expansion can be really exciting and fun. I would not have met [QuintZine editor] Kathy Hansen, for instance, if I had not participated in ProfessionalJobTalk, a networking forum for career-development professionals. The Internet also offers a tremendous opportunity for free agents and entrepreneurs to sell their products and services directly to consumers. When I first began my career counseling practice, I built a simple Web site. Most of my first clients found me via the Web. It was a rewarding, inexpensive way for me to start my business,” Scarborough notes.
One of the best sources of networking contacts for college students is the guest speakers that come to talk to your classes. These professionals are a vast untapped resource. One of our students who was interested in a career in pharmaceutical sales went up to a guest speaker from that industry after the presentation and introduced herself. She asked the pharmaceutical rep if she could send him her resume. He agreed, and she kept in touch with him throughout the next semester before she graduated. By the time she claimed her diploma, she had lined up a $60,000 a year job with the drug firm.
The ability to network online is a great boon to job-seekers, according to Marcia Merrill, career advisor at Loyola College, MD. In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Merrill noted that job-hunters can join a discussion group or read a newsgroup on a topic of their choice. Looking at http://groups.google.com or Topica provides a list of numerous newsgroups or discussion lists that the job-seeker can join. “Establishing an ‘Internet presence’ by posting on a discussion list (after learning the rules of ‘Netiquette’ one should follow for posting a message or reply) facilitates others getting to know you and your area of interest/expertise,” Merrill says. “Often you can connect with an employer and feel that you ‘know’ each other before having actually met; the interview might be more of a formality if you’ve exchanged ideas online before.”
Asked to share a job-hunting secret that is not widely known, Maureen Crawford Hentz says: “Give your resume to people. Don’t ask THEM for positions, but instead ask them to pass on your resume to anyone they hear is looking for a great candidate.” Maureen is an independent career and HR consultant and regular contributor to QuintZine.
Think summer is not a good time for job hunting? Think again. Summer can be a great time to job-hunt. Competition is minimal because job-seekers assume hiring decisions will be postponed until fall. While the assumption often proves correct, the groundwork for hiring can be laid in the summer – through effective networking. Just as parties and networking opportunities increase during the Christmas holidays, picnics, barbecues, beach parties, and outdoor sporting activities provide sizzling summertime networking occasions. Vacations can be planned around the possibility of relocating one’s career to another locale and networking while on vacation. New fiscal years often begin in June or July, making new hiring possible.
Consider joining Toastmasters to bolster your job search. This international organization serves as far more than a venue for networking. The group helps people overcome the fear of public speaking and learn skills to enhance success. It’s especially good for those who are very shy about networking. Members of Toastmasters receive constructive evaluation. It’s an effective way to build confidence while building your network. Toastmaster chapters are all over the world (check you local newspaper or phone book for one near you), but if you can’t find a local branch, the Toastmasters International Website tells you how to start one.
Don’t put all your job-hunting eggs in the Internet basket. Job-hunting on the Net should be only a small part of your job search, as should chasing want ads. Spend the bulk of your time is identifying employer prospects and designing a direct-mail and networking plan to help you land a job in one of the companies. Network with former coworkers and other professionals in your field. Read our article, Networking Your Way to a New Job. And to maximize your Internet job-hunting experience, try our tutorial: A Guide to Jobhunting on the Internet.
Is your job search limited to sending out resumes? If that’s all you’re doing, and you’re not getting results, ask yourself these questions: Are you calling those companies where you sent your resumes and asking for an interview? You cannot wait by the phone expecting these employers to call you — you need to be proactive and call them! Are you taking advantage of your network of friends, colleagues, and family by trying to get job leads from them? Are you using the career services office of your college/alma mater? The alumni network of your college? Are you looking online for jobs?
Another technique is the cold-contact job search in which you identify employers and directly targeted letters (and resumes) to them in search of a job. The U.S. Department of Labor says that about 24 percent of job-seekers obtain their jobs through such direct contact, and the better you target the companies best suited to you, the more you can raise the odds of obtaining a job this way.
Looking for a job is a job itself. Make sure you are doing a complete job search. The Internet should be just one part of your job search. Make sure your resume is posted at all the best (and free) job sites. Answering want ads and job postings can be another part of your job search, but the percentage of people who actually get jobs from this method is small (about 5 percent). Developing a list of companies you want to work for and contacting them directly should be a key part of your search. Contacting recruitment or headhunter agencies, if your field has such companies, is another method. Finally, networking should help. Talk with former co-workers about possible positions. And does your profession have a professional organization? If so, network with people within your organization. See How People Get Their Jobs.
The value to a college student of being partnered with alumnus/alumna or other professional in his/her field as a mentor is priceless according to Marcia Merrill, career advisor at Loyola College, MD. In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Merrill said: “Students (mentees) get to ask their mentors questions about the ‘real world.’ Mentors report that it’s very rewarding to help someone, remembering what it was like when they were trying to decide on a career. They invite the students to job-shadow them in the workplace to see how it really is and experience firsthand what it’s like to be an attorney, doctor, or counselor/psychologist. Having a mentor can be the first step toward deciding on pursuing a given career. Many students begin with making networking contacts and grow into working part- or full-time for their mentor or their mentor’s contacts. Internships often result as the student gains the experience needed to make a career decision. A college career center is only one way of seeing about getting a mentor. Usually colleges have an Alumni Network for this purpose.
“If you’re not affiliated with a college, you can find mentors by looking at the association that corresponds to your field of interest. Examples: Society of Women Engineers, Association for Sociological Research, American Management Association, American Institute of Physicists, to name a few. Every major/career field has one or more associations dedicated to that particular area of interest. Most have Web sites that outline membership benefits, usually including mentor programs. There are several online e-mentoring Web sites, such as Mentornet.com and asktheemployer.com, to name a few. Not having a formal mentoring program within your workplace is not an excuse. You could start your own!”
Job-hunting is all about marketing and selling — and being more aggressive in hunting down job opportunities than other job-seekers. A common problem among job-seekers is applying for jobs and then sitting back waiting for the phone to ring. Job-hunting just does not work that way. You need to get on the phone (or via email if you applied for jobs using email) and contact every company you have not heard from and see what the status of your application is — and ask for interviews where appropriate. If you are relying only on job ads — either job postings on Web sites or help-wanted ads in local newspapers — move your job search up quite a few gears. Have you joined any professional or social organizations in your area? Do you have friends or family close by? Networking is the best method to find strong job leads. Learn more about networking by going to Quintessential Careers: The Art of Networking. Don’t get discouraged, but don’t sit at home waiting for a phone call. Pound the pavement. Make your own opportunities.
One other great source for understanding the importance of marketing in job-hunting is our article: Using Key Marketing Tools to Position Yourself on the Job Market.
The Internet is a huge boon to networking, according to Debra Feldman, specialist in cyber-savvy strategic job-search consultations, in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers. “Let’s face one big and simple fact, whether a job is posted in a newspaper or on the Internet job site, company Web site, or trade newsletter, among online resources, they all come down to the same thing – a listed opening,” Feldman says. “We all accept that more than 85 percent of job seekers find their jobs through networking and contacts. The new technology will make accessing one’s contacts easier and faster, reducing delays in turnarounds and eliminating some sources of potential data loss.”
Some people have a misunderstanding about the use of networking. It’s not so much about building a rapport with the hiring manager — that’s what interviewing is all about; rather, it’s about building a circle of contacts who know your current situation and want to help you succeed in finding a new job. Read our article, Networking Your Way to a New Job.
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