When we hear the word "networking," many people think of "doing lunch," selling ourselves, and handing out business cards. If we changed the word to “connecting,” we might feel better about it. Your job search begins with the people you know! Never underestimate their knowledge and influence. Most people really enjoy helping one another when they can. Therefore, if you ask someone for help or information, most people will gladly provide it.
You might not realize it, but you connect with people every day. You can easily use these encounters to your advantage. For example, you have opportunities to network when you:
- Attend professional conferences, conventions, and presentations.
- Visit people at a social club, community agency, or religious gathering.
- Greet those who are sitting near you at a sporting event.
- Talk with your neighbors.
- Strike up a conversation while waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store.
- Reconnect with old friends and colleagues online.
These are just a few of the many opportunities that you might have for networking. You can use these conversations and connections as ways to learn about business leads, find common areas of interests, and establish a working relationship with a potential mentor or colleague. If you establish a positive, long-term relationship with people, they might be able to refer you to particular job vacancies. Almost 80% of job vacancies today are never advertised! Therefore, most people land jobs based on who they know…not what they know. Networking is a powerful way to get your foot in the door! Don't forget -- you're not asking for a job! You are seeking information, a lead, a contact, or a referral. Think of it as a research project…without a grade.
- Be a “joiner”: Join a professional organization and attend conferences and meetings with the goal of meeting at least one new person at each function that you attend. To find a professional association which matches your interests, perform a general internet search or ask a Career Team member. Take a moment to check out our information on social media and networking!
- Utilize Contacts: Tell everyone you know that you are conducting a job search and what type of job you are looking for. Once again, include relatives, friends, professors, previous employers, etc.
- Be Assertive: When at a function, whether social or professional, take the initiative and introduce yourself to people; don't wait for people to talk to you. Ask them about themselves and what they do. (If you are shy, take it one step at a time. You don't have to overwhelm yourself.)
- Write Thank You Notes: When you have the opportunity to talk with people either over the phone or in person, write a thank-you note. Let them know that you appreciate the time they gave you and the information they shared. Also, ask them if they know of anyone else who would be able to provide you with more information.
- Be Organized: Keep track of who you meet, where they work, and what they do. If you have a meeting with someone, be sure to write down the date, time and directions. Some find it useful to keep this information in the form of alphabetized note cards in a rolodex.
- Update Contacts: Stay in touch with contacts. Send them interesting articles or invite them for coffee. Make sure they know that you are available to assist them too. Networking is a 2-way street. Also, make sure you update your notes with any important information that passes in conversation. People will appreciate your effort to inquire about how the big project they were working on went when you last spoke.