Job Search 101: 8 Keys to Better Networking

by Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 5 percent of job seekers obtain jobs through the open job market which consists of help wanted ads, the internet and print publications. Another 24 percent obtain jobs by cold-calling companies directly. Twenty-three percent obtain jobs through employment agencies, college career-services offices and executive-search firms. The remaining 48 percent obtain their jobs through referrals or “word of mouth.” These individuals get the job referrals by networking.

A job search that targets only advertised job openings will likely miss more than half of the available opportunities. Once armed with a powerful resume, networking is one of the most important skills for job seekers to master to be truly successful in their job search. Here are some tips to get you started.

The time to network is now
Many people start networking only after they’ve lost their job. Effective networking means creating contacts and relationships while you are still employed. Networking is a way to tell your story, get the message out that you are open to new opportunities and let people know what you have to offer.

What is your story?
Treat each networking endeavor as a sales pitch for your story, practice what you want to say and consider in advance answers to questions about your career goals that might arise during a networking opportunity.

When crafting your story consider the following:

  • What are your core values?
  • What kinds of things do you like to do?
  • What are your key talents?

Pull this information together and develop a statement that summarizes your most important values, passions and skills. This becomes the boiler plate or script for networking discussions.

Think of everyone you know
When you decide to build up your list of networking contacts, reach out to everyone you know. Go to your immediate and extended family, friends of the family, religious community, volunteer connections, old college friends or clubs, past employers, and anyone you deal with on a daily basis. Remember that kindness and courtesy go a long way here. Always say please and thank you and reciprocate if a contact asks for your help in return. People will remember you if you are thoughtful and polite.

Networking requires tact
Networking is a skill and a social grace. It also has a practical aspect that allows you to create and maintain a list of contacts. Much of the method involved in networking boils down to exercising common courtesy in asking questions and saying thank you. Every job seeker can network, and networking may take different forms in different situations.

Make it second nature
Follow the demand for your talent by continuous networking, making it second nature. Make your own connections and be your own agent. Networking in professional, social, and other settings has become an increasingly important aspect of a job search.

How and where do I network?
There are networking opportunities everyday. The key is to find them and capitalize on them. Suggested avenues include:

  • Conduct social networking at parties, dinners, events, small gatherings, birthdays, volunteer activities, and ceremonies.
  • Keep open and pleasant communication with past employers, being careful to not burn bridges when you leave a company.
  • Join a professional organization or utilize your University’s alumni association. Social events organized through these groups offer an informal setting where you can meet industry veterans and begin a personal relationship with them.
  • Volunteer for committees or events through the associations you are affiliated with or within your local community.
  • Create a newsletter or a blog to help get your name out there. Include stories about what you learned in your job and summarize big tasks or accomplishments.

Use informational interviews
Another networking avenue is an informational interview which is a formal discussion in which you ask someone to talk about his or her work without trying to squeeze a job out of the experience. These interviews can help you get a detailed picture of the industry since you are free to ask absolutely anything and can more often expect a frank response than a regular interview.

Ask your contact:

  • how he or she got into the industry and why
  • what skills are most in demand in the industry
  • what type of jobs that are hot in that industry and how to find them
  • for additional contacts.

Use resumes like personal flyers
It is a good idea to have business cards ready and available at all times, but consider having resumes on hand as well. Resumes can serve as detailed business cards, reminding contacts of you and your accomplishments. Create a version of your resume for networking purposes alone, one that can be pulled out on short notice.