An Impervious Guide to Networking

You go to school, learn a skill set, build a resume, intern, even consult a career coach, yet, 70% of all jobs today are found through networking.  Reflectively, 70% of those jobs are also never advertised.

It’s true, industries have become more competitive and companies more selective.  As we rebound from the recession, an influx of new talent is flooding the workforce. However, along with an increase in workers, we have also seen a rise in job creation. These are normal fluctuations in the economy that repeat over the years, but what has changed is how we view the job search.

Today, the rapid expansion of technology is responsible for a dramatic shift in the landscape of the job market. We are inundated with online job boards, search tools, and social networking sites, and it appears that networking has become more important than ever. Two of the most popular sites, LinkedIn and Facebook, boast their average users have 150 or more connections.

Despite being more “socially” active, we are generally less engaged with our contacts than ever before. The constant connectivity and number of different networking hosts can have an adverse effect that makes us less present in our face-to-face interactions with co-workers and even friends. Social media has the ability to create the appearance of bonds and fuels a competition that values quantity over quality. These social platforms have also placed our previously personal connections into an increasingly more public sphere and deeply convoluted our basic understanding of relationships. Still, if done correctly, the fundamentals of networking and their importance have not changed.

As companies are increasingly relying on employee referrals to bypass the headache of weeding through online applications, it’s important to know how to create a meaningful connection before you even start your job search.  A powerful tool, social networking requires some thoughtful reflection on the user’s part to yield any positive results. Sites like LinkedIn can make networking seem deceptively easy. You can “connect” with the CEO of your favorite company with one click, but it’s not as simple to turn those connections into actual relationships. It’s the steps in between, which cannot be achieved virtually, that make it possible to segue a connection into a recommendation and, from there, a lasting professional relationship.

In a hyper connected world, networking is like casting a fishing line into a sea of nets.  So how do we forge genuine connections amidst a multitude of cyber acquaintances?

• Treat the job hunt as a job

-Do your homework. Hiring managers look to their current employee’s networks to ensure that candidates are a proper fit and a secure investment for the company. As a potential employee, you need to vet companies just as carefully to ensure they align with your personal goals and aspirations.

• Networking doesn’t have to just mean building new relationships

-It can also be about learning from the relationships you already have. Don’t just look to colleagues or past employers, also pick the brains of your friends, family and neighbors. Even if they’re not in your field, they may have contacts that are helpful to you.

• Be genuine for you and your connections sake

-Have an elevator pitch, but be true to yourself. Learn about your skill set and your interests before you start the actual job hunt.  It’s important to do some research first to ensure the field you’re pursuing would be a good fit. This way you’re not only prepared to land the job but you save both you and your employer the burden of searching for a replacement if you decide the position is not a good fit.

You shouldn’t only be networking when you’re looking for a job

– It’s an ongoing process of relationship building that requires attention and care to cultivate. If you make a connection, you should make some form of contact every month whether it’s getting together for coffee, sending a holiday card or even a short email just to check in.

Use social networks as the follow-up tool not the initiator

-Social networks should serve as leverage not the groundwork for your connections.  First call or send a personal email to suggest a face-to-face meeting. Even if the person is too busy, they will appreciate your effort to make a genuine connection. After you have formed a relationship and established a rapport you can follow-up on LinkedIn to further the conversation and offer some tangible evidence of your skills and accomplishments.

They Told Me I Need a Co-Signer

Financial Advice by Carmen Rita Wong

Q: I thought I had been making pretty great strides with my finances.  I have been paying my bills on time, paying down my debt and have even been able to save a little money in the bank each month, but I recently tried to rent a new apartment and they requested that I have someone co-sign the lease for me.  I have never encountered something like this before!  What does having a co-signer actually entail and how can I get out of the situation of needing one?

A co-signer on any loan or lease becomes just as responsible as you for any and all payments. Yeesh! And though the best way to get out of needing a co-signer in your situation may be to find another apartment, you may not have to do that.

First, know that though your credit may be in great shape, a landlord uses other factors to decide if you’re a good tenant. Two other criteria are: What’s your income and, how much cash do you have saved up? Your potential landlord may feel that you don’t have enough cash in the bank if you lose your job, for example. (They usually like to see anywhere from three to nine months of rent, plus basic living expenses.) Also, after taxes, how much is your monthly rent compared to your monthly pay? If you’re looking at 50% of your after-tax income going toward rent, your landlord may not see that as leaving wiggle room for your other expenses.

There’s no need to try to assume things– you know where that gets you! Instead, pick up the phone and ask specifically why you need a co-signer. Once you have your answer, there may be other ways to satisfy their needs, for example, by getting a letter from your employer stating that you’re on contract for the year and/or that you’re a long-time, full-time employee, which means you may get severance pay if you are let go.

There are services out there that act as insurance for renters. In effect, they co-sign for you, but they cost a lot– usually a month and a half in rent. But instead of using a pricy service or bringing someone in to co-sign, make sure that you either can’t wait to move and save up more money or, instead, find a less expensive apartment or restrictive landlord. Whatever their reason, it’s good to take a long, hard look at it and see if there isn’t some useful truth in it. Usually, fixing the need for a co-signer is just a matter of time.

 

Carmen Rita Wong is the President and Founder of Malecon Productions. She is the former co-creator and host of the only national, daily personal finance television show, On the Money, on CNBC. Carmen was also the co-founder and former President of an all-female financial planning firm, is currently Assistant Industry Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at NYU Polytech, a former editor at ‘MONEY’ magazine as well as a previous national advice columnist at ‘Good Housekeeping’, ‘Glamour’, ‘Latina’, ‘Essence’, and ‘Men’s Health’. Carmen also writes for ‘The New York Times’ and is the author of two books, her most recent, The Real Cost of Living. She has also written a novel based on her life and the lives of her first- and second-generation Latina friends, famous and not, to be released in 2015.

Why Professional Motivation Matters So Much

By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half

Nike made the phrase “Just Do It” a part of the American lexicon. Nike’s goal was to inspire us to channel our inner athlete and embrace physical challenges. I would like to encourage you to push yourself in the same way — but this time, in the context of your work.

If you’re reading this, you’ve already displayed professional motivation and taken the first step toward your next career move. Dress for Success gives you the foundation wardrobe, moral support and confidence boost to shine brightly in job interviews and throughout your career. I hope you take advantage of the career resources available to you as a Dress for Success client.

Taking your first steps

It’s possible to change just about anything about your job or your career — if you take action. Your dream job or promotion doesn’t have to be just a dream. You can make it a reality. Your first steps don’t have to be big ones. Even small strides, like updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, or getting in touch with an old classmate or colleague in a field that interests you, can start the momentum. These actions require just a little effort and professional motivation — consider it the warm-up.

From there, you’re more likely to take further steps, like reviewing the job boards to see if an employer may already be advertising your dream job. Most major job search websites let you set up alerts to receive emails when a job matching your search criteria is posted.

Overcoming doubt

It’s at this point that you have to decide how serious you are about your pursuits because once you start looking, you will find jobs that appeal to you. This is often when the doubt kicks in and professional motivation stalls. All elite athletes will tell you they had to overcome the fear of failure at some point in their career. They succeeded by not letting these fears shake their confidence. Instead, they carefully prepared so that when the time came to compete, they were ready.

The same is true in your job search. Preparation will give you confidence. That means making sure you know enough about the position and the company to submit a targeted resume. It also means dressing the part, interviewing well and having good references who can attest to your abilities. If the job you want requires additional training or certification, preparation may involve gaining that added knowledge. Depending on the level of training or education, this may be the marathon portion of your journey and where your professional motivation is put to the test.

Applying professional motivation to your current job

If you’re not ready to look for a new job but instead want to advance with your current employer, ask your manager what steps you need to take to be considered for a promotion. Many people lack the confidence to talk to their boss about career growth, when, in fact, most good managers welcome these conversations. The conversation they don’t like having is the one in which a good employee resigns without ever having let on he or she longed for more responsibility. It can be a lost opportunity for both the employer and employee.

To paraphrase Isaac Newton, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Likewise, a body at rest stays at rest. It’s easy to become complacent, either because you lack confidence or you don’t know where to begin. But even a few steps toward looking for a new job can give you the professional motivation you need to keep the search going. Small victories will empower you to take on even bigger challenges and, from there, it’s a sprint to the finish.


Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for
Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.