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.

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