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.

Let’s Stay in Touch: Networking to Get a New Job

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

In the job search, as with many things in life, the secret to success often lies not in what you know, but who you know. The fact is that all things being equal, hiring managers will often give an edge to applicants who have been referred to them by someone they know.

Why? Hiring is risky business for employers. Hire the wrong person, and your company loses valuable time, money and productivity. Not to mention the negative effect a bad match can have on team morale. So managers look for any input, including referrals, that will help them make the best hiring decision.

As a job seeker, you can increase your odds of getting hired by constantly expanding your professional network. The more people you know, the better your chances of hearing of job openings first and getting a foot in the door by having a personal referral.

Start by telling everyone you know — and everyone you meet — that you are in the job market. Job leads can come from anywhere, so leave no stone unturned. Of course, if you already have a job and are looking for something better, then your inquiries will need to be a little more discreet.

The first rule of networking is to make connections long before you need them. Keep in touch with the people you meet throughout your life, including past teachers, bosses and coworkers. Don’t overlook the family friend who works in a field or industry that has always interested you. If you lose contact with old acquaintances, rekindle the relationship with a friendly call or email.

The second rule of networking is to pay it forward by being a resource for others, no strings attached. If you offer support to someone who needs it, he or she will be more inclined to return the favor when it’s your turn to ask for help.

When someone introduces you to a person in their network or helps you land an interview, be sure that you are professional and courteous when you meet with the new contact. Your friends are going to bat for you. Make them glad they did.

Become a ‘Social’-ite

LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites are good channels for building and cultivating your professional network. You can use these sites to locate people who can help you expand your network. Be sure that you have an up-to-date profile so that your contacts get a complete picture of your skills and work history.

Facebook is one thing, but don’t overlook the value of face time. Arrange to have coffee with former colleagues from time to time so that you can keep the connection alive. If it’s been a while since you talked to someone, bring that person up-to-date on what you’ve been doing, including any new work experience you’ve gained. This will help him or her identify career opportunities that may be a fit.

When you ask your contacts for help, keep your requests reasonable, and make it as easy as possible for them to help you. For example, if you are applying for a job at their company, personally hand them your resume and explain why you think you would be a good fit. If you know the name of the hiring manager, share that information, too, so your contact does not have to do the legwork for you.

Not everyone will be in a position to help you, so be gracious if they decline. They may not feel comfortable advocating on your behalf, particularly if the two of you have had only limited interaction in the past. This is all the more reason you need to stay in frequent contact with members of your network.

If networking isn’t a habit for you, make it one by engaging in at least one networking activity each month. It could be as easy as sending a quick thank-you note to someone who has helped you in the past, attending a business mixer or congratulating a friend who was promoted.

Networking shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you foster great relationships over time, then your contacts will start to feel a lot more like friends than professional colleagues.

 

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.