How to Use Your Network When Searching for a Job


Whether you're searching for your first job, a position in a new field or a higher level ole, networking is a critical first step for career advancement. Although some job seekers still believe job boards and staffing agencies are the only routes, this is simply not true. In reality, many business professionals can attest to the fact that most jobs are not posted on job boards and some are not even available for public viewing. Because of this, the best and only way to get into the hidden job market is through your connections. Even the opportunities posted online are visible to thousands of people, and networking can help you stand out amongst your competition. Read on to find out simple steps and techniques for using your contacts to land a job.


1.       Organize a list of personal and professional contacts


Networking can seem overwhelming, but it all starts by simply figuring out who you know. The first step to networking and having the ability to use your contacts in your job search is making a comprehensive list of personal and professional connections. If you're having a hard time, begin by thinking of individuals from the following buckets:


  • Current colleagues
  • Former bosses and coworkers
  • Alumni from the school(s) you have attended
  • Personal friends
  • Family members


This should give you a thorough list that can be built upon as you progress in your networking efforts. Once you have the list, you must also find a way to organize them with their contact information. If you own a computer, creating an electronic spreadsheet or online database may be the easiest option for sorting and maintaining a growing list. By doing research up front on each of your connections, you'll be better able to determine which will be most suitable to help you in specific areas of your search down the road.


2.    Keep your contacts informed of your needs


A professional network is just that, and although it may include some personal contacts, most of the individuals on your list are probably not aware of your career aspirations. If you're in the market for a job, you need to let your network know, or they cannot help you. For those connections that you're close with, it may be appropriate to pick up the phone and provide specific information on your background and the type of job you're looking for. Additionally, you may ask them for referrals to contact or advice on where to look for openings in your field. For the connections that are strictly professional, take advantage of the Internet - send out an email, update your social networking statuses or reach out directly to those within an organization of interest to you to let them know where you're at with your job search.


3.    Set up regular coffee or lunch meetings


Most people are more than willing to help someone out when it comes to finding a job. However, if you're pushy, overbearing or disrespectful of their time, they are less likely to help you or recommend you for any current or future openings. Instead of cold calling your connections, take the time to set up regular coffee or lunch meetings to help build your relationships. During these meetings, be sure to listen to your contacts' advice and thank them for their time so they don't feel as if they're being used. Even if nothing comes of it right away, keeping in touch with your contacts will better your opportunity of being referred to job openings that come along at a later date.


4.    Schedule informational interviews


Whether you're interested in a specific job, company or industry, scheduling informational interviews with relevant contacts will be beneficial to your job search. Although informational meetings do not act as interviews or means for landing a job, building relationships with those in your field of interest will help grow your network and also provide you useful information on job responsibilities, requirements, etc... Additionally, companies have been known to appreciate the initiative of job seekers who want to find out more information about their organization. Positions have even been created for job seekers that have set up informational meetings because the contact found their personalities and skill sets to be very desirable for the company.


5.    Volunteer and take on pro bono work


Another way to grow your network - both industry-related and not - is to do general volunteer work or take on pro bono work for those in your field. Not only will you gain valuable experience that you can put on your resume, you will get to connect with others at all levels in their careers. If you do a good job on a project in your field, you may have the opportunity to join the company full time, or you may at least get a recommendation for other roles within the industry.


6.    Build an online presence


With online technology and social media growing at a fast pace, building your online presence is an important piece of job searching puzzle. Start by taking advantage of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn to connect with your current contacts, and then use those contacts to build your network out further. Although not all jobs are posted online, many are. In order to get recognized amongst the hundreds or thousands of other applicants, you need to have connections at the company or at least have the ability to advertise you resume and background online. Using the Internet to connect through blogs or forums may also be beneficial, as you can discuss the industry with fellow job seekers and those currently employed.


Networking is time-consuming and may even be overwhelming at first. However, getting your name, your needs and your abilities out to as many contacts as possible will help you in your job search now and in the future. The above mentioned steps are just a few of the possibilities available when it comes to growing your network. Take advantage of online technology to keep up to date with industry changes new possibilities in order to land your next job.

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