Finding a job in today’s economy can be tough, but there are opportunities if you know where to look. And the best way to find these opportunities is not through online job boards, the classifieds, or employment agencies– they are found by networking. A survey from the top end job search site ExecuNet reveals that 80% of all jobs are obtained via networking.
Unfortunately, many job seekers are hesitant to take advantage of networking because they’re afraid of being seen as pushy, annoying, or self-serving. But networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships. Tapping the hidden job market will take more planning and nerve than searching online, but it’s much more effective. Adopting a networking lifestyle—a lifestyle of connecting and helping others in good times and bad—will help you find the right job, make valuable connections in your chosen field, and stay focused and motivated during your job search. Power-up your 2013 networking with these 5 tips from some of the best networkers I know.
Tip One: Figure out what you want before you start networking
Networking is most effective when you have specific employer targets and career goals. It’s hard to get leads with a generic “Let me know if you hear of anything” request. You may think that you’ll have better job luck if you leave yourself open to all the possibilities, but the reality is this “openness” creates a black hole that sucks all of the networking potential out of the connection. A generic networking request for a job is worse than no request at all, because you can lose that networking contact and opportunity. Asking for specific information, leads, or an interview is much more focused and easier for the networking source. If you’re having trouble focusing your job search, you can turn to close friends and family members for help, but avoid contacting more distant people in your network until you’ve set clear goals.
Tip Two: Want to expand your network? —- Reach out to the people you already know
You may think that you don’t know anyone who can help you with your job search. But you know more people than you think, and there’s a very good chance that at least a few of these people know someone who can give you career advice or point you to a job opening. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!
Tip Three: Make a list of the people you know
Your network is bigger than you think it is. It includes all of your family members, friends, of neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances. Start writing down names and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the list grows. Think about people you know from former jobs, high school and college, church, your child’s school, the gym, social media, or your neighborhood. Also think about people you’ve met through your close connections: your sister’s co-worker; your best friend’s boss; your college roommate’s spouse; friends of your parents; your uncle’s business partner. Don’t forget to include people like your doctor, landlord, accountant, dry cleaner, or yoga instructor…..Yes, you do have a job network, and it’s more powerful than you think.
Tip Four: Reach out to your network
All the connections in the world won’t help you find a job if no one knows about your situation. Once you’ve drawn up your list, start making contact with the people in your network. Let them know that you’re looking for a job. Be specific about what kind of work you’re looking for and ask them if they have any information or know anyone in a relevant field. Don’t assume that certain people won’t be able to help. You may be surprised by who they know.
Tip Five: Improve your communication skills
Effective communication is a cornerstone of job networking. As simple as communication may seem, much of what we try to communicate—and others try to communicate to us—gets misunderstood. Effective communication combines a set of learned skills, such as: attentive listening, recognizing and using nonverbal cues, managing stress in the moment, and understanding your own emotions and those of the person you’re communicating with. Toastmasters is the best place I know of where you can both enhance your communication skills and build a network. Go to www.Toastmasters.org to find a club near you.
The Bottom Line: Focus on building relationships
Networking is a give-and-take process that involves making connections, sharing information, and asking questions. It’s a way of relating to others, not a technique for getting a job or a favor. You don’t have to hand out your business cards on street corners, cold call everyone on your contact list, or work a room of strangers. All you have to do is reach out. It may take a while but having a networking mindset will pay off. Good luck with your 2013 networking efforts.