The people you know can be the best way for you to find your next job. The “tried and true” path of networking is still the most successful way to find your next position.
According to a 2012 survey by Right Management, person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, with 46% of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job.
Research consistently identifies networking as an important job search tool — anywhere from 40-80% of job placements are attributed to networking. Networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.” (The “hidden job market” refers to jobs that are not advertised publicly. These positions may be filled through employee referrals, recruiters, or direct contact with hiring managers through networking.)
It happens all the time. Someone in your network says, “You know what? You should talk to John Jones at the XYZ Company. They’re hiring.”
This guide will help you identify who is in your network and how to use these connections to find your next job.
The single biggest mistake most job searchers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them! But don’t wait until you’re out of work to start developing relationships with your network.
As author Harvey Mackey says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Develop your contacts, be willing to help these folks with their needs, and they will be there when you need them!
The more people who know you are looking for a job, the more eyes and ears that will be available to help. Networking is about getting the people you already know to help connect you to the people who will help you land your next career opportunity.
You can also tap into your network for specific assistance. For example, if you want to work at a particular company, ask people in your network if they know anyone who currently works for — or used to work for — “Company X.” Then contact that person and ask about the company, culture, and hiring practices.
The first step is to identify who is in your network. This can include: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), and your doctor, financial advisor, or attorney. Your holiday card list, if you have one, can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.
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If you don’t already have a list, start one! Make a list of all of your contacts — past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, bankers, and others. You never know who may have a great lead or know of an unadvertised opportunity.
Then, expand that list. Here are some ideas for other people to add to your network.
Assemble the contact information for these individuals and add them to your list.
You can also brainstorm contacts you need to make. Write your desired job target at the top of a piece of paper. Then, make a list of possible employers on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, make a list of people you know who can connect you with these companies.
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Here are some more opportunities to develop your network:
There are a few ways to use your network to find a new opportunity. The first is to contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals. Create a networking cover letter (samples are included in this guide) and send the letter with your résumé to each of the contacts in your network. This is the broadest way to use your network, and can be useful if you are currently unemployed and not worried about jeopardizing your current job by visibly pursuing a new one.
A more effective way to use your network is a more targeted approach. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific job goal.
For example, if you see an advertised opening for a position, go through your network and see who might be able to provide you with access to the hiring manager (or someone else who works at the company), information about that specific company (or the company’s position in the industry), or information about the specific position you’re seeking.
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You can use your network contact to make an introduction to a hiring manager — either asking them to pass along your résumé to that individual, introducing you directly, or allowing you to use their name when making an initial contact.
Social media can also be effective for helping you achieve your networking goals. You can let your network know you are looking for a new position by posting status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This is particularly useful if you are currently unemployed and you’re not worried about your boss finding out you’re seeking a new position. (Even if you have your social media profile privacy settings locked down, remember that anything you post online can potentially become public information — all it takes is someone you know taking a screenshot of what you’ve posted, or mentioning the information, and it’s no longer private.)
You can also research a potential connection using social media. Find out if the person has a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or Twitter account. LinkedIn is particularly effective in helping you take your existing contacts and leverage them into even more networking opportunities. You can see how you’re connected to a company or another individual using LinkedIn.
Use social media to arrange in-person get-togethers. For example, if you make a new contact on LinkedIn, if they are local, arrange to meet them in person. Technology makes networking easier, but face-to-face interaction is still the best way to network.
You can also use technology to personalize your networking, even when you are contacting many people at the same time. (For example, you can use Microsoft Word’s “mail merge” function to create personalized networking letters for each of your contacts.)
One of the most effective ways to network your way to your new job is to get your résumé in the hands of those who are in a position to help you. One way to do this is through a networking cover letter.
The purpose of a networking cover letter is to let your network know you’re looking for a position, and ask for specific help. You can send an email or a hard copy of the letter and résumé by mail.
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Here is a sample networking cover letter after a layoff:
Dear (Contact Name):
I am reaching out to you to ask for your help. As you know, my position was eliminated when Chandler-Roth Department Stores was acquired last month.
I am looking to stay in the retail industry and, ideally, remain in the Minneapolis area. My “perfect” job would be another associate manager position — one focused on operations or merchandising (or a combination of both) — in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
I would appreciate any advice, contacts, or industry insights you can share with me. I’ve attached my résumé — please feel free to pass it along to anyone you think may be interested in it. If you know of a company that is looking to grow its retail management staff — or fill any open position — please let me know. I’d also appreciate any recommendations of retail recruiters, or recruiters who work on placing management candidates in the Minneapolis area. (I’d prefer to stay in the retail industry, but would potentially consider a management opportunity in a new industry.)
Highlights of my qualifications include:
- Success in delivering year-over-year same store growth — contributed to 12% growth in 2012 (well ahead of the industry average for non-food sales growth of 2.26%).
- Introduction of innovative product merchandising and customer service programs that have increased average transaction size by 22%.
- Led an employee engagement initiative which reduced turnover by 18% over a six-month period, reducing hiring costs by more than $22,000.
I’m lucky enough to count you as a (friend, colleague, client, co-worker) and I want to thank you (in advance) for any help you can give me.
P.S. — If you’re on LinkedIn, let’s connect on there. You can find my profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanjobseeker
Here is a sample networking cover letter for a jobseeker who is relocating:
Dear (Contact Name):
I recently relocated from California to Ohio. Consequently, I am looking for my next challenge! My focus is a management role drawing on more than 15 years of experience in manufacturing and production. I have enclosed my résumé, which outlines my qualifications.
I am asking my network — including you! — to help me identify possible employers that would value someone with my experience and skills. My work history emphasizes supervising production teams (up to 30 employees per shift), keeping manufacturing lines operating at peak capacity with a minimum of downtime, ensuring quality and regulatory compliance, and managing special projects.
If you know of someone I should contact to explore an opportunity, I’d appreciate the referral. You can reach me at (phone number) or email me at (email address).
Networking cover letters can also be used to update contacts about a job search:
Dear (Contact Name):
Happy Spring! I wanted to drop you a note to give you an update on how things are going in my job search. Since leaving ABC Company in January, I completed two short-term contract projects, most recently with XYZ Company. I’ve applied for several full-time accounting positions, but have been finding things to be a bit slow. So now I’m turning to my friends-and-family network for your help!
I’ve enclosed an updated copy of my résumé in the hopes that you might be able to help me identify and/or make contact with a company or organization that might need someone with my skills and experience. While I’m most interested in a full-time position, I’m also open to a contract opportunity — particularly one that might lead to a full-time position.
If you know someone who might be interested in what I can do for them, would you mind passing along my résumé? And give me a call if you have any ideas for me, or if you want to catch up on things. You can reach me at home (phone) or on my cell (phone).
I appreciate your help!
Get to know people who can help you find your next job — not necessarily the people doing the hiring, but the people who know those people. Make connections with local business leaders, government officials, bankers, commercial real estate professionals, and others who can network you into the top opportunities within the area. Ask for the opportunity to meet with them to learn more about a specific company, opportunity, or the industry. Make it clear you are not asking them for a job — only for information which may be useful to your job search.
Consider contacting members of the professional associations to which you belong. Your colleagues can be a tremendous asset in helping you find unadvertised opportunities. Write a letter or email them asking for their help and assistance. You want contact names and numbers, ideas, and company information. Be sure to ask if you can mention their name to “get in the door” with their contacts to arrange an informational interview.
Use your time wisely. Prepare a list of questions to ask in the informational interview. Ask questions related to the type of work required in the position, what kind of preparation is required for success in the job, which skills are used most often in the job, what qualities are appreciated in successful employees, and what the individual thinks are the prospects of finding a position in this field.
Be sure to ask questions which allow the person you’re interviewing to talk about themselves. How did they get started in the field? What is their educational background? What do they wish they knew when they got started that they know now? What is the toughest part of their job? What challenges/problems do they have that need solving?
Get business cards from these contacts and write a personalized thank you note. Follow-up with your résumé and cover letter only when appropriate, or if you’re asked to provide them.
Ever been surprised when a friend announces a new job and you didn’t even know they were looking? You can use networking even when you’re quietly searching for a new position. However, be aware that the more people who know you’re looking for a new job, the more likely your current employer is to find out about it.
One way to avoid this is to build your network even when you’re not searching for a new job. Again, listen to Harvey Mackey’s admonition to “dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Having a robust network can also help you be more effective in your current position, by giving you access to people who can help you solve the problems you face in your daily work.
Contact members of your network individually about your job search instead of mass messages or social media updates. Let your contact know that you are conducting your job search quietly, and ask for their help in keeping your search confidential.
If your primary purpose of networking is for your job search, don’t network on company time or using company resources. And never use your company email to send emails to your networking contacts.
When you are updating your LinkedIn profile as part of your job search, turn on LinkedIn’s privacy setting about sharing notifications before you change your profile or add a bunch of new contacts.
In your LinkedIn account, in the upper right-hand corner of the page, access the drop-down menu under your name and choose the “Settings” option.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” under the Privacy Controls section.
On the “Activity broadcasts” pop-up, make sure that the box is UNCHECKED for “Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies.”
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When conducting a confidential job search, this will ensure that your network of connections isn’t alerted when you make changes to your LinkedIn profile.
Do you wonder why some people are more effective using networking to find their next job? Here are some keys to success in using networking in a job search:
After you land your new job, be sure to thank your network — especially contacts that have specifically helped you with your job search. Send a personal note to everyone who assisted you in your search, and consider sending or giving a small gift to those who were of particular help. And don’t forget to spread the word that you’ve accepted a new opportunity.
Don’t neglect your network just because you found a new job. One of the most important parts of maintaining your network is providing assistance when you are asked. Be responsive to requests for help from folks in your network when you are asked. Every person you meet is a potential networking contact. But networking is a two-way relationship. Don’t just see your network as contacts — see them as people. Learn about them and what they do.
Heed the advice of author and networking pro Harvey Mackey: “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. A network replaces the weakness of the individual with the strength of a support system. You don’t have to know everything as long as you know the people who do.”
Building relationships is crucial to succeeding in the workplace and while you are searching for your next job. Effective networking can help cultivate quality relationships, which may lead to promotions and interview opportunities. While networking can be rewarding, it requires strategy, motivation and sometimes courage.
In this article, we discuss why networking is worth your investment of time and effort, and we explore how you can network for your next job.
Why is networking important?
Networking enables you to take advantage of personal and business connections, rather than relying solely on your resume. These connections are not only beneficial for you but also for employers, who hire many new employees through networking.
Companies want to hire the best person for the job. There is pressure on those leading the hiring process to find someone has the skills and experience necessary to succeed in the position and who the employer likes and trusts. While interviewing based on resumes alone can help employers find strong candidates, relying on networks and the networks of their employees can reduce the risk of a bad hire.
Using networking to get a job interview means you’ll enter the hiring process with a relationship and level of trust with your employer, thanks to you network.
Networking to find a new job can also give you access to opportunities that you may not find in an online job search. Many positions are not listed on company websites but are instead shared only internally or through networking. This means that you need to be regularly communicating with those in your network so they know your skills and experience, trust you and know when you are in search of a job.
Related: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps
How to network for a job
Networking for a job requires strategic thinking and developing skills that help you connect with others. By networking efficiently, you can guarantee that the effort you put into cultivating these relationships is worth your time and the time of your colleagues.
Here are a few tips to consider when networking for your next job:
Fight your fear.
Be patient and make time.
Focus on the relationship, not your resume.
Use social networks and online resources.
1. Get face-to-face
While it can be tempting to network only from behind the safety of a computer screen, networking in person can provide a more personal interaction. Rather than only emailing the friend who works at the company you want to work for, schedule a time to have lunch with them. During that face-to-face time, discuss not only the position you are hoping for, but also your personal relationship.
In addition to meeting in person, consider attending events where you can make new connections. If you’re searching for a new job in your current field, attend a convention, business social or job fair so that you can meet others outside your current company who have shared interests.
If you want to move beyond your current field, find someone in your network to attend an event with. Once there, meet as many new faces as possible and exchange business cards.
You can also personally network with friends and family in much more informal settings. Accept invitations to family gatherings and friendly parties, and mention to those you speak with that you are searching for a new job. You never know when you may find the right person with the right connections.
Related: How to Get the Most Out of Jobs Fairs
2. Offer help
You can improve your relationships with your contacts and your chances of finding work by offering to help your contacts. Remember that networking is about turning outward, and volunteering to help your connections can illustrate your motivation and dedication and may even allow you to display your skills.
Listen to your connections and look for opportunities to help regardless of whether they are guaranteeing you a position in their company. They may remember your assistance and recommend you for a position in the future.
3. Fight your fear
If you are an introvert, you may need to challenge yourself to be more outgoing to network effectively. Encourage yourself to do a little more than you normally would by speaking to someone a little longer or interacting with a handful of people at your next work event. If you feel anxiety about interacting with others, try preparing questions and discussion topics before talking with them.
You may also be hesitant to network for fear of rejection. Try to be proud of your efforts regardless of the outcome, and remember that you will have more opportunities to create connections that may lead to the job you want.
4. Be patient and make time
Cultivating strong relationships can take time, as can networking to find the right position. You will likely need to be patient as you meet with connections and make new ones.
It can also be helpful to call a company you’re interested in working for and ask for an informational meeting. Go with the intent of getting to know the company and potential hiring managers, instead of planning to ask for a job. Taking that time can help build new relationships and familiarize yourself with your potential employers.
5. Focus on the relationship, not your resume
Even though it is tempting to focus on selling yourself and sharing your resume with everyone who will take it, focusing on relationships may make a more powerful impression than your previous work experience. Present yourself as a likable person before showing your professional worth.
Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples
6. Use social networks and online resources
Networking through face-to-face interaction is invaluable, but if you want to maximize your reach, use social networks and other online resources to reinforce relationships and search for new connections.
In some cases, meeting face-to-face with employees of your target company may not be possible, but the internet can close the distance. Online contacts are a simple way to make initial connections.
Post on social networks when you are seeking employment and message friends and followers that you think can help you in your search. Also, use discussion boards like Indeed’s Job Forums to connect with other professionals and job seekers.
7. Follow up
Following up is an essential step in guaranteeing that your networking interactions were worthwhile. Follow up with new connections after making initial contact. This follow-up can involve thanking them for meeting with you, asking further questions or sending along an article relevant to your conversation. These continued interactions strengthen the relationship, remind the contact of your meeting and perhaps cause them to think of you for an open position.
A friend may also recommend contacting one of their connections. After reaching out to that contact, email your friend and do so again after you’ve received a response. This shows gratitude strengthens your relationship by continuing to involve them in your journey.
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