Networking Basics for Regular People

by Julie Rains on 2 November 2009 13 comments

Competition for jobs is fierce but networking is one way of differentiating yourself as a stellar candidate. Recently, I read the e-book, "Stop Job Searching, Start Networking" from Job Bound, a career-services company. According to Job Bound, 66% of all jobs are won through networking, so much of your job-search time should be concentrated on spreading the word about your credentials, in addition to applying for open positions found through publicly available listings (a target company's website, online job boards, craigslist, etc.). Here are some of their tips on networking basics.

Getting Started

Tell people that you are in the job market.

Let your friends, neighbors, family, etc. know about your goals, including the industry, field, or company that you are pursuing. Being specific about your goals, rather than saying you'll do anything, can make it easier for them to help you, and shows that you are taking control of your search.

Network with all contacts, not just senior executives.

At some point, you want to get in touch with a hiring manager who has a need for an individual with your talent; the path to such a manager may or may not be through traditional channels such as the SVP of a division or HR department.

Tap into the career centers.

Go to your local community college (whether you have attended there or not) and your alma mater. The community college may offer assistance with the job search process as well as opportunities for networking with other job seekers, students, and instructors who may have worked or are working in your chosen field. Colleges and universities also enable networking among alumni through LinkedIn groups and local chapters of alumni associations.

Do research before an event.

If you are attending a special networking event or career fair, do some research to learn about those you may be meeting. By having some general knowledge of participants and their companies, you can be prepared to engage them in conversation. Avoid showing that you have too much information but that you are aware of trends in your industry. Bring a business card so that you can exchange contact information for follow-up purposes.

Be helpful.

Understand that networking should be mutually beneficial to all involved, so offer assistance when you can. Learning about your contact's needs and sharing your knowledge, contacts, etc. is a great way to offer value to the relationship.

Managing Networking Activities

Keep your contacts organized.

Keep a spreadsheet of your contacts with names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of meetings/phone calls, points of discussion, etc. In the stress of a job search, you might be surprised at how easily you may forget about who you've met or a next step to pursue. Having this info written down somewhere can help keep you on track.

Arrange informational interviews.

Informational interviews should be a central part of your networking efforts. These sessions can be face-to-face meetings or phone conversations. They are generally casual but still require basic business etiquette so consider paying the bill for coffee (or lunch, depending on your budget) for meetings that you have initiated.

Always send a thank-you note.

Send a thank-you note to those who have taken the time to meet with you. Say thanks, of course, but also remind your contacts about what you hope to accomplish through your networking and job search. A note sent through regular mail can be a nice touch that helps you stand out from those usually sent through email.

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Follow up to remind them who you are.

Follow up with your contacts, letting them know about fruitful conversations and keeping them apprised of your progress. You can maintain your networking momentum through periodic updates. Remind them of your needs to improve the likelihood that the the timing of your desire for a certain type of job can coincide with a hiring manager's need for a person with certain qualifications. Plus, some may think that you have found a position or moved in another direction if you don't keep them updated about ;your search.

Join an organization.

Expand your network by volunteering in the community or joining a professional organization. Check out groups before making a long-term commitment. And consider long-term benefits as much as immediate ones, which might include a support system during your search and new skills that can transfer to the workplace.

Don't seem desperate.

Don't cross the line between active networking and seemingly desperate measures. In a phone conversation with the folks at Job Bound, I learned that some job seekers forget that hiring managers have caller ID and may feel leery of contacts who call repeatedly (even if they never leave messages). They also discourage job-searching networkers from just stopping by a workplace unannounced but suggest that even casual meetings should involve scheduling an appointment.

Use Twitter.

Twitter can help keep your contacts informed about your progress without inundating their email inboxes. Topics for tweets may include daily job search goals (example: "I hope to set up informational interviews with 2 event planners today"), mentions that you've updated your LinkedIn profile, and reviews of books or news articles relevant to your target industry or discipline. You'll give people specific ideas for helping you (example: you can pass along the name of an event-planning friend) and position yourself as deeply engaged in your field.

While you're busy networking, don't neglect spiffing up your resume with awesome accomplishments or preparing for interview questions. In my experience with career-services clients, people land great positions through networking in the midst of active job searches that had been focused on pursuing leads through classified ads, job boards, company websites, etc.

After you start a new job, don't stop networking; keep connecting with people to build collaborations, find new talent for your company, or be considered for those yet-to-be advertised positions when you're ready to make a career move later.

Note: I received a copy of "Stop Job Searching, Start Networking" e-book from Job Bound in exchange for a review.

 

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Guest's picture

The advice to network with all contacts up and down is sound. Advice to make sure we do our research is smart too. Thanks for a helpful guide!

John DeFlumeri jr

Guest's picture
alex

Far too many network events are spoiled by the me, me, me brigade and not enough people these days know how to listen and it's fast becoming an almost obsolete art form.

Learn to listen and a whole new world will open up for you and I guarantee, the people you meet at a network event will definately want to return your calls.

Guest's picture

This doesn't sound like basics for regular people -- it sounds like basics for relational "all stars." What about the rest of us who struggle to self-promote or strike up a conversation?

Julie Rains's picture

Jobbound's book has some details on making small talk to begin conversations. Most of these ideas, though, can be applied to use online so you don't necessarily have to be an expert conversationlist -- for example, I know someone who sent emails rather than making phone calls to let people know he was looking; he also got names of people to contact for follow-up, which he did. The email trail is also another way to help track conversations.

Guest's picture
Guest

I would have to disagree Jeff - I think these are very solid basics. You may have to pick and choose from the list and you do have to be willing to do some networking and be prepared to stand out from the crowd. Last year I started a new job which I am certain I was able to land not because of my winning personality (I am somewhat quiet & reserved) but because I was organized (kept notes on applications/interviews, followed up with thank-you notes, researched the company prior to interviewing). I don't think networking has to be self-promoting necessarily, but the people around you need to know you are looking - if they don't know, they won't even think of you when they learn of an opening.

Thanks Julie for a great post - I will be passing it along to my son who graduates college in December.

Guest's picture
sd

Networking is not solely for the extroverted gladhander. It's all in how you do it. Think about what it is you want in a job. Prepare the "elevator speech" -- a couple of minutes about you and how you can fit into the world of work that you want. Everyone has to do that.

The next step is to talk with people. But that can mean more listening than talking, more asking questions than dragging the entire conversation along. One of the great secrets in life is that everyone wants to be listened to. Ask questions and listen to what is being said. Use that information to ask more questions. Anyone can do this -- even Introverts. And it's a great way to learn and to discover enough dots to create a line to your next position.

Julie Rains's picture

I believe that the Internet with its online communications is a great equalizer for introverts; we can take a moment to reflect and formulate our thoughts, and interject in conversation when appropriate without being interrupted. And, as sd noted, preparing for conversations (elevator speeches, opening lines for small talk) is a great way of dealing with face-to-face networking situations.

Guest's picture
Logan

Julie,

Job seekers would be wise to follow your advice about networking. It can literally move mountains if done correctly. Plus getting to know people can be alot of fun. It is much better to have had 1 informational interview than to waste time applying to 10 jobs that you find online (which is typically a blackhole).

A free resource that may useful to some job seekers, is the website www.emails4corporations.com
This website shows you how the large US corporations set-up their email addresses (it lists the email address patterns and the email domain name). This site comes in handy, particularly, when one uses a business networking website like www.Linkedin.com to search for inside company contacts at target companies. If you have a full name, know where they work, and know their email address pattern, then you can reach out to them directly!

Guest's picture

job searching is better if you don't have more links, but networking apply when you have more links.

Julie Rains's picture

A good combination of both makes sense to me --- many people learn of opportunities by networking.

Guest's picture

To use Twitter is great fun but its use as a networking tool is seriously overrated and you would be better off with face to face events.

Julie Rains's picture

I think the effectiveness of techniques vary by industry, region, and discipline as well as an individual's personality. I am looking forward to getting The Twitter Job Search Guide with one of my tweet recommendations (among many) that includes case studies of recruiting and job searching via Twitter.

Guest's picture

The benefits of networking provides an active roll in people those who are searching job..Thanks for your post..

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