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Tips for Networking

A significant percentage of employers don't advertise job openings at all. They hire people they already know, people who find out about the jobs through word of mouth, people referred by someone they already know, or people who simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. Building effective networking into your job search will help you traverse this hidden job market. This guide will give you an overview of how to get started and what it means to network to find a job.

How can I increase my odds of finding a job faster?

Start by networking. According to J. Michael Farr, 35% of people find jobs because they heard about the job from someone they know. Another 30% find jobs because they have had contact with the employer directly. There are many ways to find jobs, so in addition to using these more effective networking methods, it's a good idea to diversify - use several methods for finding a job. Other methods include using career fairs, online job banks, employment agencies, and newspaper want ads.

What is networking?

Networking involves building and sustaining professional and collaborative relationships that can help you gather information about specific career fields and tap into the hidden job market (those job openings that never get posted, or, by the time they are posted, the employer has already figured out whom they want to interview and/or hire, largely because they've already met them through networking). To the job seeker, networking means developing a list of personal contacts and letting these people know that you're looking for a position, what kind of work interests you, and what skill set you have to contribute. Talk to other alumni, friends, relatives, former professors, former employers, former co-workers, and service people (dentists, hair stylists, plumbers, insurance sales people, etc.). These people may give you advice, leads, or introduce you to others that give you the connections you're looking for.  While one has specific networking needs during job search, the best advice is to maintain a healthy professional network throughout your career--both through online and face-to-face activities.  And, remember it is a two-way street; be prepared to provide support and ideas to others interested in career change or needing to conduct a job search.

Whom Should I Network With?

Here is a list of possible warm contacts (people you know) to get you started in thinking about who is in your network:  friends, neighbors, members of your health club, members of your church or synagogue, former classmates,  professors, former teachers, your dentist, your internship of clinical supervisor, your hair stylist, people  you do volunteer work with, members of a professional organization, friends you served with in the military, former supervisors, former co-workers, friends of your parents, other Viterbo alumni, former coaches. 

You can also network with cold contacts, people you don't personally know.   Arranging informational interviews is one strategy for doing this.  You can also do this by contacting individuals working in businesses and organizations similar to the type of place you might be interested in finding employment.

Where to begin?

Start with people you know well (e.g., friends, family, neighbors and coworkers). These individuals are considered warm contacts. These individuals have the most interest in seeing you succeed and are more likely to go out on a limb for you. They also know you well enough to be a reference to others they might connect you with. Be sure to thank those who help you. Next, think of people you see occasionally (e.g., acquaintances, business contacts). Reintroduce yourself to these individuals and catch them up on your current status and job search goal. Don't take too much of their time and be professional. After that, start working with people who are referrals from those you know and eventually contact those you don't know and to whom you have not been referred. 

Networking Strategies

  • Practice.  If you are shy or somewhat reserved, practice a phone call or meeting with someone you know so you can get feedback.
  • Participate in campus career-related events, such as mock interviewing, panel presentations, and networking events. 
  • Attend to career fairs and make contacts with recruiters.
  • Make a networking list of people you want to make contact with while networking.  Make contact with those people.  Ask for their suggestions for other people you might contact.
  • Don't wait until people call you.  Go out and meet new people and join professional associations and community groups where you can increase the number of people you know. 
  • Establish a quality LinkedIn profile and reach out to individuals and organizations in your field.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity you can find to meet people who work in the field you want to pursue or who hire people like yourself.  
  • Don't take advantage of people.  Think of this as relationship-building for the long term.  Even though you have short-term goals in mind (e.g., getting a job as soon as possible), this network will serve you over your lifetime.  Think of the ways you can help others at the same time--whether it's through sharing leads you've obtained or volunteering; try to give back someway. 
  • Set goals.  Whether it's the number of people you will talk to each week or the number of applications you will send, try to quantify the process so you can keep moving forward.
  • Arrange informational meetings with professionals in your field.  Go to meetings prepared.  Know what questions you want to ask and take notes.
  • Always ask if the person knows of anyone else you should meet.  Ask if you can use his/her name when contacting the person. 
  • Keep track of contacts made, a record of outcomes of meetings and important information about each person you meet.
  • If you agree to do something for someone, be sure to follow through.
  • Say "thank you" often.  Send thank you cards and letters.  

Informational Interviews

Scheduling an informational interview with a professional in your career field is another strategy to gain valuable career information and to network with people who hire people like yourself. Many professionals are willing to meet to share information about their field, offer career advice, and explain their perspectives of the challenges and rewards of the field. The first step is to contact someone in your career field and ask for 30 minutes of his or her time to gather information about the career. Sometimes, these meetings can happen over lunch. Plan to be very prepared for the interview with questions outlined prior to the meeting. Be respectful of time (if you asked for 30 minutes, don't stay for an hour) and don't waste any of the other person's time. Honor the reason for this meeting. It's not okay (or productive) to schedule an informational interview and then hit someone up for a job. It is okay to ask if the person has advice for someone new to the field, strategies to recommend for career development, or ideas for effective job search methods for someone new to the field. If calling an unknown professional for an informational seems daunting, start with a former supervisor or a Viterbo alumni working in the field. Once again, send a thank you note following the informational interview.

Online Networking 

Another avenue for networking is online. Your social networking sites can be helpful in this process, provided your sites are appropriate for professionals to view. Posting career-related information on your sites can be viewed as a positive sign to a potential employer.    In addition, specific professional networking sites are significant for job search.  One popular professional networking site is LinkedIn.

Those serious about job search should develop a quality profile page on LinkedIn, utilize the site to connect with groups and individuals in their fields, and seek and post recommendations.

You can also network by visiting the social networking sites of companies or organizations, becoming fans or leaving insightful comments. Joining discussion groups or blogging about topics related to your major/career goals can be a way of reaching professionals in your field, as they are likely to visit such sites.

Most potential employers will "google" potential employees. While such internet searches have been a key factor in ruling out potential applicants, they don't have to work out that way. These searches can also generate further interest in a candidate, if the candidate has managed his or her online persona and profile.

If you are seriously involved in job search, take advantage of online networking opportunities.  Be sure your social media sites are using effective privacy tools and are ready for any potential employers to view. Use the internet to identify individuals in industries you want to work in; contact those individuals in a professional manner to share ideas or ask questions; join online groups popular with people in your field. Develop a quality LinkedIn profile with a professional photograph.  Start a blog related to your field of interest.  Keep in mind that all online efforts will contribute, positively or negatively, to your overall image in job search. If online networking is to be helpful, online networking activities must present an image of a knowledgeable, skilled professional who will likely represent an organization well because s/he already knows how to present a consistently professional image in the online community.