Hands down, networking is the single best way to look for a job. It gives you a huge edge over everyone emailing their resumes to companies and career sites. You can discover awesome job opportunities before they ever make it to an official job listing. And you can get valuable insights into wowing a company with your cover letter or interview — as well as which companies to avoid like the plague.
Don’t have many contacts? Don’t worry. You have far more than you think. Just follow the tips below.
Tip: Make Friends, Not Contacts
When you’re mixing and mingling at alumni and professional events, don’t lead with the fact that you’re job hunting, Build a rapport first by talking shop, showing sincere interest in their job or asking about their interests. Bonus points if you can suss out a way to help them, such as sharing an article relevant to your discussion or your favorite travel app. They’ll soon ask what you do. And when you respond that you’re looking for a job, they’ll be much more willing to help you.
Be a bullhorn. Tell everyone you know what you’re looking for. Tell your family, the dog walker, the chatty sales lady at the store. Her husband’s best friend may work at the hot new tech company you’re dying to call home. And most people love to help.
Tap fellow alumni. “Just because you haven’t looked at your college degree since graduation day doesn’t mean you can’t still tap your alma mater for connections,” says Lindsey Pollak, Gen Y and workplace expert and spokeswoman for The Hartford Financial Services Group’s “My Tomorrow” campaign. Attend local alumni chapter events. And search your alumni website for fellow graduates you can contact for informational interviews.
Go pro. “Make sure you are scheduling networking events rather than just social events,” Pollak also suggests. Every industry and profession has professional associations — check the local business journal or search online for local chapters with events. The chamber of commerce can be another good option, especially since chamber staff will have a bead on which companies are moving to town or going on a hiring binge.
Leverage social networks. Instead of constantly posting requests for job leads, post what you’re doing to try to find a job. For example, “Just applied for five bank teller jobs today. Keeping my fingers crossed!” lets everyone know what kind of job you’re looking for while sounding upbeat instead of needy. A follower may just tweet you back with a job lead or contact.
Network while you work. According to the American Staffing Association, 49 percent of temp workers recently said their temp job gave them a foot in the door for a permanent job at the company. After all, you can wow them with your skills and cozy up to the people who can hire you — for that particular job or another one at the firm. You get to test them out too, and see what your boss and co-workers would be like.
Develop your VIP list. In the book Never Eat Alone, author Keith Ferrazzi suggests making a list of the names and types of people who could really help you achieve your career goals — right now and down the road. Think big for some of them. Business rock stars can be surprisingly approachable.
Once you have a list, research ways you could meet each person. For example, get involved in a charity they’re active with or attend a conference they’ll be speaking at. Try to engage them on social media. Or send a handwritten note explaining that you’d love to hear how they got where they are today and inviting them out for coffee. You never know, they may just say yes.
Bottom line, networking can open so many doors you’d never otherwise know about. Ideally, you want to start building and nurturing your web of relationships before you need it. But if you’re in the throes of a job hunt, jump-start your networking ASAP with the suggestions above.
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]