Networking is essential to a successful job search. It is estimated that 80% of jobs are found through networking. Growing your network and connecting to those who can help will increase the opportunities for job leads, advice, and support in your job search.
Networking can be as informal as striking up a conversation with the person next to you on a plane, or as formal as attending a business social or association event. Networking is also done effectively through social media, but I’ll save that for another article.
Don’t overlook the power of informal networking. Meeting someone at a family gathering, holiday party, or community event can lead to unexpected job opportunities. It’s appropriate to mention in casual conversation that you are seeking employment. You never know who you might meet that can help you with your job search. In fact, I got connected to my current job through a fellow volunteer at my son’s school library. Serendipity!
Formal networking is a great way to connect with those in your industry or career field. Attend business social events, professional association meetings, or alumni events. Be prepared to exchange business cards, and jot down notes on the cards about those you meet to help you remember important details. If you are uncomfortable approaching new people on your own, take a friend or colleague along to the event and introduce each other.
No matter how you choose to connect, there are a few guidelines you should follow for effective networking:
- Be respectful and mindful of your contact’s time. Be prepared and concise when talking with them.
- If possible, research your contacts before meeting with or reaching out to them. Use LinkedIn to find out more about them.
- Follow-up on leads and referrals immediately, and keep your contact informed of your progress.
- Respect your contact’s privacy and always ask permission to use their name with a referral.
- Send a written note (by hand or email) or quick phone call thanking contacts for their time, advice, referral, etc.
- Keep a list handy of your strengths and accomplishments (what you bring to the table) so you’re always prepared for a networking encounter.
- Keep a record of who you’ve been in contact with and the outcome/next steps so you don’t drop the ball on an opportunity. You can use a file system, business card organizer, or this Networking Contacts worksheet to stay organized.
- Stay open to serendipity; you never know when a chance meeting will turn into an opportunity.
Job Search Networking – Part 2: Connect with Fellow Veterans