Your Professional Network: Taking the First Steps

Hidden-Job-Market-slide5-300x224In a presentation called “Launching an Effective Job Search,” I discuss the “iceberg” graphic shown here, illustrating the components of a multi-faceted job search.

Notice that above the water line – the tip of the iceberg – is “posted jobs” and “resumes and cover letters.” This is the obvious part of a job search everyone understands. But, that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg… and where job seekers spend way too much of their time.

Job seekers who are in their first major job search might not realize that they need to manage a wide range of activities that are beyond the obvious. The largest part of the iceberg, looming underneath the water line, includes important aspects of the job search with the goal of tapping into what many career experts call the “hidden job market.”

By talking with people, keeping up with industry news, making professional connections and attending events, you can find out about jobs before they are made available to the public.

Some career experts, including myself, do not believe the so-called “hidden job market” is as extensive as is often cited. A common statistic is that 80% of jobs do not get publicly posted. Whether you think the number is 80% or 10%, you still need to actively network to advance in the job search process, whether the job is posted or not.

As you begin building a professional network, here are some details to further explain some of the line items in the above graphic.

Talk with Friends, Family and Colleagues

An easy and effective way to begin building your network is to start with the people with whom you have the closest relationships, then expand it outward from there. Networking starts at home! But it also goes beyond just family, friends and co-workers. It includes faculty, coaches or former coaches, team mates, former bosses, former co-workers and so on.

You should talk about your job search with pretty much anyone you know well. Sometimes, a good friend or a relative can provide a job lead or a referral to someone who works in your chosen field, which then may lead to…

Informational Interviews

The best way to obtain information about careers is by talking with people who work in those careers. This is commonly called informational interviewing, but I think “exploratory meeting” is a more descriptive term. It’s not an interview in the traditional sense, but more of a discussion where you, as the job seeker, direct the conversation. You need to come into the meeting prepared to lead the discussion with the overall goal of learning the inside scoop on the occupation, company and industry.

The two benefits of exploratory meetings are the new contacts in the field and the information gathered. If job seekers ask the right questions, they can learn a lot about the good and bad of any career path through the people who are immersed in those careers day to day.

Community Service

I recommend volunteering and getting involved in local communities for a few reasons. First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Our communities need dedicated people willing to devote their time to make the community stronger. When you perform community service, you have the opportunity to work with others and showcase your skills and abilities.

You can also demonstrate to others that you have a strong work ethic, and you’re a good person to work with. Consequently, it’s an effective way to enable your network to get to know you better. Finally, it’s a great way to build skills, particularly soft skills such as communication, team work, collaboration and problem solving.

Social Media

Networking via social media is an important part of your networking strategy. It’s important to realize that social media supports, not replaces, your face-to-face networking efforts. Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter are great tools to help you develop professional relationships. Back to the suggestion about starting your network with the people you know well, on LinkedIn, this is an important point. If you are in the early stages of building your LinkedIn network, connect only with people you know well and who know you well.

The reason is that your broader LinkedIn network is comprised of the people you are directly connected to, plus their connections and their connections’ connections. These are called your second-degree and third-degree connections. As you research companies and industries on LinkedIn, you will identify 2nd and 3rd degree connections whom you want to contact. The stronger your bond with your first-degree connections, the easier it will be to get through to the people they are connected to.

Don’t rely on the internet for your job search; it simply isn’t an effective strategy. Instead, invest that time in taking the first steps toward building your professional network!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Rich Career!



Rich Grant AuthorAbout the Author: Rich Grant has a background in higher education and most recently was the director of career services at a four-year college in Maine. Currently, Rich is filling a temporary role as a career advisor and internship coordinator and serves as the president of two professional associations. Find Rich on LinkedIn and Twitter, and check out his blog where he frequently imparts words of wisdom. Comments, complaints, jokes and legal notices can be sent to



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