Editor’s Note: Join #InternPro Chat on Twitter tonight (2/17/14) at 9pm ET for “Networking Olympics: Going for Career Gold”.
Networking is a critical component of your job search success; many feel it is the most important. Countless studies indicate that employers prefer to hire candidates who are referred by current employees, as this is much more effective than reviewing hundreds of applications through job boards.
In fact, referrals are the primary method employers use to hire someone from outside of their organization (vs. internal transfers of current employees). Often, employers reward employees for referring someone who is hired, so employees are motivated to help you and their employer.
So what is quality networking… and how do it so well you can become a referral?
The Basic Law of Networking
“Networking” happens everywhere people have a chance to meet and to talk!
Networking doesn’t happen only in large meetings filled with strangers. It may happen in the most unexpected places and times, even when you are not focused on your job search.
Choose Your Targets
Think about the job you want – the industry, the profession, the location (cities and towns or neighborhoods), and any other criteria (old and established or new and growing fast, small, medium, or large, etc.).
Think about your background and work history – former employers, schools you attended, places you have lived (neighborhoods, cities, states, countries), and your hobbies and other interests.
Look for groups that attract the people and/or businesses that meet any one of your interests or needs. ALL of those can provide networking opportunities.
Find Groups Appropriate for Your Targets
When you have an idea of the kinds of groups which would interest you, you can start looking for them. Spread your networking “net” wide, at least in the beginning. You want to check out all of the possibilities to see which provide the best networking opportunities. Your family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, etc.), friends, and neighbors may also connect you with interesting groups.
- Local business group meetings:
You will find announcements about group meetings, often in a “happenings” or “business calendar” column of your local daily newspaper and, if available, a local weekly business journal. Find more announcements posted on bulletin boards in various public places like the grocery store, public library, and places of worship. Also check with your local state employment office, local Career One-Stop office (in the USA), and even your town’s government offices.
Look for events from your local branch of the Chamber of Commerce, professional associations (like the American Marketing Association or the American Management Association), and industry associations (like your state’s hospital association). If you are near a large city, check for local venture capital forums and other meetings for local businesses.
- Local special events:
Look for announcements and information about local conferences, seminars, talks, and even training sessions. These are often sponsored by a local professional/business organization, local government entity, local school, or local charities.
You may also find local colleges and/or universities are active in providing classes and seminars open to the community.
- Non-business groups:
Check out the local branch of your favorite charity and, in an election year, your favorite political candidate or cause. See if you can find pancake suppers, cookouts, car washes, and other fund-raising events supporting those charities or campaigns. If you are a parent, consider the Parent-Teacher Association for your child’s school. If you are over 50, check out your local senior center for resources, events, and connections. If you are a new grad, join your friends attending sports events or cheering on the varsity science team.
During holidays, attend local holiday celebrations – concerts, parties, plays, and other get-togethers.
Find Local Networking Groups Online
- MeetUp.com – Search for your location and your interests to find local groups which meet face-to-face, the best way to connect for many people. Often fewer than 20 people attend, so they are not overwhelming to most, and they happen in public venues. There are MeetUps on almost every topic, from dating to starting a business to growing flowers. If you don’t find some that appeal to you, start your own.
- Patch.com – Visit Patch.com to see if they have a local “Patch” (online news site) for your town or region, and check for “events” that are local for you.
- Local chapters of national and international organizations –
Check the website for any national organizations appropriate for your target to see if they have local chapters which meet near you.
- Your high school, college, university, and/or grad school’s alumni association – Track these down via a Google search on the school’s name plus the words “alumni association.”;
- Your former employers’ alumni associations – Many people are unaware of these but they can be fabulous networks. Find them on Job-Hunt, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, etc. Sometimes the employer connects to the alumni group from the corporate website. If none of those options work, search on Google for the employer name plus “alumni” and you may find active local groups even if the employer is out of business.
- Directory of Local Networking and Job Search Support Groups from Job-Hunt.org
I know a job seeker who connected with a new job through someone they met in their exercise class, another job seeker who connected while talking with their child’s soccer coach, another who was hired by a fellow student in an oil painting class at the senior center, and three who connected with their new jobs at a funeral. Plus, hundreds more who have connected through their company alumni group, college alumni association, professional association, and on and on. It works!
Now, let’s get started…
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!
About the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.
© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.