But the reality is: that is like putting the horse before the cart.
According to job seekers who participated in a Lee Hecht Harrison online poll, the first hurdle is simply finding new people – the right people –to add to your network. In fact, 31 percent of survey respondents said identifying networking partners was their greatest challenge.
Of course, finding the right networking partners is critical. Many job openings are never advertised or posted. And Hiring managers and recruiters prefer to work with people who have been referred by someone they trust. Which means tapping your network has never been more important.
Members of your personal and professional networks – including business associates, colleagues, former coworkers, vendors, managers, friends and close acquaintances – make up a community where you’re known. These people may already be advocates of your work. You may share interests. They are often willing to introduce you to people in their own networks, thereby providing an opportunity to broaden your reach and build a bigger community.
As your network expands, more opportunities present themselves to initiate new contacts with a referral. A larger network increases the likelihood of gaining a meeting and eliminates the need to rely on less productive cold calls. Which means more job interviews!
Here are a few tips to take your personal network – and your job search – from “meh” to amazing!
Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to connect with your network. It should be part of a proactive career management strategy. Devote time to nurturing a strong career network of contacts. Be ready to offer assistance, share articles and professional insights, participate in groups and attend professional meetings.
Engage in Discovery
Seek out new networking contacts. LinkedIn can be incredibly helpful in finding new connections. But don’t rely solely on social networks. Be active in professional associations and/or industry groups. People hire people they know, so it’s important to make potential networking contacts in person at live events.
Have a Plan
Identify targeted companies and the competencies and experience you want to promote. This will help you focus on the right networking activities and conversations.
Connect (with a Name Drop)
Use your referral’s name up front: “Richard Smith thought you’d be a great resource for me as I explore career opportunities in the financial services industry.” Ask if you could discuss your targeted companies, probing for others that should be included and for names of possible contacts.
Build Your Networking Confidence
Practice networking at a variety of events. Arrive early — it’s easier to initiate one-on-one conversations during the first 10 minutes when the group is still small. Prepare open-ended questions to keep conversations going. Confidence is developed by becoming skilled; becoming skilled requires practice.
The key to networking success is found in making the time and always adding value to the conversation. This strategy is guaranteed to deliver job leads. Remember to start with a strategy, attend the right events and talk to the right people and keep practicing.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brazen Careerist!
About the Author: Greg Simpson is Senior Vice President, Career Transition Practice Leader for Lee Hecht Harrison. Greg is responsible for developing, disseminating and managing the direction of career transition services for LHH, the world’s largest outplacement firm.
Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.