Finding a job in today’s economy can be tough, yet many job seekers underestimate the importance of networking in the job-hunting process.
So Why is networking the best way to find a job?
• People do business primarily with people they know, like and trust. Rėsumės and cover letters alone are often too impersonal to convince employers to hire you.
• Job listings in newspapers and other media tend to draw piles of applicants, which puts you in intense competition with many others. Networking makes you a recommended member of a much smaller pool.
• The job you want may not be advertised at all. Hiring is always a roll of the dice, but an employer can tilt the odds in his favour by interviewing people recommended by trusted friends or associates. Networking leads to information and job leads, often before a formal job description is created or a job announced.
Job-hunters take a lot of flack on their networking prowess, usually for one of these reasons:
• They don’t network until they need a job.
• When they network, they immediately ask for job-search help.
• They request introductions from people they’re meeting for the first time.
“Don’t assume that because you’re in the job market, you’re stuck on the receiving end of the networking-assistance equation”, Smith cautions. A common and understandable belief about job-seeking networkers is this: of course I want to talk about my job search, at every chance I get. I need a job!
The fact is that networking never works when it’s me-focused. Needing a job is a tough spot to be in, but virtually every networker you meet has an obstacle of one kind or another in his path. One person is an entrepreneur desperately in need of business. Another businessperson is stressing mightily about a website project spinning out of control. In other words, we all have our problems. The fact that you’re job-hunting doesn’t diminish the importance of everyone else’s issues.
Networking isn’t a process of making cold-calls or sending Friend or “Join my Network” requests to people you don’t know. Ask yourself the question “Who do you know who…?” and start to leverage their networks so you move out exponentially. The key is to establish and nurture key contacts. Just about anyone can become a contact: Friends, friends of friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbours – even a former boss. Don’t forget interest groups in your field or even activities that attract engaging people such as book and hiking clubs. Always remember that networking is a two-way street. It must benefit both persons to be most effective, so as you ask your network for help when you are in need, be prepared to return the favour when asked.
“The biggest mistake is to simply go around asking people for a job instead of establishing relationships and asking for advice,” Smith says. A good networker listens as much as s/he talks. When you meet someone new, ask questions – and pay attention to the answers. Have the conversation you’d have if you weren’t job-hunting. When the person turns the tables and asks “What do you do?,” you can say “I’m in marketing – I’m on the job market now.” Since you’ve invested ten or twenty minutes in the conversation, your new acquaintance is very likely to ask you for more information about your job search. Now, you’ve earned the right to tell your story.
“Networking takes time to develop”, Smith concludes. Most people are not natural borne networkers and for many networking doesn’t come easily. The good news is that they can acquire this vital professional competency by getting the right knowledge, the right attitude and plenty of practise to become good at it. Your efforts will quickly translate into greater access to what many call the “hidden job market,” in which the best jobs aren’t advertised, but are known to a select group of people in the field.
This article may be copied or republished with the following credit: “By Karl Smith: author, speaker and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town, South Africa. +27 (0) 71 444 2210 firstname.lastname@example.org www.businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za“