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Guide to Job Search Networking

By Susan P. Joyce

Guide to Job Search Networking -- FUN!Like it or not, for now and the future, networking is a critical survival skill.

For some of us, network comes easily.

For the rest of us, networking is not something we enjoy -- awkward conversations with strangers...not comfortable or appealing.

This section of Job-Hunt will help you succeed, and, even, enjoy networking.

Effective Networking Is Fun!

Networking has a bad reputation for some who equate networking with "using" people.

But good networking - effective networking - is NOT about "using" anyone.

Effective networking is people helping each other solve problems and succeed. It is a two-way street - always - or it doesn't last, and it is not successful or effective.

Effective networking is catching up with old friends or colleagues, and meeting new people you have something in common with - a location, a skill, a former employer, a fondness for pepperoni pizza, kids the same age, or something else. 

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How to Network Effectively

We can network in person, as done traditionally, and also online (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and on and on) now.

Regardless of the mode you use for your networking, remember that networking is the classic "two-way street." If all you do is ask for help and favors, you will not succeed.

"Give before you get" is excellent networking advice.

The most effect strategy typically is giving assistance more often that you ask for or accept assistance or favors from your network.

  "Live" Networking  

Live, in-person networking has been the method people used for making connections for centuries, and it remains the foundation method of networking for most of us.

  • Reach out to the people you know and like -- people you have worked with, gone to school with, known/socialized with, and lived near, including your family. Catch up over the phone or, better, in person.
  • Volunteer for causes that are important to you -- the PTA and other events associated with your kids' schools, public social events in your town, your favorite charities,

For more information about live, in-person networking, read What Network? I Don't Have a Network and 10 Success Tips for Reluctant Networkers.

  Social Networking  

Leveraging social networks to expand your network is essential today because these networks provide an enormous population of potential network members and a "safe" way to break the ice to connect or reconnect with people.

LinkedIn is the primary professional network, with close to 600 million members. Think of LinkedIn as a very complete online business card. Many people also have large networks on Facebook, which has nearly 2 billion members.

For more information about leveraging social networks for your job search, read LinkedIn Job Search Guide and Facebook for Job Search.

Why Effective Networking Is So Important!

In countless surveys and research, including those conducted by Job-Hunt, networking is the dominant method used by successful job seekers. More than 75% of the time! NOT a job site. NOT an e-mailed resume - at least not initially. NETWORKING!

If you have ever been responsible for hiring someone, you know it is a scary thing to do, particularly if your success -- as well as your job -- depends on the quality of the person YOU choose to hire.

So you approach hiring someone very cautiously:

  • You want to hire someone with the right skills and experience.
  • You also want someone you can trust, someone you can depend upon to do the job they were hired to do.
  • You want someone who will work hard, be honest, do their best, do the right thing, AND (last but not least)
  • You want someone who is likeable -- someone who will be nice to talk with over lunch or coffee.

Finding that person can be challenging. Imagine reading (or, more likely, scanning) hundreds of resumes and applications to find the candidate who can do the job and fit into the organization. Easy? Definitely NOT!

The Hiring Manager's "Hot Seat"

Put yourself on the hiring manager's side of the desk. You have work that needs to be done, and must hire someone good to do that work.

The person will work for you, doing work that is important to your success and reputation.

If you hire someone who doesn't do well, you'll have to work harder to fix what they don't do well, and you'll have to explain to your boss why you picked that less-than-stellar employee, who will now be difficult to fire.

The impact of a "bad hire":

  • Make your job more difficult.
  • Impact your salary and bonus negatively.
  • Make you look less competent to your boss, colleagues, and perhaps even customers.
  • Potentially put your job at risk.

So, with your success and your job on the line, how do you find a good candidate to fill that job?

  • You ask around. You ask other employees and maybe post the job internally so that anyone who knows anyone who might be a "good fit" is identified and contacted.
  • You look out at your own network - the people you know personally and professionally to see if there is anyone who might be appropriate and interested or if anyone you know has someone appropriate in their network.
  • You place an ad in the paper or on the Web, and you hope "the right person" sees it and responds.

  Who Would YOU Hire?  

When the whole process is over, you have two people to choose from:

  1. Michelle, the former colleague of a co-worker

    Michelle worked with your co-worker (or employee) Ed for 2 years. Ed enjoyed working with her, thinks she's very bright (and a quick learner), and knows she is very well-regarded where she works now (where they worked together), and he referred her for the job.

    She did fine in the interviews, but she doesn't have as much experience or polish as Louise, although she is meets the minimum requirements. HR says her references were fine, and she passed the background check.

    You check her LinkedIn Profile, and find that it matches her resume and contains great recommendations from colleagues and clients. You Google Michelle, and everything looks fine.
  2. Louise, the stranger

    Louise responded to the published ad. She has a very impressive resume. She performed well in the interview with you. This job looks like a logical step for her career.

    Employees who interviewed her thought she'd do well in the job. HR says her references were all positive, and there were no problems with the background check.

    You check Louise's LinkedIn Profile, and it also looks fine. You Google Louise, and don't find anything problematic.

So, both candidates seem well-qualified and professional.

  And, the Job Offer Goes to...  

My bet is that you would hire Michelle, even though she isn't the "perfect" candidate.  Because hiring Michelle (known-quantity) appears to be safer than hiring than Louise (the stranger), you would do what everyone else usually does and choose the known-quantity. 

And, if Michelle had made as impressive a presentation as Louise, the decision would be easier.  Michelle would definitely win.

This is called networking your way into a job!

If you have any questions or issues you'd like covered, please send an e-mail to questions@job-hunt.org.

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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. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.