While it’s understandable to focus the early part of your job search on refining your resume and applying for interesting job postings, there is a multiplier effect when you get out to meet a variety of people.
Connections with friends and acquaintances and others who know the job market are the best sources for uncovering hidden job opportunities. Remember, the majority of jobs out there aren’t advertised and there’s a good chance your connections will know about them. According to recent reports at least 60 percent of all jobs are found through networking rather than traditional job searching.
Quite simply, the more you network, the more likely—and quickly—you are to find a job.
Part of the challenge is overcoming human nature. Many people equate networking with bothering or pestering somebody because it feels like they’re asking—or maybe begging—for a job. But networking—I prefer to call it “connecting”—is not asking for a job. It’s tapping into the myriad connections you have in work, community, friends and family as a means of sharing resources, information and ideas that will lead you to uncovering employment opportunities that you’d simply never find otherwise.
In fact, recent research from Lee Hecht Harrison shows that networking is the number one, most effective, tactic you should use to secure that next job.
Its study found that more than 50% of all newly-hired employees obtained their jobs through networking. If you’re looking for a senior position, that number jumps to 70%.
The research also shows one-third of job hunters do very little networking. The most successful job seekers average two to four meetings per week. These might be a combination of one-on-one discussions and informational interviews as well as career fairs, professional associations and chamber of commerce luncheons. Participating in a variety of events broadens your network, gives you a wealth of new sources of information and exposes you to new and different opportunities.
When you crunch all the numbers, it’s pretty clear that less networking will translate into a longer search and more frustration.
Many people are reluctant to network because they don’t really know what it entails. It’s simply connecting with somebody and asking them to share their insights with you. Rather than saying, “I’ve lost my job, do you know anyone who is hiring?” reframe your opening line as “I’d love to get together with you. You know me well, so I would welcome your thoughts and advice on my skills and experiences.”
Here’s a great way to get started: make a list of 25 people you think might be able to help you with your job search. Focus on people you could reconnect with, such as former co-workers, customers, neighbors, and people you have volunteered with. It’s much more comfortable to reconnect than it is to create a new relationship. If you force yourself to come up with a large number, you’ll surprise yourself with how easily you can do it.
Then share the list with somebody you’re close to who knows you’re looking for a new opportunity. Chances are they’ll be able to add to your list and give you updates about some of the people you’re targeting.
Finally, start touching base with the people on your list and ask to set up a quick meeting.
Even though we live in a world of texting and emails, face-to-face networking is still preferable because there’s no substitute for having somebody’s undivided attention. If you’re sending electronic messages, you’re competing with potentially hundreds of other messages that your contact is getting that day. And if you call them on the phone, you can bet there’s a good chance they’re multi-tasking. (Is that typing I hear in the background?)
You want quality time, not just any time.
Before you head out the door, however, make sure you’ve taken some time to research the person you’re about to meet. Check out their profile on LinkedIn to see what they’ve posted recently or tweeted on Twitter. Those can be great ice-breakers rather than talking about yourself right off the hop.
For many of us, networking can be daunting. You should be emboldened, however, by one simple fact—there is no other single strategy that will help you land a new job faste