Networking Your Way To Success

By Donna Yang and Shana F. Payton

When it comes to job searching, most seekers may center their energy on typical methods such as browsing job boards and waiting in line at career fairs. While these are possible ways to obtain work, they are no longer the primary strategies for your overall plan. These methods often leave your resume in a “black hole” of hundreds, sometimes thousands of other job seekers. The market changes within the past few years have drastically changed how employers hire job applicants. Many positions are rarely, if ever posted due to internal hiring or word-of-mouth, which is most often referred as networking.

Hiring Managers note that at least 60% of all jobs are found through networking. Letting others know that you are searching for a job may sound frightening, but it is often the strategy that job seekers find the most challenging during the search. Networking isn’t just about contacting everyone you know and asking if they know of any job openings. The most important factor is talking to people you do know and then asking them to introduce you to others. It must benefit both persons to be most effective, so as you ask your network for help, be prepared to return the favor when asked.

Once you’ve been introduced, a great way to find out about a company and the positions is by conducting what is called an informational interview. Informational interviews are not solely intended for you to obtain a job, but it allows the person that you’re meeting with the opportunity to learn about your background, and opens the doors for future opportunities. While informal, you must still conduct them in a professional manner. They may be done on the phone or face-to-face. Be prepared with a list of questions to ask such as what the company culture is like, and how someone with your background could excel within the company. Keep the interview short, preferably no longer than an hour.

Another great way to expand your network is by joining professional organizations and associations such as the Minnesota American Marketing Association. Networking involves building and maintaining relationships, which can begin by connecting with professionals that are employed in fields or positions you would like to get into. It is also a great way to gain experience and add valuable skills to your resume.

Careful planning to get the most out of your networking experience can possibly eliminate competitors when you have been referred to the Hiring Manager from someone they trust. Below are other strategies that you can do to prepare for networking and building relationships:

  • Start making a list of everyone you might approach to ask for referrals. In addition, consider attending events in your field that are specifically intended for networking. Anyone is capable of being in your network. This includes your doctor; babysitter; former classmates and colleagues.
  • Keep a lot of business or reference cards on hand. It doesn’t have to be a business card, but this should include contact information that highlights your strengths and skills. You can have these cards printed at a reasonable price, but ensure that they are professional and stand out.
  • Staying in touch with the people you add to your contact is critical. Don’t forget to thank your contacts by writing short thank you notes via e-mail; a short card or note. Even flowers or a lunch invitation are great ways to show your appreciation. You should try to send the communication no later than a week after meeting.
  • Participate in online social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social sites have become a common way to meet new people. It is used by every size corporation, so creating and maintaining an online presence that allows employers and recruiters to see you in a positive manner are crucial. Although these are great ways to meet, don't replace face-to-face contact with online networking.

Networking does take time and patience, but by preparing yourself using these techniques, you’ll have a greater chance of be hired if you are referred to someone whose opinion the Hiring Manager values. Don't hesitate to contact your network once in awhile to update them on your job search progress and the outcome of their referrals. The most important idea to remember is that networking should never be stressful. Building a successful career should be both rewarding and fun!