It’s no secret that networking is an integral part of find a job and furthering your career. So why network and how should you go about it? Firstly, why network? There a couple of reasons.
Firstly, most jobs are not advertised. You read that right- most jobs are not advertised. These unadvertised jobs make up what we call the “hidden job market”. Depending on what job market you are in up to 85% of jobs may not be advertised. 85%! That means if you’re relying on advertised positions you are only accessing a small percentage of the job market. Networking is one way you can access this hidden job market.
The second reason you need to network is that whether you are applying for an advertised job or have cold-called a potential employer it helps to know people in the organization (or who know people who know people in the organization). Renowned author Richard Bolles of What Color is Your Parachute? calls these people “bridge people”.
So, who is your network? Here’s the good news for those of you who move around a lot- you have a BIG network! Just think of all the places you’ve been to school, places you’ve worked, groups you’ve volunteered with, sporting teams you’ve been on, professional associations and alumni groups you are a member of, events you’ve attended, community groups you’ve been part of in all of the different places you’ve lived. I’m betting you know a lot of people. Chances are you’re already networking with a lot of them either because you see them regularly, stay in touch via email or are connected with them on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn or you can reach out to them via this method.
Now, as important as it is to cast your net far and wide when considering who your “network” is it is also important to think quality over quantity when it comes to your career network. Networking from a career perspective (as opposed to your personal networking) needs to a planned effort with some idea of what you are hoping to achieve and contribute. Focus on those who work in the field you want to work in, or, if you’re still in the exploration phase, those who share the same interests as you. If you have already created a list of organizations you’d like to work for reach out to those who work there (or who might know someone who does).
Talented international speaker and advocate for the benefits of community Chris O’Shaughnessy recently made the fabulous analogy between social networking and junk food. According to Chris social networking when used as a relational device is like junk food. It appears to have substance but it’s really just empty calories. Chris was discussing social networking in terms of social interaction and friendship but it is equally applicable across the board of social interaction including career networking. Online networking sites such as LinkedIn are an important part of career networking (more on this in a later post) but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that adding to your list of connections on LinkedIn or sending out emails to touch base with people you know is enough.
Just like personal networking building your career network is building a community, but with a focus on career and just like your personal relationships career networking requires maintaining relationships and giving as well as receiving. In upcoming posts I’ll discuss how to network including using LinkedIn.