- Networking is a job search process that focuses on proactive interaction with others. Its purpose is to gather information, advice, and referrals that will ultimately lead to interviews and employment.
- Prospecting involves contacting people to arrange informational interviews with them or to gain referrals to people in their organization or profession, or in similar organizations or professions.
- Informational interviews are meetings with people in a position, field, or organization in which you ask questions and gather helpful facts and advice. The focus of the conversation is on the career and knowledge of the other person.
Between 60% and 90% of jobs are found informally in this country, mainly through friends, relatives, and direct contacts. Studies note that both employers and employees prefer informal and personal methods of job finding. Employers prefer to hire people who are of known quality, believing that the best candidates are those who are referred by their colleagues, friends and acquaintances, whose judgment they trust. Individuals who use personal contacts to find jobs are reported to be more satisfied with their jobs and tend to have higher incomes. This word of mouth technique is very powerful. It provides employers with a trustworthy pool of applicants, reduces the risk of hiring the wrong candidate and is more time and cost effective than traditional methods.
Prospecting for Leads
Begin by making a list of potential contacts. Some will already be a part of your network; others you will be contacting for the first time. Begin with your already existing contact base. Tell them about your career aspirations and specific objectives, and ask those who have observed your performance to serve as potential references.
Your existing contacts may be some of the following:
- Friends, and friends of friends
- Parents, parents' friends, parents of friends
- Fredonia faculty and professional staff
- Internship supervisors
- Fredonia alumni
- Neighbors, relatives
- Past or current employers
- Community groups
Even if you already have some good contacts, you can't afford to rely solely on them. In addition to asking your contacts to give you the names of other people you can talk to, use other sources to develop new networks. Join professionally related LinkedIn groups, and read articles in professional journals or online to get ideas for leads. Seek out experiences where you can "position" yourself to be around people who could potentially be good contacts through:
- Internships, volunteer experiences, temporary/summer/part-time jobs
- Professional organizations: attend meetings/conferences, volunteer for projects
- Career/job fairs and events including CDO Spotlights, Network on the Go, Job & Internship Expo
Before you actually make your contacts, learn about and practice your information interviewing skills, including your telephone skills. (See Interviewing for Information).
Some Networking Principles
- Networking is a key part of the job search (summer and full-time), job advancement, and job change process.
- Building and using networks should be a permanent aspect of your career.
- Information interviews are an important part of the networking process.
- The more contacts you make, the more useful information, advice, and leads you will receive.
- You need to continually develop new contacts while maintaining communication with prior contacts.
- You must be completely honest with yourself and others when seeking employment or advancing your career. For example, when information interviewing, you should ask for information only, not a job.
- While networking may ultimately lead to interviews and job offers, its purpose is to get information, advice, and referrals.
- Networking is one of several techniques used in getting a job; it doesn't eliminate the need for other methods.
- Networking doesn't focus on the person with the power to hire.
- Networking can work in any community and can be important to a long distance job search.
- The "Three P's" are essential to successful networking: patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude.
- The telephone is more effective than e-mail, but a face-to-face meeting is best.
(Original Source: Network Your Way to Job & Career Success, Krannich and Krannich, Impact Publications)
THE POWER OF NETWORKING: The following article, originally published in Diversity Employers magazine, has been adapted and reprinted with permission of the author, Carolyn Thomas.
The meaning of the word “network” has evolved over the years. Originally “network” was used primarily as a noun and it meant an informal system in which persons having common interests assist each other. Nowadays the word is also used as a verb meaning to make connections or build alliances among people of a like kind. You should also think of networking as a process of utilizing sources and resources.
Networking is not about using people; it can be mutual and it’s about building relationships. In the job search process networking is a powerful tool. If used properly it can be the most effective job search strategy. Despite the use of technology and the online application process most jobs (80%) are still filled through networking. Some positions may not even be posted if a referral has already been made from the inside.
So what’s the first step in the process? Before you begin reaching out to others, do some introspection and think about what you desire to do job-wise. Think about how you would like someone to help you. Do you want them to hand out your resume or would you benefit from doing an informational interview with them? In either scenario you must be prepared to do business. Your resume and cover letter must be updated, should look good, and be error-free. If you want to conduct an informational interview, remember that it should be brief – no longer than twenty minutes – and the object is to gather information only. Don’t ask for a job in an informational interview. Let that be your follow-up tactic.
Have your script ready. If you are networking via telephone, have your questions prepared ahead of time. Be brief and to the point. Consider the time of your call. If you live in the Eastern Time zone and you call California at 8:00 a.m., it’s only 5:00 a.m. there. Always mention if a third party has referred you to someone because that can make them more willing to speak with you. If you leave a message for a return call, give your phone number and also a time when you will be available for contact. By the way, what kind of message will someone hear when they call you? Does it sound professional? A 50-something hiring manager might not be too thrilled to listen to 2Chainz before they can leave you a message.
Who is in your network? Everybody! Let your friends, relatives, neighbors, gym buddies and church members know you are job hunting. Don’t screen anybody out based on the level of their job. Your barber or hairdresser may also do a CEO’s hair. Everything we do in life is relationship driven, and business is based on relationships.
When attending a networking event, remember that you are there to greet, not to eat. Act like a host, not a guest; introduce yourself first. Set a goal for the number of people you want to meet and don’t be shy about approaching people. Dress appropriately, and wear your name tag on your right shoulder because when you extend your hand (giving a firm handshake) the other person’s eye will go to your name badge.
Career fairs present excellent networking opportunities, with one caution. You should not approach an employer and ask them what their company does. Learn how to “work” a career fair. Prior to the event, research the organizations that interest you so that you can ask specific questions. Have your 30-second “commercial” ready when you introduce yourself. Collect business cards so you can send a follow-up thank you note.
Social media is an obvious method of networking. This too has its caveats. Be careful with your online image that’s on Facebook. LinkedIn.com is a website where you can create a professional profile. Keep your online profile updated as necessary.
One of the most important steps in the process of networking is follow-up. If you have secured a position based on someone’s referral, let them know. Inform your entire network that your status has changed and you are now happily employed. It is also very important to say thank you. Whenever someone helps you at any stage of the networking process, don’t forget to thank them!
There really shouldn’t be any final step in networking. Networking should be a life-long process. You should be willing to give as well as receive. Keep in touch with your network. Send them a congratulatory note if they receive a promotion, or an article you think they might enjoy reading. Attend professional meetings of groups that interest you. If you attend a conference, don’t just go to the lectures; attend the social events as well. If you already have a job, don’t just stay at your desk all day. Go to the lunchroom and eat with someone you don’t know. Company social events (picnic, ball game, etc.) are critical not only for networking, but for survival, as much business can be conducted in a social setting.
However you choose to network, remember that it is a reciprocal and on-going process. As a college student you can begin to build your professional network right now. Some of the contacts you make may last for many years, and then you too will see the power of networking.