Using Your Network to Help Find a Job
Unless You are a Hermit Living in a Cave, You Already Have a Network
Networking is basically a combination of word of mouth advertising and information gathering. A network in this case is the people you know and who know you.
This includes family, friends, current and former co-workers along with business and personal acquaintances. These people are in contact with other people, some of whom may be employers, which means that they are in a position to inform you about potential job opportunities and/or inform employers about your availability.
One of the first things that you should do after getting laid off from a job is to let you family, friends and, most importantly, business contacts know that you are looking for work.
Many people, especially those in areas like sales, maintain contact information and keep in touch on a regular basis with a network of business and personal contacts with whom they exchange information about sales leads and other information of use in the course of their professional lives.
When such a person finds himself/herself laid off, or simply decides it is time to move on and find a new position or employer, they contact these people to let them know they are looking for a new position and ask them to let them know if they hear of employers looking for people with their qualifications.
When Job Seeking You Need to Use Your Network If Only for Names to Use as Personal References
In addition to job leads, you can also turn to people in your network for advice on what particular jobs might involve in terms of education and experience required, what a manager is realistically looking for in a new employee as opposed to what the HR Department has put in the job description.
In my experience there has usually been a large gap between what I, as the manager looking to hire a new employee, have told HR I needed in terms of qualifications for a job and what HR put in the ad. Since it is usually be the hiring manager who makes the final employment decision, knowing what that person really wants is important.
You can also often get advice and information on what it is like to work for certain employers, what to expect in terms of pay and benefits with certain employers (this information can help you to prepare, in advance, an answer for when an interviewer asks you what you are looking for in terms of pay) as well as sometimes introduce you to managers and business owners who would be interested in hiring someone with your skills but haven't gotten around to advertising for such a person.
Even if you don't use your network for any of the above activities when looking for work you will generally have to come up with three to five names of people, usually people other than family members or former employers, to use as personal references on job applications.
Asking people you know for permission (and asking beforehand is the polite thing to do) to use them as a reference is another use of your network. Whether you realize it or not, the people you ask are a part of your network and by asking for permission and using them as references you are making use of your network in your job search.
With a little more thought and effort you could probably utilize these and others in your network for additional job search assistance.
Most of Us Used Our Contacts in High School and College When We Wanted to Be Introduced to a Person We Wished to Date
Everybody has a network. In fact, if we think back to our high school or college days, this is very similar to the times when we saw someone who we wished to know romantically and turned to friends who knew that person to arrange an introduction.
This was was networking. However, many either don't think to use the circle of people they know for job seeking or, except for a small group of close friends and family, don't maintain the information necessary to identify and contact the people who could be of help in their job search.
The time, of course, to begin keeping track of people and keeping in contact with them is before you lose your job. However, this can still be done after losing your job. Simply take some time to sit down and begin writing down names of everyone you know or have done business with in the past and begin looking for them.
There will be some whom you are in contact with regularly and simply asking them for assistance in finding and contacting others will both let these people know that you are looking for work as well obtaining contact information for other mutual acquaintances who can be of help. They may even introduce you to new people, who they know but you don't, who can help you with job leads.
Maintaining Your Network
A network is more than just keeping a file of names and addresses of people you know. It also means staying in touch periodically during normal times when you are not looking for work or not seeking information for business projects.
This is usually easy with friends and family whom you have strong social relationships but can be a little more difficult with purely business and professional contacts.
In the case of business and professional contacts you should try to get to know them and connect with them on a personal level by learning a little bit about them personally so that when you interact with them on routine business matters you can ask about their family, hobby, etc. thereby engaging in a minute or two of small talk that is not related to business. Getting to know them on a personal level can make it easier to call on them for assistance when you need it.
Maintaining a network also involves being willing to offer information and assistance when those in your network contact you for advice and help with a job search or a business problem.
Ironically, while many of us feel uncomfortable asking people for help with a job search or business problem we are, more often than not, flattered when people we know turn to us for such advice and help.
The truth is, sharing information is not difficult or time consuming. In reality, being asked for such assistance usually makes us feel important - after all, here is a person with a big problem and he or she is turning to us seeking our expertise and advice. This can be great for one's ego.
Online Tools for Managing and Building Your Network
Ironically, maintaining network contacts has become a bit of a problem for many people in this recession.
This is because all of their contact information (including telephone numbers and addresses for family and friends) has been kept in electronic format on an employer supplied cell phone and/or office computer, both of which are among the first things taken away when their job is terminated.
In the past this information was kept in personal address books and business or Rolodex cards which the employee usually took with them when they left that employer.
If you are still employed, it would be a good idea to keep personal contacts in your personal cell phone, computer or paper notebook and, to the extent they are not confidential company property, do the same with business contacts (for example, when you get someones' business card, record it in your office computer or cell phone contact list and then take the card home for your personal file).
To avoid losing contact information, many people are turning to online services such as Linkedin.com, Facebook.com, Plaxo.com, etc. which offer free as well as premium networking services. These can be a great way to keep and maintain business contacts.
It might be a good idea to keep personal and professional contacts separate and, by all means, make sure that there is noting unprofessional or embarrassing on your Facebook and any similar sites as employers do routinely check these sites when hiring people.
If you have already lost your job and your professional contact information with it, you can open accounts on these sites and search for people you have come in contact with while on the job as many have accounts on one or more of these sites. Once found, contact them and have them join your network on the site (and you join theirs) as well as seeking their assistance with your job search.
Besides building or re-building your network on these on-line sites, they can also be a source of information about prospective employers, as many companies have set up profiles on these sites (HubPages has a profile on Facebook).
In addition to formal company profiles, there are often groups for various employers or industries that people have set up and which you can join and obtain information and possible additional contacts to assist you in your job search.
Once you open an account on one or more of these sites, it is a good idea to periodically update your profile and keep it current. This not only makes it easier for others in your network to keep abreast of where you are in your career but there have been instances of people in one's network or even employers searching these sites for potential employees.
Many of us, myself included, have found networking to be helpful when both looking for work and for advancing our careers after landing a job.
Three of the jobs that I have had in my career, including my current one, were the result of telling a contact I was looking for a new job and immediately given a suggestion which led straight to a job.
Links to My Other Job Search Articles
- The Job of Getting a Job
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