In today's economy, job seekers need an edge beyond their experience, education and specific industry and job-related skills, in order to find and secure a position. Regardless if you are looking for an opportunity as CEO, Vice President, IT Manager or Customer Service Representative, you need effective tools to compete within a market that is job-poor and candidate rich.
Hundreds of articles and seminars have been offered describing the value of networking as being the most effective tool for finding your next position. Networking isn't new, we all network to some extent to find a new doctor, meet new people socially, to expand business contacts and many other aspects of our everyday life. The question is - can networking really help you find a job?
As a young man just out of the Navy, my experience networking began without really understanding that I had begun to use networking as a tool. In those days, the information technology field was more commonly referred to as data processing, and that was exactly the field I intended to pursue. Based upon a recommendation from my father, I introduced myself to a neighbor who worked for Allstate Insurance Company. I described the type of position I was looking for and my goal of working in data processing. To make a long story short, Mr. Anderson brought home an application the next day. He helped me complete it and made sure that all the t's were crossed and I's were dotted. He personally handed my application to the department manager who was in charge of the hiring and - he provided a letter of recommendation.
Several days later I received a call from Allstate to interview for an entry-level data processing position. I interviewed with the HR manager and department manager I would be working for. I was offered the job on the spot and accepted with little discussion about the details.
That night I called Mr. Anderson and thanked him for helping me. I asked him if I could do anything - anything at all to show my appreciation. He told me something that to this day I have remembered and have valued throughout my career. He said - "Use your business contacts wisely and treat them with respect. "Offer them advice, referrals, articles of interest and information that might be helpful to them personally or to their business." By doing so you will build and retain life-long viable business contacts." He also stressed how important it was to give something back and develop a relationship that complemented both yourself and your contact.
I didn't fully understand how important this lesson was at the time, but I later learned how valuable business contacts are and began building my own network.
Networking is building contacts that are well connected in the business world, who understand the power of personal referral and who are willing to help and provide additional contacts. Your contacts may be friends, neighbors, local business owners and people you meet everyday. The challenge is to reach people that understand networking and how it works. One of the most common comments you might hear from someone who does not understand networking is - "I don't know anyone who has job openings."
Frequently you will need to educate your contacts about the types of people you want to reach and how these people can help you uncover potential opportunities. Networking is all about meeting people, who know people, and finding that person or persons who has an interest in your skills, background and what you can bring to a company. Many jobs are not publicized or even formally developed. Your background and skills can prompt companies to think harder about filling a hidden job or create a position that requires your expertise. Seeking out individuals who are well connected in the business world, open to talking about themselves, their companies, giving advice and directing you to other business people, are the primary targets for your network.
Even though every person you talk to may not be able to help you right away, they may be an excellent contact later on, or they may refer you to well connected business people. Because the hidden job market is where most of the jobs are today, networking will uncover people who have the inside track on either job openings or who know about potential opportunities. If you are networking effectively, you will find opportunities that you otherwise may never have found.
Networking will not only help in your job search, but it will add significant value and tools you will use in your everyday life. Do yourself a favor - start learning about networking and how you can apply it to your job search, business initiative or unique requirements
About the Author:
Russ Kovar is also the Moderator for Chicagoland Ecademy Regional Club, an organization of us.ecademy and a member of Linkedin. Additionally, Russ provides Job Search and Network coaching.