At a recent speaking engagement to job seekers, I asked attendees to rank, on a scale from 1 to 10, how much they enjoyed networking. Some replied zero, others 9. When I asked how important they thought networking to be, almost everyone gave the same answer: 10.
Networking Research Agrees
Networking is critical. Research from the Institute for Career Transitions (ICT) studying long-term unemployed individuals, and the circumstances around which they find their next job, supports this. ICT Founder Ofer Sharone reported that 50% of long-term unemployed individuals found their next job purely by networking, in most cases with past colleagues or professional acquaintances. The other 50% of long-term unemployed individuals found their next position by more traditional routes; however, informal networking (such as resume review or personal introductions) still played a role.
Let People Know What You Want
In many cases, the old adage, “It’s all who you know” rings true. People do business with people they know and trust. Take me, for example. Before becoming a coach, I worked as a medical writer. I was looking for more writing work, and so decided to attend a networking event hosted by the American Medical Writers Association. It was a round table format, and I chose the seat next to a woman who looked friendly. We started talking, and I learned that she did the kind of patient information writing I was interested in at a company that I respected. “That’s exactly what I want to do!” I told her. She smiled, but said she had no need for writers at that time. About a month later, however, her department decided to hire additional writers. She remembered our conversation and reached out to me. After a writing test, I was hired.
Who Do You Know?
When you are looking for a job, you should be talking with everyone you know. Looking for a job in the music industry? Ask everyone you meet if he or she knows anyone in the music business. You never know where asking will lead. Case in point: a woman I talked with told me that she got her last job through her hair dresser. Her hair dresser!
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, I don’t know how to network, or I have talked with everyone I know, or I don’t know anyone. If that’s the case, I invite you to try this exercise:
Make a list of everyone you know. List your family , extended family, past colleagues, college friends, neighbors, and current friends. Include people you know from your gym, church or synagogue, and child’s school or sports team. If you can, next to each name, write down what that person does. You will be amazed at how many people you know, and you’ll be reminded of people you “forgot.”
After you create your list, it’s time to take action. Choose three people to reach out to. Talk with them, and see where the conversations lead.