You may be looking for your first job or a way to advance your career. Alternately, you may have lost a job and need to find a new one. While job boards and classified ads might give you a few places to start, many experts in the business world suggest that career networking is one of the most effective ways to find and obtain a job. Many companies don’t advertise extensively for work; perhaps as many as half of all companies don’t advertise at all when a job becomes available. For someone looking for work, this means a resume submitted to these companies, especially if it comes with a recommendation from an employee is likely to get noticed.
Career networking is in essence making use of the people you know to develop your career. It can be used for finding jobs and increasing your business. It requires a light touch, not a hard sell, and a willingness to work your own network for the benefit of others. It has to be developed with a sense of reciprocity so a person doesn’t feel used or only valued because they might be able to do you a favor.
Whether you’re looking for your first or fifth job, career networking begins with the people closest to you: friends, family, past employers and colleagues, and even educators. In high school, students might use career networking to solicit recommendations from teachers for admission to colleges or for job applications.
Students can ask family members who work in certain fields to recommend them for work, or they could obtain their first job from a friend’s mom, a teacher’s wife or husband, or the principal’s uncle. Each person you know is like a starting point in a circle of all the people they know. Thus your ability to use career networking with one person puts you in touch with all the people that person knows.
Many don’t know how to begin career networking, and don’t realize how easy and effective it can be. First, start calling people you think might have an effect on your career. In most cases, you are not calling to ask them for a job, but to communicate your interest in finding work, and to ask if they know of anything. As your network expands, when you call or meet with someone, you’ll want to express your gratitude to these people through short notes, when it seems appropriate, and through reciprocal networking. Perhaps a contact needs your help, or you can assist that person by recommending his/her business to people you know.
It can greatly assist you to begin networking on a larger scale, by joining a trade organization that is specific to your work, or being an active volunteer in organizations that put you in touch with lots of different people. Networking can occur just as easily at a PTA meeting as it does at a trade luncheon. Keep records of your contacts, and be willing to return the favor when you can, since you never know when you might need to use career networking again to advance your career. Don’t stop networking once you’ve found a job; continuing to form great business relationships with people you meet along the way may come in handy later.
Don’t feel squeamish about asking people if they know of available jobs where they work. Many companies offer financial incentives to people who bring in new employees. If you get hired, you might just be conferring a cash bonus to the person who recommended you; so there are certainly people anxious to help you. You can take advantage of these bonuses yourself by getting friends, family or other contacts hired at your company.
Career networking has become easier with the number of business related groups on the Internet. Establishing an Internet presence by participating in these groups can further your career. Do be wary though when you initially join a group about immediately asking for work. Take several months to establish yourself, express your interest in what others are doing, and to verify that people belonging to these groups are truthfully representing themselves.