10 ways to use your network to find work

Consider these two statistics about finding work.

  • “85 percent of jobs are filled through networking”
  • “Only about 5% are jobs are filled through job boards”

network-not-work

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Job hunting can be a fulltime job in itself. After months of sending out resumes and filling out online applications without a callback, you might feel like giving up. Don’t despair, however. You might just be directing your resources to the wrong places. What often happens is people put most of their effort into the avenue that provides the lowest returns (job boards in this case). If you really want to maximize your job search efforts, it’s time to start using your network for all it’s worth. The chances of finding a job using your network are much greater than just utilizing job boards to find work.

Your network is your goldmine

People think that networking is about working a room or having to schmooze with upper management, so they’re immediately turned off by it. While it is necessary to attend networking events and approach people you don’t know (See # 10), many networking activities involve connecting with people you’re already familiar with. Authentic networking relationships involve give-and-take with the end goal of both parties gaining something.

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out – This is probably the most difficult hurdle to get over. Asking other people if they know of any job openings is not always an easy thing to do. This is especially true if you’re currently working and want to keep your job search private. This is an important hurdle to clear because this is one of the most effective ways to get a real handle on the jobs that are available, along with first-hand knowledge about who you should contact.
  2. Keep your resume up-to-date – Think of your resume as your calling card. It’s a quick way for you to introduce yourself and make a good impression. It certainly isn’t as effective as a face-to-face impression, but a well-presented and well-planned resume can get your foot in the door. I’ve seen resumes that are so out-of-date that you don’t know who you’re speaking to. Other resumes are unappealing in their format. They may be too long (try not to go past 2 pages) or use fonts that are hard to read, or they might just be poorly designed. Always have a copy of your resume saved on a USB stick, on hardcopy and in the Cloud in the event that you’re called upon to send one at a moments notice.
  3. Be open to different possibilities – You may have your sights set on a particular position at a certain level of responsibility. The reality, however, is that there are more people vying for fewer positions. If you find that the opportunities for certain positions are drying up, it might be time to consider another possibility. Ask other people you know about the profession they’re working in. They can give you insight that you otherwise might not have gotten. Perhaps you have to make a lateral move, or even a downward move to get your foot in the door. If your end goal is to find a job, then this is still a success. It’s not easy to change careers, but there are many resources to help career-changers through these transitions and you just might find that this new avenue is exactly what you wanted.
  4. Don’t burn bridges – When you leave a job, it’s always advisable to depart on good terms. Try to avoid office drama as much as possible. It also pays to maintain connections with key decision-makers in the event that you have to make a return. Keeping your name fresh in their minds will prevent you from having to re-tell your story again in the future.
  5. Work on your elevator pitch –  When attending networking events, it pays to prepare your introduction or elevator pitch in advance. It’s similar to the interview question “Tell me about yourself.” Practice it in front of a mirror until it becomes second nature and rolls off our lips with ease. A good elevator pitch includes who you are, what you’re known for and the service you can offer. My pitch would sound something like “My name is Gail and I am Project Management Professional. I am known for planning projects that come in under budget, on time and in scope. Come to me if you need direction on starting a project or if you need to get an existing project un-stalled.”
  6. Ask friends for job referrals – Once you know what jobs are out there and if you’re in the running for one, don’t be afraid to ask your friend to put in a good word for you. Recruiters and HR essentially go into hiring blind. They can hope that people are giving accurate and honest information but even with background and reference checks, they might not always get the complete picture. The first-hand referral from a trusted source can put a recruiter’s mind at ease and also save a lot of time in the search process. Many companies also provide a cash incentive for employees who refer a successful hire, so this definitely a win-win for everyone involved.
  7. Use Linkedin – Don’t think of Linkedin as just the Facebook for job seekers. It’s much more than that. It can be an extremely powerful networking tool. I’ve had a recruiter reach out to me because she saw that a former co-worker of mine (listed among my connections) was working in a certain industry. She was recruiting for a position that required a very specific skill set, and she could see from my friend’s profile that she would be a great fit. She asked me to put the two of them in touch and this networking connection resulted in a new job for my friend that paid more money and was a step up the ladder.
  8. Do pro bono work  – Think of pro-bono work as a donation of your professional services to an organization that wouldn’t normally be able to afford them. Pro bono isn’t just reserved for legal services anymore. Organizations such as Taproot and CatchaFire connect a variety of professionals with pro bono opportunities. It’s a great way to build experience because you’re actually working in your area of expertise (just for free). Most times, you’re donating your services to a cause you believe in strongly so the amount of passion and effort you put in will be seen by the organization and they will most likely keep you in mind if a paid opportunity opens up.
  9. Volunteer for charitable and community events – Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a good practice because it helps your community, is a way of giving to people in need and it benefits you as well. Often times, volunteer efforts continue for a period of time and this gives the team time to get to know each other. Being connected by a common cause creates trust and as a result, makes people more likely recommend or refer you to a position. Additionally, volunteering for an organization gives you insight into company happenings (ie job openings).
  10. Attend industry-specific events – Even if you hate to network, you should attend at least one industry-specific event a year, such as a conference or a networking luncheon. They’re one of the best ways to stay on top of industry trends, and they also keep you aware of the top people in your field. If you want to get the most out of these events, then you need to add networking to the mix. Having so many people from your field in one place increases your odds of finding someone who needs your specific set of skills.

Networking has gotten some bad press, but it’s time for that to change. Networking is best when it comes from authentic relationships that can be leveraged to the benefit of all parties involved.

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