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Networking

  • Jan and Frank moved and they need a family doctor. Frank asks people at work while Jan checks with the neighbors for referrals to a good doctor.

  • Kevin is having car trouble and does not know where to have it fixed. He calls a couple of people at church to ask if they can suggest someone.

  • Taylor is asked to travel out of state for work but is not sure about the paperwork. She solicits help from a colleague who has recently traveled out of state.

  • Gene is building a scale model of a fire station for his 5th grade class. He calls the local fire department and arranges to meet with the captain to work out the details.

Each of these people has something in common; they are all networking. Networking is not new. It has been around since the dawn of time. Wherever there are community and civilization, there is networking. What has changed is how networking occurs. In the past, networking was informal and random. In fact, most people didn't even know that they were networking. Today networking has become calculated and structured. People network every day without thinking about it. However, more people are including formal networking as part of their daily activities.

Employment expert believe that 80% of all job openings are never advertised.

Most employers don't need to advertise. There are enough applicants available to them without advertising. Also, most employers don't want to advertise. They would rather consider someone referred to them from a trusted employee or colleague. It's like looking for a doctor or an auto mechanic; most people would rather go to someone recommended rather than to a name found in an advertisement. If this is the case, then how does someone find these jobs? Direct employer contact and networking are the answers.

Formal networking is the systematic pursuit of new contacts and information. It is organized and planned. Networking is relational. A good networking relationship will be mutually beneficial to both parties. Many people have trouble with formal networking, especially as a job search strategy. Here are some common networking concerns:

"I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm looking for work."

"I feel that it would be like begging for a job."

"I don't want people to think that I'm taking advantage of them."

Now let's dismiss each of these concerns:

Looking for work does not carry the stigma that it did in the past. The average person will change jobs every five years. Your networking contacts will be much more sympathetic than your may think.

Networking is not begging. In fact, you should not be asking for a job, you should be seeking information that may lead to a job. Usually your networking contacts will not be potential employers, they will be people who know about potential employment. If you discover that a contact is a potential employer then it would be time to take off your networking hat and pursue employment.

Good networking is a mutually beneficial relationship. Plan to give as much or more than you receive. Also, you will be surprised at how willing people are to help. In fact, they will be honored that you value their input.

Networking Strategies

Networking strategies range from basic to sophisticated. Here are some general networking ideas.

  1. Do not just wait to bump into people. Initiate contacts for the sole purpose of networking.

  2. Develop a networking list. Make contact with each person on your list. Add names of people you meet or are referred to by your contacts.

  3. Set networking goals. Write down specific goals for how many networking contacts you plan to make each week. Regularly check your progress.

  4. Set goals for each meeting. Don't just get together and see where it leads; meet with a purpose. Express this goal when you arrange the meeting.

  5. Come to the meeting prepared. Know what questions you want to ask. Take notes.

  6. Always ask if the person knows of anyone else you should meet. Ask if you can use her/his name when contacting the person.

  7. Maintain networking files. Keep a record of the outcomes of each contact and important information about the person.

  8. Whenever possible, meet in person.

  9. Let the person know you value the information and professional opinion.

  10. Plan your follow-up. At the time you meet with someone, plan when you will contact this person again. Write it down on a follow-up calendar.

  11. If you agree to do something for someone, be sure to follow through.

  12. Say "thank you" often. Send a thank-you letter or card.
The Networking Campaign

There are four basic categories of networking contacts. Each has its own unique value and a good networking campaign will draw from each category. Review the section on Informational Interviewing, page 51 for more information.

1. People you know well: friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

These are the people who are close to you. They have the most interest in your success and are excellent networking contacts. These are the people with whom you are most comfortable. This is a good place to begin your networking campaign. This is the group that you can ask for the most assistance. However, when networking with this group, it is important to set clear goals. They may want to help more than you want. It is also important to acknowledge their value and to say "thank you." This group is often the least appreciated.
2. People you see occasionally: acquaintances, business contacts.

More than 25% of the people who find jobs through networking received the referral from someone they see once a year or less! These are people with whom you may be less comfortable, but they also have the greatest potential. Ask this group for ideas and referrals. When making contact you may need to reintroduce yourself. State your purpose, acknowledge their value, and request a meeting. It is a good idea to set reasonable time limits for the meeting. Let them know you only want 30 minutes of their time. Be sure you stick to your time limit. Come well prepared, be professional and organized in your discussion.
3. Referrals from your other networking contacts.

Stretch your network by meeting new people who are the friends, associates, and acquaintances of your networking contacts. At every meeting you should ask if the person knows of anyone else to whom you should talk. Sometimes these will be people with additional information, but they may also be potential employers. In either case, review the sections on Direct Employer Contact and Telephone Communications. By now, most job seekers are out of their comfort zone. This is where you will find the real action. You are getting closer to that job. When approaching a referral contact, you should introduce yourself with a lead statement that will get their attention. It is very useful to use the name of the person who referred you. State your purpose and request a meeting. You should also limit the time for the meeting, be well prepared, and professional.
4. Cold calling people you do not know and to whom you have not been referred.

Through your employment research and networking you may discover the names of people with whom you would like to talk. This type of contact takes another level of confidence, but the potential is great. Take the initiative and you will find that these contacts will pay off. Review the sections on Direct Employer Contact, Informational Interviewing and Telephone Communications for more information on how to approach these contacts.
Networking List

Here is a "Brainstorming" list to get you started:

____ Friends - look at your Christmas/Holiday card list

____ Neighbors - current and past

____ Social acquaintances: bridge group, hiking club, softball team, etc.

____ Social club members

____ Health club members

____ PTA members, Scouting affiliations

____ Classmates - from any level of school

____ College Alumni - get a list of those living in the area

____ Teachers - your teachers, professors, your children's teachers

____ Anybody you wrote a check to in the last year

____ Drugstore owner

____ Doctor, dentist, optician

____ Lawyer, accountant, real estate agent

____ Insurance agent, stock broker, travel agent

____ Veterinarian

____ Dry cleaner

____ Flower shop owner or manager/sales clerk

____ Manager of local branch of your bank

____ Current co-workers and former co-workers

____ Relatives, those in town and out of town

____ Politicians

____ Chamber of Commerce executives

____ Professional Association executives

____ Trade Association executives

____ Members of your Professional Societies

____ Religious leaders - check for a Job Loss Support Group

____ Members of your fellowship/parish/church/congregation/synagogue

____ People you meet at conventions

____ Speakers at meetings you've attended

____ Business club executives and members - Rotary, Kiwanis, Jaycees, etc.

____ Friends you served with in the military

____ Volunteer affiliations

____ Your parents' friends

____ People you meet on airplanes, riding the bus (you never know!)

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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