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Job networking is nothing more than compiling a list of people you know, both professionally and socially, and then calling them to explain what you are doing and obtain the names of other contacts they know who might offer you further assistance in your job search. In turn, these new referrals will become bridging contacts to yet other leads, and so on. This type of pyramiding is what networking is all about and more than 60% of all executive-level positions are filled in this manner.

Never Ask a Networking Contact for a Job
One of the most important principles in job networking is to assure each person you call that you are not asking for a job. Rather, you should simply explain that you are calling at the suggestion of a mutual friend or associate to get some advice and guidance as to the strategies you should pursue to help expedite your job search. This assurance is critical, since jobs and job leads are not something that most networking contacts will be able to deliver. As a result, many of the people with whom you speak are likely to feel very uncomfortable if they think you are soliciting a job. On the other hand, advice and guidance is something that nearly everyone is willing to share. Before the discussion is over, of course, you must also try to obtain the names of one or two other contacts you can call who may be of further help and provide yet another round of leads.

Since few of your leads will know you personally, it is essential that you establish a natural dialogue with each contact in order to build a solid foundation for the networking relationship. In this respect, much of your success will be based on your ability to actively listen and respond within the context of the person’s viewpoints, while subtly providing enough information about your own background to hopefully arouse the contact’s interest in your qualifications. It may take a number of contacts until you gain someone’s interest, but if you follow up on each lead you will eventually discover inside opportunities that very few people, if any, will ever know about.

Uncovering the Hidden Jobs
Eventually you are going to access people who have, or know about, job openings. Even if you know in advance that someone has a position available, you should still approach the person in the same manner as you would any other contact. That is, give no indication that you are aware of the possibility of an open position. There are two primary reasons for not changing your approach. First, your information could be wrong and you don’t want to take the chance of alienating a valuable contact. Second, even if the contact does have a job, you are likely to make the person much more defensive if you indicate that you are calling about the open position.

Rarely, however, will you ever be aware of an available position until the contact volunteers the information; and few executives are likely to disclose the possibility of an opening until they feel comfortable with your potential. Fortunately, one of the advantages of networking is the fact that discussions tend to be much more open and relaxed than regular job interviews, so both parties have a chance to get to know each other without the pressure normally associated with a formal interview.

If an employer is convinced you can help improve corporate operations and profitability, many will actually create a new position so they can bring you aboard. In fact, nearly 40% of all executive-level positions are literally created after employers have had a chance to assess the experiences and capabilities of potential candidates. This is the power of networking and the reason why at least half of your job-hunting effort should be dedicated to making contacts and following up on referrals.

Building and Expanding Your Network
To start building your network, make a list of everyone who may be of any possible assistance in your job campaign, as they will become the foundation of your entire networking process. While you may think of other contacts as your search progresses, your initial list should include:

  • Business Acquaintances: Past and present colleagues, previous superiors, suppliers and vendors, customers, and members of professional associations in your field of endeavor.

  • Personal Acquaintances: College classmates, former professors, fraternity bothers or sorority sisters, country club members and friends.

  • Professional Acquaintances: Lawyers, stockbrokers, accountants, bankers and insurance agents.

As you progress with your job search, virtually everyone you know, regardless of their status or level of influence, becomes a potential source of information and leads. Consider, for example, the true story of a job hunter who casually mentioned his job search to a trash collector. The trash collector then informed the man that an individual living several blocks away was a high-level executive with a major employer in the area. The following weekend the job hunter was eventually able to meet the executive and strike up a casual conversation on his front lawn. Within a week the candidate was given an in-house interview and eventually received a formal job offer. The job-hunter’s comment about his job search to a trash man led to a substantial six-figure position.

Valuable leads may come from a neighbor, someone at the health club, or anyone else you happen to meet, although it is not suggested that you conduct formal meetings with these types of impersonal contacts. Just be aware that leads can often be obtained from even unconnected sources in response to the most casual comments. By continuing to build these bridges from one level of contacts to the next, you should eventually be able to get a number of people actively involved in your job search. This is an extremely powerful job-hunting technique that should not be ignored.

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