"Networking" is people talking to each other, sharing information, ideas and resources. In today's job market, networking will produce more job leads than any other method of job search and is an integral component of a targeted job search.
The key to effective networking is to tell your friends, family and work contacts that you are looking for work. Most people are happy to help you, but you must also help them to understand the kind of work you are looking for.
If you are conducting a strategic job search, then this networking task will be easier. Research and networking go hand in hand. If you are doing careful research about your potential line of work, then you will have more questions to ask others, and you will be able to participate in conversations that show you are informed and lead to more information.
Be specific in your requests. Instead of asking someone to help you find a job, ask them for a specific connection:
- Can you help? I am trying to find someone who works in the insurance sector with a focus on actuarial skills. Is there anyone you know that has a connection to one of the local insurance companies?
- I’ve been working as a general labourer for a lot of years, but lately I have found that I really enjoy working outside rather than in a factory. I am looking to talk to someone who does new home construction to find out more about this. Do you have any ideas?
Talk to a Working Centre Employment Counsellor to develop the kind of phrases you can say that will help people to help you in your search for work. You can also practise the 30 second bio described on this website. Once you are comfortable describing what you are looking for, it becomes easier to say it out loud.
Remember to offer the chance to come back to you later – “If you think of an idea, can you let me know? Here is a card I made up to make it easier to find me.” In a more professional situation you might say “Here is my calling card – can you call me if you have any further information or ideas?”.
If someone gives you a lead, ask them if you can contact this person and mention that they gave you their name. Some people will share information but ask you not to mention that they gave you the lead. Others will be delighted to have you mention their name. Be respectful and follow their wishes on this.
Once you have a “contact” it is important to write down all their relevant information (name, company, phone number, who suggested the contact, when you contacted them, what their response was).
Before you contact people in your expanding network, be sure to review the Information Interview section below. Being prepared to meet each person in your network is very important – thoughtfully approaching others shows your maturity and thoughtfulness – qualities that employers are looking for.
Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times, so that you can quickly jot down a new lead or a new idea, wherever and whenever it arises. Review the Staying Organized section of this website.
You can also use this simple chart to track your networking activity. This chart is just a suggestion - adapt it or create your own to fit your needs and organizational style.