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Four Networking Techniques
Find more job opportunities by growing your professional network
It's as true now as ever: finding a job can be as much about who you know as what you know. But this doesn't mean you have to be connected to important or powerful people in order to land the job you want. Simply connecting with someone in your field can help you find more job leads and even get advice on how to conduct your search and otherwise capitalize on your skills.
If you don't see yourself as a networker, don't worry. You should attend professional meetings as much as you can, but you can also network and gain business contacts from your own computer. Here are four strategies for developing your job search network.
- Establish your presence online. Your online presence can be your home base for job hunting. Employ these three key tactics for managing that presence successfully.
- Use LinkedIn™ to full effect. An updated and easy-to-read LinkedIn profile is indispensable to your job search. Beyond that, however, you should also use LinkedIn to expand your professional network. Interested in working for a particular company? Use LinkedIn to see if you know someone who works there, or if one of your connections does, and make contact. There are also hundreds of LinkedIn groups dedicated to every conceivable profession. Join them and get to know your peers in your area. They just might know of a job you'd be perfect for.
- Set up a personal website or blog. Depending on your field, setting up your own website can be a big plus, and it's easier to do than ever. You can choose from numerous website builder services that will let you design and publish your own site with little or no Web coding knowledge and at affordable prices. Having your own site shows initiative and a willingness to engage with technology, both essential qualities for today's workers. Include an overview of your skills and career goals, an online portfolio with examples of your work, and testimonials from colleagues or former bosses (it's okay to ask for these). And don't be afraid to add a personal touch, as long as it's professionally appropriate — employers like to see who you are as a human being.
- Monitor your social media profiles. You may or may not want to establish Facebook™, Twitter™, or other social media profiles specifically dedicated to your work life. What you must do, however, is make sure any personal profiles you have are free of potentially damaging content — provocative photos, excessive references to substance use or politics, or any comments that could be considered offensive. Like it or not, employers do and will look you up online, and you don't want to miss out on your dream job because of an ill-considered social media posting.
- Develop your existing contacts. Believe it or not, you already have a job search network — they're also known as "the people you know." Make a list of your friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances, and enlist them in your job search. But don't start sending mass emails. Like most other spam, it's likely to be ignored. Instead, plan to contact people individually, starting with those who might be most helpful (for example, a relative who works in your field). Be genuine. People are more likely to help if they feel you're talking to them personally, not checking them off a to-do list.
- Attend alumni and professional events. While it's essential to develop your online and personal networks, in many cases you'll need to meet new people in order to get a line on the job you want. Alumni groups and professional associations are two of the best means for doing this. Look up the local chapter of your school's alumni group, and start going to meetings. Do the same for local professional groups related to your career. Make a point of talking to people you don't already know. Once you've established a rapport with someone, it's easier to bring up your job search. Have a brief elevator speech that describes your interests and skills, and practice it enough that you feel natural and comfortable inserting it into normal conversation.
- Stay in touch. While you might discover a job lead using one of these approaches right away, it's more likely that you'll need to maintain your network over time to find the position you want. Think of networking as an ongoing conversation, rather than a one-time pitch. Make it clear that you're interested in the people you're talking to. This will serve you well both in your immediate job hunt and over the course of your career — after all, you may want to switch jobs in the future.