How to Make Your Network Work for You

How to Make Your Network Work for You

Never underestimate the value of utilizing individuals to help you with your job search. The common practice of only searching for potential opportunities on company websites will produce very limited success. Combining this search method, along with building and utilizing an effective network, will produce quality results more quickly.

I recently received a note from a recent graduate explaining how he found his dream opportunity through direct networking. This student learned about an internship, through a faculty member within his college, at a company he was very interested in working for once he graduated. Although he was not qualified for the position, he did not let that deter him. He found a way to get his resume forwarded to the department he was interested in, and then he organized his contacts in backing him up with letters of recommendation and follow-up calls. He said, “[Direct networking] was, by far, the most effective way I have found to court employers. The online application systems all seem too overwhelmed with applicants.”

Tapping into your network of contacts will help get you into the hidden job market – the job market where positions are not posted. Donald Asher points out in his book, Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economy, that “at least half of all jobs that change hands go to someone who did not respond to a posted opening and only about one-third of open jobs are ever posted anywhere.”

So, how do you find this hidden job market? This is the point where your network goes to work for you.

First, you must develop a network of contacts and leads.

Leads will be garnered from every corner of your life. A lab partner from your freshman year in college, individuals in the student groups you belong to, and even social and professional website networks. The bottom line is you need to shine a light into every corner of your life to illuminate all the individuals that could provide information for your job search. Asher points out that “unusual connections are the norm in a job search.”

Your second step will be a call to action.

You will begin contacting these individuals, either in person, over the phone or by email, and motivating them to get involved in your job search. How you manage this process is up to you, but you need to develop a strategy of converting these raw leads into your network. A face-to-face meeting is the ultimate goal. Whether you schedule lunch or meet them for coffee, getting their advice, referrals or ideas is the end goal.

The third step is acting on any piece of advice or lead.

No matter how inconsequential you might think it is, it is extremely important. Someone that invests their time talking to you about your future career goals has an expectation that you will follow up on what you discuss in your meeting. You will continue this process until you have secured an offer.

Proactively developing and utilizing a network of contacts is vital to any job search. By building up your direct network, you will be able to access available positions before they are posted, keeping competition down and allowing you to showcase what you have to offer to an organization. The facts don’t lie; Asher points out that “one-third of companies hire someone for every 4 people introduced to them by current employees, and another one-third hire someone for every 10 people current employees will vouch for.” Remember, you get jobs by talking to people.

About the Author: Richard Dubler is an assistant director at OU Career Services.

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The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.