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Networking – You've Got to Try It

So you'€™ve become unemployed.

You'€™ve applied for more than 20 positions posted on different job boards on the Internet and directly at employers'€™ Web sites. Sure, you'€™ve received a few auto-reply e-mails confirming your résumé was received, but otherwise--€”nothing.

Applying over the Internet feels very impersonal. You have little sense of control. And after making 20 applications, you'€™re becoming discouraged, depressed, and even frightened that you'€™ll never find a rewarding job.

It'€™s time to unleash the single most powerful and proven tool in your job-search tool kit--€”networking. Survey results vary, but it appears that about 40 to 50 percent of the time, networking plays a major role in helping people land new jobs. That would make networking the single most-effective way to find out about job openings and to succeed at getting a new job.

So What Is Networking?

Networking is simply involving others in your job search and becoming involved in the job-search efforts of others. It can take place one-on-one, in small groups, large groups, formal groups, informal groups, and even online.

If you establish a communication network with 20 people, you dramatically increase the likelihood that you will learn about employment opportunities and contacts you may never have found on your own.

Where Do I Start?

Online social networking platforms are a growing vehicle that people are using for networking. One of the leading online professional networks is LinkedIn, and there are several others (e.g., Plaxo, hi5). On these platforms, you identify your contacts and invite them via e-mail to connect with you. Then you become connected to them and can view their connections and contacts. If there is someone on the profile of one of your contacts whom you would like to meet, you can ask to be introduced to that person. This "gated-access approach"€ ensures that the expanding network of contacts is comprised of "€œtrusted" individuals.

You can also join special interest groups at LinkedIn to rapidly expand your number of connections. You can search by individual'€™s names, employers, names of hiring managers, and professional affiliations. These groups can become a meeting place where you can ask questions. Developing your personal network on LinkedIn may take time, but it will probably require less time than trying to build a network in person or by phone.

You can also follow people in your field on Twitter, a social networking site. Once you set up an account on Twitter, you can respond to or comment on "€œtweets,"€ or short posts by others. Some people use Twitter to post links to personal or industry blogs or news items. You can search Twitter for people you know or by subjects you want to research. For example, a search on “résumé help"€ brought up more than 15 tweets of people discussing résumés or asking for advice. You can then decide to follow people on Twitter, and that way, you will regularly see their updates.

You can also type in hash tags (for example, "€œ#resume"€) and search for tweets by topic. Some professional organizations are posting updates from conferences and workshops using hash tags.

In addition to your online efforts, you should still explore the traditional networking vehicles:

  1. Family and Neighborhood Gatherings -€“ Have your "€œelevator speech"€ prepared, and try it out. In case anyone offers help, be ready to elaborate on your job-search plans and on your targeted employers.

  2. Social and Religious Organizations -€“ These groups sometimes sponsor job-search networking meetings. If not, just start talking to people to people before or after meetings and services. If you meet someone who is willing to help, try to get a business card or ask for an e-mail and a phone number.

  3. Professional, Trade, or Business Groups -€“ Join professional and trade associations. Attend their conferences and offer to work on committees. You'€™ll be quite surprised to find that many who attend are looking for jobs. Some of these organizations sponsor job-networking sessions.

  4. School or Work "€œAlumni"€ Groups -€“ Many colleges and major employers establish alumni networks to help their members search for jobs, make contacts, or develop business. For a list of such corporate alumni groups, visit You can also find some of these groups online, via Facebook or LinkedIn.

The biggest obstacle to successful networking may be overcoming your nervousness over asking for help and admitting you'€™re out of a job. One idea to get started is to open conversations with previous coworkers or acquaintances by saying, "€œI'€™m new to networking. What'€™s your experience, and do you have any suggestions for me about how to get started?"€

Don'€™t discount the impact of networking. And don'€™t make these excuses:

  1. "I'€™ll be competing directly with the people I share information with."€ Not so. It will be rare that you are searching for the same job, in the same industry or employer, as someone in your support network.

  2. "€œI can'€™t imagine begging people for help. It'€™s too humiliating."€ Get over it. Networking is common practice, and you'€™re not begging for help. You'€™re asking for, and offering help, to many people in your network. Being unemployed no longer has the stigma it did 20 years ago. Losing a job these days doesn'€™t mean you failed and are unemployable. You'€™ve simply lost your job and you'€™re looking for a better one. Unlike the generation before yours, you will likely work for several employers over the course of your career. It is rare to spend your entire career with one company.

  3. "€œI don'€™t know how to network."€ Learning to network starts with developing your "€œelevator speech." In one minute, you should to be able to summarize what type of job you want, what you do best, and how the person you are talking to can help. Rehearse this with your family and friends. Be direct, polite, and confident. Most people will be flattered to be asked for help. Now, get out there and meet people.

So maybe networking is something new for you. But get excited about learning a new job-search skill, or to put it more bluntly, adapt or give up!

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