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Technology has altered the landscape of job searching in many ways. We’re able to access job market information regardless of location and share files/data/information on demand, as needed, without regard to where the prospective employer may be. There is one component of looking for work that hasn’t changed, however: Networking. However, the old adage of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” no longer adequately explains why networking is critical to job searching.
Having an organized, up-to-date professional network is a tool you really can’t do without in today’s labor market. Don’t, however, expect to have an “in” just because you are simply acquainted with someone; each of us has numerous acquaintances in our lives, many of them unremarkable. If you want people in your network to remember you, you need to make yourself memorable. To build and nurture a professional network to support your job searching activities, you are well-advised to remember a few basics:
- A simple but thorough list of contacts serves as the foundation for most professional networks.
- If you don’t attempt to cross-reference or build some connections between/among contacts (if possible and if appropriate), your list of contacts will remain only that and nothing more. It’s called networking for a reason.
- For maximum job searching benefit, your network should consist of several categories, not just people you know professionally.
Now you’re ready to start building. Here are some suggestions on how to create a network that supports your career goals:
- 1, 2, 3…. List who you know. Every. Single. Person. Everyone with whom you currently have or have had significant contact. This includes people with whom interact through work or personally and also includes those associated with your significant other. List people you know (past and present) such as:
- Members of civic organizations, spiritual or religious groups
- Social group members (hobby clubs, youth soccer association, running group, etc.)
- Alumni associations
- “The butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker….” Individuals who you interact with that provide you with service such as your accountant, lawyer, insurance agent, banker, etc. or those with whom you regularly come in contact in the retail industry.
- Take inventory. Detail what each person does, who they do it for and how that can fit into your job searching efforts. If a person is of no foreseeable job searching value, keep their info anyway. It’s life. Change happens. And you never know.
- Assess the quality of your contacts. How? Set an over/under on the number of days someone takes/you expect them to take to get back to you. Prioritize communication accordingly (but don’t let anyone know where they’re ranked!).
- Create an online networking profile. Invite your contacts to view/join the network (e.g., LinkedIn).
- Join professional associations.
- Face the face. Or call the call. In other words, be in touch. Out of sight (or email inbox), out of mind. For example, send a short email or text to simply say hi and see how things are going or forward a news article, podcast, or online video you believe might be of interest.
- Be of service. When your communication is focused on what you can do for someone rather than what that person can do for you, you stand a much better chance of being remembered/respected. People are therefore more likely to want to help should you request it. For example, is there an opportunity for you to be a mentor?
- Management and maintenance. Stay in touch. Follow up when you say you will. Update your data with any changes. Be on the lookout for reasons to be of assistance because there’s no better way to convince people that knowing you is worthwhile than by demonstrating that it’s not all about you. Humility matters.