It has been estimated that about 80% of jobs are filled without ever being posted. Even jobs that are posted are often filled by people who have been recommended for the position by someone inside the company. In fact, many companies have begun encouraging employee-referrals by paying a commission to employees for recommending candidates who are eventually hired. This unadvertised source of jobs is referred to as the “hidden job market.” In order to access it, you need to engage in the activity of “networking.”
What is networking?
Broadly defined, it is the cultivation and use of personal and professional contacts to share information relevant to one’s professional success. It can take many forms. In the context of a job search, networking can result in leads about present or future job openings or recommendations for specific positions. When the networking tool of informational interviewing is used, it can yield important information about potential career paths and pitfalls, industry changes, new job search strategies and resources, as well as referrals to other contacts. Many people have some hesitation about the use of networking. They may feel that it makes them look weak or that they may be seen as attempting to “use” their friends and acquaintances. In fact, when networking is conducted appropriately, the opposite is true. Remember that networking is a relationship of mutual assistance, of both sides helping each other. While you may be the job seeker now, before too long you may be in a position to help those who assisted you or others who are just starting out.
Networking is not just a job search technique but a tool for professional development. As you progress through your career, you will want to continually maintain and nurture your professional contacts. Although networking can feel awkward when one is starting out, it becomes easier with time and is an important habit to develop.
Steps for Successful Networking
- Create a Business Card
You will want to have a supply of business cards to hand to your contacts so they will be able to remember you and contact you easily in the future. Business cards can be created very economically on a personal computer or through a service provider, such as, Office Depot. At vistaprint, you can receive 250 free business cards (pay only shipping cost). The format can be simple-providing your name, phone, email, degree and, perhaps, your field (for example, “Human Resources Generalist” or some descriptive words about your skills. You might also want to create a specialized logo for yourself, particularly if you are in a creative field, such as marketing.
- Create a Professional Message for Your Telephone Answering Service
Check the message on your telephone answering service to make sure it has a professional tone. Re-record it if necessary. Your telephone message may be the first impression of you that employers and your networking contacts will receive when they call you, so make sure it is a positive one!
- Create and Practice a 30-second Self-Introduction
In order to network, you will need to be able to introduce yourself and, within a few seconds, provide a brief description of your background, skills and objectives. With some practice, you will become very comfortable with this task. To prepare, you can write out an introduction for yourself, using this basic format:
My name is ________. In (date), I will be graduating from Dominican University of California with a degree in______.
I have a background (experience and/or education) in and special expertise in_________. I am looking for a position as a __________ in the industry where I can focus on using my skills in_________.
This basic format sets the stage for more extended discussion, depending on circumstances and available time. The next step is to make a request for assistance. Here are some possible approaches:
- Do you know anyone who works in this industry (field) that I might be able to speak to?
- Do you think your company might have any openings that would match my qualifications?
- Would you be willing to pass my resume on or recommend me to the hiring manager?
You may want to practice your self-introduction with friends or family or even record it and play it back to see how it sounds.
- Sign up for linkedin. You can find many people with whom to network with on here by joining groups, finding past contacts, and job listings are paid for, so they are likely to be quality postings. Read about these tips for networking on linkedin.
- Get Started
When you are comfortable with your self-introduction, it’s time to begin using it! You may want to first approach people you feel are “low risk” while you are developing your networking skills. Some prefer to begin by seeking out friends and relatives, while others feel more comfortable doing their initial networking with strangers. No matter what approach you take, remember that it gets easier with practice!
Here is a list of possible sources of networking: professors, classmates, friends, acquaintances, relatives, neighbors, shopkeepers, and service people organizations can also provide a rich source of contacts. Here are some possibilities: graduate and undergraduate alumni offices and organizations, professional and trade organizations and conferences, religious organizations, Chambers of Commerce*, volunteer organizations, school clubs, speaking clubs and honor societies.
*The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce sponsors a Job Forum on Wednesday evenings where job seekers can come to network and gain advice about their job search (go to thejobforum for more information).
Some people find that trade and professional organizations and conferences provide a comfortable networking forum since networking is often promoted as a reason for joining the organization. We highly recommend that you join and become active in the appropriate professional organization for your field now! Student or new graduate discounted rates are often offered by these organizations. Plan on attending their conferences and local meetings. Consult your professors or department chair for advice on which organizations to join.
- Grow and Maintain Your Network
Develop a system for tracking and maintaining contact with your network. Some people successfully use an e-mail list-serve to send periodic messages to their network to keep them advised of their situation (make sure you are using blind copies so that the privacy of each person in your network is maintained). Others calendar themselves to send a note or make a call on a regular basis (from 1 to 6 months). Others may use a combination of the two systems. But, by all means, when you do land a job, spread the good news to your network!
- Informational Interviewing as a Networking Tool
Informational Interviewing is a useful tool for networking. It is a technique of arranging a time to talk with contacts to learn about their career path, view of the industry, likes and dislikes about the field, as well as obtain job search suggestions, and other contacts to speak with. Since this form of networking is informational only, the candidate does not ask about job openings. Nevertheless, a contact is often happy to be updated about the candidate's job search progress and is a potential source of later referrals. You can find more information on informational interviewing and additional books on networking and informational interviewing are available in the Career Services offices.
- Networking with Alumni and Other Professionals Online
Alumni are a wonderful source of networking contacts. Dominican University's Alumni Connections is a resource to search alumni in various career fields. You many also contact the Alumni Relations office.