Paul Sylvestre's Business Strategy and Marketing Blog

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Network Your Way to That Dream Job

According to a recent article by Forbes.com, some have estimated that only about 30% of all job openings are posted on Web sites or advertised in professional journals and newspapers. Katharine Hansen, author of A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market pegs the figure at 5% to 15%. The balance, including many top jobs, is a vein of gold waiting to be mined by those skilled at networking.

It makes sense. Hiring is always a roll of the dice, but an employer can tilt the odds in their favor by interviewing people recommended by trusted friends or associates. Get to know people in your field and allow them to know you. Make your interests, experience and talents known.

Networking takes time to develop. The more time you devote to it, the sharper your skills will become. You'll also build a larger and more effective network. Your efforts will quickly translate into greater access to what many call the "hidden job market," in which the best jobs aren't advertised, but are known to a select group of people in the field.

Just about anyone can become a contact: Friends, friends of friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, a former boss--and even profs from your old school. Don't forget interest groups in your field or even activities that attract engaging people with professional interests like yours. The key is to establish and nurture key contacts, before you need them. And even after developing your network and finding that dream job, follow-up is critical. You must keep contacting members of your network regularly, or those contacts you worked hard to develop will just fade away.

"The biggest mistake is to simply go around asking people for a job instead of establishing relationships and asking for advice," Hansen says. "It's also important to remember that networking is a two-way street. The quid pro quo is important. The person networking should always offer to help his or her contacts or supply needed information whenever possible."

The basic techniques are the same for all job levels. The only thing that changes is where you make contacts. Here are 7 suggested Tips from Forbes.com on building and leveraging your network to get that dream job you're after.
  1. Define the Field: Make a list of possible contacts. Rank them in order of their ability to help you. Ignore those who can't help in the current job search.
  2. Build A File: Keep a list of all the people you've called or met, including phone numbers and e-mail addresses. When you meet, always exchange business cards.
  3. Make Your Pitch: When calling someone, get to the point quickly. State your name, your goal and mention the name of the person who referred you. People are busy so keep your conversations short.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: If you're learning or polishing networking techniques, practice your pitch on your cat. The fur-ball is likely to yawn, but you will sharpen your skills. Frame your pitch this way: This is what I can do for you based on my experience and educational background.
  5. Return The Favor: Remember that the flow of information has to go both ways for networking to be successful. If you know something that may help others, pass it on--especially to those who are in a position to help you. Even if nothing hits, you've built goodwill by sharing the info.
  6. Say Thanks: If someone, especially a stranger, goes out of his way to help you, follow up with a thank-you note. It's the polite thing to do and saying thanks in writing will create a lasting impression.
  7. Stay In Touch: Even if nothing develops immediately, stay in touch and continue to pass on information to others. Keep the circuits lit and the necessary tip that will point you to your next job will eventually flow your way.