Your informal network include friends, family and others you already know.
As you consider a job search, think about the network you already have: friends, neighbors, colleagues, people in your bowling league, dance class, church, gym, or kids’ school, people you went to school with or meet up with every week at the dog park. You probably—like 80 percent of everyone online—already use an online social networking site such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr to stay connected to friends and family near and far.
Let people know you’re looking for work, and ask for job leads and advice about the industry. Post on Facebook, send e-mails, call or text, and mention it casually to your workout buddy. People can’t help you if they don’t know you’re looking. You may be surprised at who offers to help, or who they can introduce you to. Ask for referrals and introductions. Remember, your friends know friends. So tapping your friends’ networks grows your network exponentially.
Consider this example:
Let’s use a multiplication rate of five. In this example you know five people within your network who could help you with your job search. Each of them know five additional people who could help, and each of them know five . . . etc. At that rate, there would be only four degrees of separation between you and 625 people who could potentially help you find the job of your dreams. Now that’s the power of networking!
Here are some tips to make your outreach successful:
Be specific about the position you are looking for or field you want to get into. The better the information, the more people can help.
- Have your “elevator pitch” ready. What is that? It’s a short (less than 1-minute), plain-English summary of your background, qualifications, what you’re looking for, and how you can add value as an employee.
- Make sure that any networking letters you write are brief, with perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Remember: networking is a two-way street. Don’t bring every conversation back to your job search. No one wants to feel like they’re being used. Someone will recommend you if they know and trust you. Listen, help them solve problems when you can, and enjoy each other’s company.
- If you don’t know where to begin, set a quota of calls or e-mails to make each week. Tell yourself you will take one person out for coffee each week for an informational interview (to learn more about their job or company or how they found work). It will get easier. If you get discouraged, remember: it only takes one break to land that dream job.
- Say thank you when anyone helps you. Send a thank you note. Treat a mentor to lunch or coffee. If a friend introduces you to someone, let him know how the meeting went. You want people who help to feel good about it, so they’re willing to do it again and the relationship stays strong.
Take advantage of every introduction. Even if it doesn’t lead to a job, you might have an opportunity to learn more about a company, or skills needed in the field, or future growth prospects in the industry. And you’ve grown your network!
Overcome a fear of networking
If you’re shy or feel socially awkward or just sweat at the thought of trying to make an immediate good impression on a room full of strangers, don’t let that stand in your way. Try some of these strategies:
- Arrive early, so there are fewer people and groups to approach.
- Bring a friend to walk the room with you.
- Volunteer for the event, so you’ll have a reason to chat while you’re setting up booths or running the registration table
- Introduce yourself to someone else standing alone or who looks uncomfortable.
- Take some of the pressure off. Tell yourself you’ll stay for 30 minutes, or make 3 good connections, or talk to five people wearing black, and then you can leave.
- Make it more fun by challenging a friend. The person with the least business cards buys coffee afterwards!
Remind yourself that your weakness may also be a strength. Many introverts excel at listening and in one-on-one settings, which will help you make the connections you seek.