Despite the ever-growing dominance of the Internet, sitting behind a desk and submitting your résumé for openings you find online proves not to be the most effective job-search strategy. While applying to online postings may help you feel productive, it turns out that most jobs particularly exciting and highly sought-after jobs are never even posted.
As several studies have confirmed, the vast majority of candidates in fact land their next position through networking. Though widely used, the term means different things to different people, and often carries negative connotations. Some people are turned off by the image of someone working a room and consider it unseemly to use people they know to help them get a job. Others see it as a daunting task, and still others appear truly frightened by the prospect.
You may think that networking is inherently awkward and just not for you, or that youre perfectly happy in your current job, so why bother. Increasingly, however, to advance in almost any career, keeping your head down and doing good work is not enough. The ability to bring in new business proves to be the hallmark of success in a growing number of professions, and networking remains a prerequisite.
Whether you are contemplating an immediate move, it is in your interest to cultivate and maintain professional relationships. While each individual needs to develop a plan that works for him or her, below are some guidelines that can help you reach out and start networking.
Figure Out What Networking Means
Despite it being key to career advancement, most colleges and graduate schools (with the notable exception of MBA programs) do not teach students how to network. It is not always clear how to learn such skills once in the work force.
Reflecting what is traditionally understood to be standard practice, gatherings billed as networking events typically offer an opportunity to introduce yourself to strangers in a large venue. Very few professionals actually enjoy walking into a room full of people they do not know, handing out cards, indicating that theyre looking for a job, and working to create a good impression within a two- to three-minute conversation.
Luckily, networking encompasses broader alternatives. You can take advantage of numerous opportunities in your current job. Ask to accompany more senior professionals you know to client development meetings so you can see how they are conducted. Attend conferences and industry events on a regular basis to become more comfortable in work-related social interactions. Become involved in volunteer work and in professional associations, such as local committees or alumni groups. Each of these examples counts as networking, and you never know when a new position may fall into your lap as a result.
As part of a specific job search, the most targeted and potentially productive networking activity is typically informational interviewing. These types of interviews can take place on the phone, at an event, or over lunch or coffee, but should involve a one-on-one conversation that is scheduled in advance with a specific individual who has something in common with you and knows about your background.