July 31, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Finding a New Job Is a Matter of Networking

When identifying contacts that have the potential to help you with your career, it is important to cast a broad net. Truly, the neighbor of a friend of a friend’s cousin can make the introduction that leads to your next job.

While many job seekers say they have no contacts, that hardly ever proves to be the case. In addition to social-networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, valuable sources of contacts and information can include family, friends and neighbors; former colleagues and their friends; fellow alumni of your college or graduate school alma mater; acquaintances with whom you share an interest, such as a book club, soccer league or volunteer committee; and parents at your children’s schools.

The more comfortable you become in informational interviews, the more you typically get out of them. Since these conversations become easier the more you have them, it makes sense to start with people you know fairly well who are your peers or more junior. Even if you have connections that will get you in the door of a high-level decision-maker, save that contact until you have gathered information to concisely articulate what you bring to the table and why a position or type of work is a good fit.

Prepare Knowledgeable Questions and Don’t Ask for a Job

Though busy, most professionals are happy to talk about what they do and to share their perspective on their field. Almost everyone is far more comfortable sharing information than being asked for a job. So long as the meeting goes well, if they know of an opening, they’re going to mention it before the end of the conversation.

For an informational interview to be successful, the person has to consider it a good use of his or her time. You need to prepare questions in advance that show you have researched the market — don’t ask anything you could answer on the Internet — and are aware of relevant issues. Your questions can be broader than those you would ask in a job interview but still need to demonstrate how you can add value to the field. Take the opportunity to verify things you’ve learned from others or seen in your own experience.

At the end of any informational conversation, the most important question to remember is always: “Thank you so much for your time. Is there anyone else you might suggest I speak with to learn more about this type of work?”

Articulate What You’re Looking for and Why

Doing your homework is important. But, such preparation is not sufficient for someone to help you get a job, much less to hire you.

The beauty of informational interviewing is that you both get your name out there and you gather information to decide whether it’s something you want to pursue. When done properly, networking provides an incredibly valuable opportunity to learn about the range of professional roles accessible to someone with your background.

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