The vast majority of positions (up to 80%, by some estimates) are filled through networking. Yet for many of us, the only times we pay meaningful, sustained attention to our networks is when we need something. Work, the day-to-day demands of being a homeowner or a parent, and a host of other issues can get in the way.
This is a problem for two reasons. First, nobody wants to hear from a friend only when they need something—I know that I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, and I bet I’m not alone. But second, when we find ourselves in job search, the lines of communication are often cold and it takes time to warm them up again.
No, to be good at networking, it has to be an ongoing process at all times: you get out of it what you put into it. When things are going well, you are positioned to sow the seeds you can later reap when things are not going so well.
Incidentally: I find it useful when meeting with people to have a business card. I may currently be unemployed but I do still have contact details I want to share with the people in a professional manner. I have had good results with VistaPrint, who charges only shipping—provided you let them print their logo on the back of your cards.
I attend a networking group which meets weekly, and a common question there is how to go about networking. Three good pointers I encountered include:
• Professional networking sites like LinkedIn, discussion forums or blogging sites.
• Networking groups, such as The Breakfast Club or Job Seekers or like found on Meetup.
• The classic: lunch with a friend of a friend. In the internet age, don’t forget the classics.
And in closing, a word about outplacement services: several years ago as part of my severance, an employer paid for 3 months of outplacement. These are services which help you find your next job. I found the discipline of getting out of my home was itself helpful in my search. It was also extremely valuable…as a networking opportunity.
At the end of the day: networking helps you to stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.