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How to Navigate the Job Network You Didn’t Know You Had

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If you’re not tuned into the power of networking yet, it’s time to learn! An amazing 60 percent of jobs are found through networking. While that’s an encouraging statistic, if you’re new to networking or you haven’t found it fruitful, it can be time-consuming and daunting.

So take the hassle out of networking with these simple steps. This field guide will help you navigate your network and build new, meaningful connections with people who can help you meet your career goals.

Step 1: Before you reach out, do your homework

Set goals and expectations

Before you get started, it’s important to set goals and expectations for your networking efforts. What kind of job are you trying to land? What questions do you need answered? What kinds of professionals are you hoping to connect with? How can you make it easy for your connections to help you?

Be realistic. You should never expect to land a job from your networking efforts alone. Although it’s a great route to take, it’s highly unlikely your connections are going to simply hand you a job just because they know you.

Identify who’s who in your current network

The great thing about networking is that we all start with a foundation of people in our network. Your current connections are your starting place for your networking efforts. We’ve all had past positions and former coworkers, past educational experiences and former classmates, and even friends and family who may all be a stepping stone to someone else.

Get organized

Write down information pertaining to the people in your job network. Bust out an Excel database to keep track of what your current connections are doing and where they’ve been. Some things to note when creating your document:

  • Contact information: Do you even still have their number or email?
  • How you know them: If your list starts getting long, this column will help you keep track.
  • Past jobs: Are any of the companies they’ve worked for on your radar? Are there job openings at these companies?
  • Current position: Does their employer have any job openings that you’re interested in?

Not sure of some of the answers? Try using LinkedIn to see if these connections have completed profiles. If you’re friends with them on Facebook, you can also take a look at their employment history or reach out via direct message for more information.

Step 2: Expand your network

Clean up your online presence

Before you reach out to any new folks, please, please, please edit your social networking profiles. Google yourself. Edit or delete pictures if needed. Professionalize your online presence. This is the first look new connections are going to have into your “life”…so make it count!

Identify new contacts

This is where the meat of your networking efforts comes into play. Here are a few types of people you should be connecting with:

Insiders: People who are employed at a company you’d like to work for. Look back at the Excel list and start there, but definitely expand this list to meet your goals.

Industry professionals: These are industry professionals who are your past classmates or coworkers, are part of professional organizations, are active in other relevant areas or are thought leaders in your field. Try reaching out to them to see if they can connect you with anyone helpful.

Past coworkers: If you haven’t already connected with people from the Excel list you’ve created, it’s time to reach out.

Reach out to new contacts

Whether you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn or invite them to meet for coffee, always send personal emails and steer clear of mass mailings. Be respectful of their time and keep your communication concise and polite. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid explicitly asking for a job, especially if your email is the first time you two have “met.” Be respectful of their time.

Step 3: Keep up with your network connections

This is the most important part of your networking efforts. It’s exciting when you finally find some connections that move along your job search, but be sure to repay them by keeping in contact and being thankful.

The key is that you want to build a mutually beneficial relationship. This means you’ll help them out down the road, too, if needed! In the meantime, send a quick “hello” every now and again, share interesting industry research or articles or update them on your career progression.

What hangups do you have when networking? Feel free to ask your pressing networking questions in the comments below.

Sudy Bharadwaj is a co-founder and the CEO of Jackalope Jobs, a platform that helps job seekers find a job via their social networks. Learn how Sudy and Jackalope Jobs obsess over job seekers by connecting with them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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  • TinaRose

    Hi Brazen! There is a huge space on this blog post and you have to scroll all the way down to view the article. I would like to tweet out the later today :)

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  • Razwana

    Hi Sudy – great tips for someone who is just starting out. I see a lot of articles focusing on the value of networking, but few that actually explain the first steps!

    I would add that people like people who add value. Simply starting a relationship with the end goal of landing a job is not enough – adding value to the contact you have made is a great way to build a relationship.

    The way I have approached this is to meet the person (or via email/phone but this can be difficult) and understand more about them, their career history, their likes/dislikes/interests, etc. Then when you see/hear something that is relevant to them, communicate it to them.

    This could be a link to an event in their area, the name of a book, anything.

    But it *has* to be genuine,and not a sleazy ply for an outcome!

    - Razwana

    • http://twitter.com/Sudyb Sudy Bharadwaj

      Razwana — Thanks for your note. In general, networking should be strategic and well thought out, not just tactical. People should always try to add value to any relationship.

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