Networking is one of the most effective ways to find the "hidden job market". The numbers vary depending upon who you ask, but if we take the low end estimates, more than half of all the available jobs are unadvertised. This means job seekers must go beyond static job searches, such as want ads and Internet job boards, and engage in a more dynamic job search. You need to get out there and meet the people who have the jobs, or who can point you in the direction of the jobs. This is what is commonly referred to as "networking". While this is a scary concept for some, it's not really as hard as it at first appears. Here are a few easy steps you can take, along with some things to avoid.
- Start by assessing your spheres of influence. Everybody knows somebody. What circles do you run in? Some examples of spheres of influence or networks are: current/former job, clubs/organizations (like Rotary, Kiwanis, Scouts, PTA), church/synagogue, family, friends, neighbors, and school. If you feel your spheres of influence are lacking, you can build new ones through volunteering your time and services to local organizations or causes, your kids' school, or your local politicians or political party.
- Now that you have identified where you know people, spend some time talking to these people. Let them know that you are looking for work, and what type of work you desire. This does not mean you should be asking people for jobs. You just want to let those you interact with know you are looking and available. Besides, not everyone is in a position to hire someone - but they might know someone who is. This is the exponential expansion of your network. Who is in their spheres of influence? Who do they know? Through them you get connected to a larger network.
- When someone offers you assistance, be appreciative, gracious, and professional. Even if that lead turns out to be wrong for you, if you make a favorable impression, your contact may refer you to someone else. Cultivate additional referrals by displaying your character, positive demeanor, and attitude of gratitude.
- Always send "thank you's" to anyone who has helped you in any way. A note, card, or letter will have a positive effect in more ways than one. First, it shows the person you appreciate their efforts, which usually makes them feel good. Second, it keeps your name fresh in the mind of potential decision-makers. And third, it may cause that person to want to do more - to keep their eyes open for other opportunities for you.
- It's helpful to have your own calling card. A simple business card with your name and contact information that you can hand to someone makes it easier for them to not only get in touch with you, but to remember who you are and that you are looking and available.
- Talk to everyone! You may meet that decision-maker in line at the supermarket, at the gas pump, or at the movies. You always have room in your network for more people.
- Arguably the most important thing you can do to develop and utilize your network effectively is to display a positive attitude. People gravitate towards, and are more willing to assist those who have a great outlook and optimistic mind-set.