It's more than the "good old boy system"

Finding a job can be a difficult task, but networking is something anyone can do. All it takes is having friends, contacts and solid interpersonal skills.

Your contacts and acquaintances may be one of the most effective ways to find a job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "Occupational Outlook Handbook." They can lead you to other contacts or job openings that are not publicly posted.

The article "The Secret of Successful Networking," by Joanne Reid, states that people sometimes get the wrong idea about networking. They think it's a concept of calling up people they know and asking about opportunities that may exist in that person's company.

Reid suggests taking it a step further. Make a list of people you know who have jobs in your line of work or a related field. Then sit down and call each person on the list and ask if you can meet briefly (perhaps for coffee). Keep your meetings light, but try to get the names of three contacts. Once you wrap up these meetings, move on to calling the contacts you've gathered and talking to them. This will allow your name to get spread around.

The book "Network Your Way to Your Next Job," by Clyde C. Lowstuter and David P. Robertson, states that there are three steps to effective networking, whether by phone or in person.

You should inform people of your status: "My company has downsized," or "I'm looking for a position that offers me more growth." Be direct about your reason for speaking with your contact.

Secondly, ask for help. This may be the hardest part. When talking with personal contacts, you can ask for names of people at organizations that may be able to help you, or for information about specific opportunities.

Finally, once you're done with your conversation, remember to follow up by sending your resume, in case the contact has additional questions or leads.

Here are a handful of networking tips from the book "Networking for Everyone!" by L. Michelle Tuller.
  • Always be specific about what you need.
  • Know your strengths.
  • Network even when you think you don't need to.
  • Don't wait for people to come to you. Be proactive.
  • Be more persistent than you think you need to be.
  • Don't internalize rejection.
  • Don't speak negatively about anyone.
  • Be friendly and down to earth.
  • Be helpful to others even if there's no obvious direct benefit to you.
  • Stay in touch with people.
  • Never leave home without business cards (or resumes).
  • Occasionally call people just to say hello.
  • Get known as an information clearinghouse, and thus a valuable resource for others.
  • Sit next to strangers at events, not alone or just with people you know.
  • Focus on names when you meet people.
  • Learn and follow basic rules of business and social etiquette.
  • Don't be afraid to ask others for help.
  • Keep your goals in sight.
  • Take a break occasionally; don't get overexposed.
  • Keep a positive attitude.
Sources: "Networking for Everyone!" by L. Michelle Tuller; "The Secret of Successful Networking" by Joanne Reid; Bureau of Labor Statistics "Occupational Outlook Handbook;" "Network Your Way to Your Next Job," by Clyde C. Lowstuter and David P. Robertson.



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