At times, searching for a job can seem harder than peaking Everest. Writing an exceptionally articulate cover letter, polishing your resume so that it demonstrates that you are the most outstanding employee in existence, and hoping when you click “submit” your resume actually reaches a human being can intimidate anyone.
Experts say we might be making it harder than it needs to be. Rather than spending hours searching through job openings, career experts say we should be spending that time networking. Yes, that ubiquitous act of connecting with fellow human beings can actually help us land a job—even without a cover letter.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Yale University report, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. A recent survey by CareerXroads shows that only 15 percent of positions were filled through job boards. The survey showed that most jobs are either filled internally or through referrals.
People do business primarily with people they know and like. Resumes and cover letters alone are often too impersonal to convince employers to hire you.
But, where do you begin? How can you make networking work for you?
Elizabeth Malatestinic, senior lecturer in Human Resource Management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, says networking takes effort.
“There are right ways and wrong ways to do it. Attending some huge networking event so that you can exchange business cards with strangers is generally a waste of your time, as is trying to build a LinkedIn network with important people you never met,” Malatestinic said.
“Start by getting involved in industry, or even alumni, organizations. Attend meetings and actually get to know people. The best network is built long before you need it, and the smartest way to build it is by doing things for others, not by asking for favors. Share articles that might interest your contacts, congratulate them when you hear of good things happening for them, and have coffee or lunch just to chat, not because you need something. Then, when you eventually do need information or a referral, they will be likely more than happy to reciprocate.”
Career experts suggest that job seekers use a variety of tactics when networking, such as meeting with past and present colleagues, attending professional association meetings, volunteering within the industry and meeting new people as often as possible.
Before you put on your name tag and start shaking hands, here are some tips to keep in mind as you tap into the power of networking.
Do you know what your ultimate career goal is? If not, networking will be a waste of time. You need to know where you want to be before you ask people to help you. If you don’t have a strong and current resume and cover letter, now is the time to develop them. Take some time to think about what would make you a good addition to any organization and prepare an informal “pitch” in your head that you can share with others. If you can’t articulate why you are hirable, how do you expect a member of your network to vouch for you?
Networking isn’t all about you and what you want. Don’t only connect with your network when you need something or are searching for a job. Build real relationships that provide trust, mutual support and benefit. Emailing or sending a quick note to your contacts throughout your career is a good way to maintain the relationship. When you ask for help, be prepared to return the favor.
When network contacts recommend you for a job, they are putting their reputation on the line. Thank them for their effort. Contacts also share industry and career advice. Those things take time. Let them know you appreciate their time and support. Bottom line, show your gratitude.
Tapping the hidden job market through networking may take more planning and effort than applying to job postings, but the results will be immeasurably more beneficial. Incorporating networking into your lifestyle will help you make valuable connections that can help you find a job, and so much more.
Here are Brown University’s Top 10 tips for networking etiquette:
- Respect the time of the people you’re networking with.
- Listen more than talk.
- Ask more than tell.
- Give more than ask.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Don’t mix networking, marketing, and selling.
- Finesse really pays off—don’t come on too strong.
- Make other people comfortable.
- Ask if this is a good time for a brief chat when following up.
Finally, always remember to thank people for their effort on your behalf!