Networking: The correct way to do it!

Aug 15, 2011

Time and time again you will hear it: the best way to get hired is by networking. Your resume must market your strengths, your social media presence must be compelling and perhaps, most of all, your interview must show an employer that you have exactly what is needed and are most compatible with the company mission.

Not only can it provide you with excellent job leads, but networking is the best way to bounce ideas off decision-makers in your field of choice. It’s believed that over half of all new hires found their jobs through some sort of networking activity, likely combined with traditional methods of job search.

Networking isn’t a request for employment, but a request for relevant information, advice or help from a decision-maker. One of the best uses for networking is to talk to people in a company you'd like to join. But it can also help you target many jobs that are usually hidden from view. That is, these jobs are in various stages of development and usually haven’t been communicated to the public. They are only accessible through the right people and are often created once a suitable candidate successfully networks with the decision-maker.

As the word implies, networking begins with meeting people. These people can be acquaintances, friends, family members, neighbors, ex-employers and so on. The best way to set up a meeting with a decision-maker is to frame it as an information session. People are normally willing to help as long as job seekers don't over-expect or repeatedly return for additional favors.

Listen 80% and talk 20% during a personal meeting. Certainly you should be interactive, but generally others would rather talk than listen. Listening builds trust and says, "I care about you." If you’re having trouble getting hired, try listening more!

Also, remember these tips when you’re attending networking events and you may not know anyone:

  • There is a time to talk about yourself. If asked to say a bit about yourself or why you attended or how someone can help, give a concise 30-second response –  not 30 minutes.
  • Walk in prepared. Know what you want! Never enter a meeting or event unprepared to explain who you are or what you want. Otherwise, you'll waste your time and your contact's time, and you'll look unprofessional. Show up unprepared too often and you will get the reputation for lacking focus.

In general, it's better to be subtle and indirect than to be blunt. "May I have the names of your colleagues?" This is far too direct and your contact could see a potential invasion of privacy. "Who should I be talking to?" is far less threatening and more likely to elicit information from which you can take action.

Janice Worthington, MA, CPRW, JCT, is the president of Worthington Career Services, a resume and job search consulting firm that provides strategic career coaching to professionals at all levels of the corporate ladder. Janice works with The Ohio Society as a career coach to the membership, providing regular columns in the Society’s electronic publications and on the Society’s website.