You’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” in terms of getting ahead just about anywhere. Some people may scoff at this: If a place doesn’t hire you because of your credentials and hard work, and hires instead on who you know, what sort of dynamic does that create? But when trying to find a job, you should use all possible tools at your disposal – and networking remains one of the most valuable.
Networking doesn’t necessarily mean a company hires the boss’ nephew over a more qualified candidate; it has to do with putting together a group of people who know you professionally and can vouch for your skill set and work ethic. It also has to do with connecting with professionals who have similar interests and can help you meet others in your field. Consider this: The professional networking site LinkedIn went from a fledgling company in 2003 with 1186 members to having 300,000,000 members as of May 2014, with people all over the world using it to make connections. Another number to consider: Up to 80 percent of today’s jobs are landed through networking. When one job opening receives anywhere from 20 to 300 resumes, it helps to have someone separate your resume from the pile.
A few ways to network:
As stated above, a site such as LinkedIn can be invaluable for making connections. It’s not just about collecting contacts, either — look for groups to join on the site that focus on alumni networking, your chosen industry, or local business partnerships. Even without a prime membership you can see who you’re connected to on a “2nd” level (meaning you have a connection in common) and ask your mutual connection to introduce you. Follow the Twitter site of a company where you want to work and respond to their tweets or retweet them. See what groups online allow you to “Introduce yourself” and reach out to others that way.
Local Networking Events
If you look around in your field or a field you want to work in, many places will have job fairs or social events, often even free or for a small fee. Use your newspaper, LinkedIn groups, websites for local industry news, local business partnerships, or industry-themed clubs that host gatherings. You get the chance to meet others face-to-face, making a lasting (and positive) impression and having plenty of business cards to pass along. A networking happy hour, for example, gives you the chance to meet with others and talk a combination of business and pleasure, and you never know what key contact you may make that will come up later.
Does your high school or college have an alumni network? Make sure to use it. When you get the newsletter, look through it to see what networking events they have — often colleges will have Young Alumni or career-themed events where you can meet other alumni who may help give you a hand in terms of advice or connecting you with someone who may help you later on. The same goes for professional associations such as a Lions Club or one based on your chosen industry — and many of those have national memberships that can help you all over the country.
These are just a few ways to network. A networking connection may help you get your foot in the door, but it’s up to you as to whether you get to step through. Your job performance and the way you conduct your professional relationships will make networking successful for you.