“It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”

This common saying holds true in many respects for job hunting, and it makes sense — most people would rather hire someone they know or someone whom a mutual acquaintance can vouch for. In fact, it’s how the majority of hiring occurs. And at a time when one job opening can yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 applicants, it does help to have your resume get moved toward the top of the pile. But where do you start? How do you effectively build your network?

Start with the basics.

If you have friends, family, co-workers and superiors, you’ve got the start of your network right there. Don’t be afraid to ask them to connect you with others in your preferred field … who better to introduce you than someone who knows you well both socially and professionally? And this isn’t you asking someone to get you a job; it’s simply making those connections and turning them into possible professional relationships. A good referral can go a long way.

Use social media.

It’s called social networking for good reason. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for the exact reason they came about – to connect with others. LinkedIn’s very design brings professionals together. So create a detailed profile, add those aforementioned friends, family, co-workers, and superiors to your network, and see whom they know and could “introduce” you to. Find groups within your geographical or professional area. Use Twitter to follow businesses and people you’d like to network with and create a presence by responding to their tweets or posting articles related to their industry. See who you know on Facebook who might have helpful business connections.

If you want to get something, it helps to give something.

Avoid networking with the sole purpose of using others to get you a job – see what you can do for them, too. Sometimes it’s as simple as creating an informational interview by reaching out to set up a coffee date (where you treat, of course) and telling the person that they work in a field you’re interested in getting into, and you’d love to hear about how they got into it. That way, it’s more of a conversation where you can offer to help them with something as well, whether it’s volunteering your expertise or connecting them with someone down the road. Give support to get it in return.

Check in.

Connections work best when they actually remember who you are. Meeting someone and then asking for a favor out of the blue won’t get you as far as if you maintain some sort of relationship with the person, reminding them that 1) you’re still out there, and 2) you’re available to help them as well. Figure out who in your network would be the most helpful and cultivate the relationship as best you can.

You may have the best qualifications around and a terrific work ethic, but sometimes you need someone else to help you find the position. Use your network to help you open doors; it’s then up to you to walk through. For help with networking strategies, visit PrideStaff.

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