Finding a job in today’s job market can be a daunting task. Whether you are a recent college graduate or a professional with years of experience in your field, you must understand that it is often all about ‘whom you know,’ and not about ‘what you know.’ According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. Most jobs being filled today aren’t even advertised. It is cheaper for employers to fill positions without advertising. Most managers feel that the best candidates are candidates that are found through referrals.
For many job seekers, networking can be very discouraging. Truth is, most job seekers don’t know how to network. Networking is about cultivating your personal and professional relationships. It is something that should be natural. Don’t feel pressured to think that networking has to be done 24/7. However, don’t assume that it is a one-time interaction either. Networking is not just walking up to someone and asking for a job, and it definitely is not just about handing out your business cards. It is about building relationships and keeping those relationships going.
Be strategic in your networking by setting goals. Make a list of people, events, and professional associates, and then work them into a timeline. Take advantage of possible connections that can be made through social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. If you are a recent college graduate or a professional in your field, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to members of alumni groups or professional organizations that you have found on LinkedIn. You can start off small by simply contacting three to four people per week. Don’t forget to follow up periodically and to keep track of whom you've contacted.
Informational interviewing is another good way to meet professionals, get career advice and expand your professional network. People love to talk about themselves. Interviews can be done virtually, over the phone, or in person. Informational interviewing also allows you to uncover information about the industry or organization that you are exploring. This process will also enable you to pick up some job seeking strategies. It is also good to identify potential mentors in your field. A mentor can be someone that you have personally known for years, a former coworker, manager or someone that you read about on LinkedIn. Use this process as an opportunity to give and receive information.
Networking in the hidden job market requires taking risks. Most people are afraid to reach out because they fear being viewed as a nuisance. As long as you are not harassing or stalking, reaching out for information is perfectly fine. As the saying goes, “a closed mouth never gets fed.” If you reach out to five people, and you only get one response, that is one more person that you can now add to your network. Understand that there will be people that will not respond to you, and that is okay. The truth is, most people want to help others, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Understand that it is not only important for you to build relationships with people in your field, but to also build relationships with people outside your field. In this day and age, you never know who knows whom. Talk to people regardless of their profession. Talk to your old professors, former or current coworkers, family, friends and acquaintances. Just start talking! Get the conversation going so others can keep you on their radar. When people in your network hear about opportunities, you want them to immediately think about you.
While you are having these conversations, don’t forget to build your personal brand in the process. Think about how you carry yourself and what your personal brand is. Think about what you want your message to be, and about what you want people to say about you. Consider your USP’s (unique selling points), and use them to create your pitch. Your pitch is your credible promise of value. It should be delivered in a way that discusses you. You should know your pitch naturally and be able to weave it into your conversations while you are networking. You want your pitch to describe who you are professionally and personally. Approach networking and tapping into the hidden job market as if you are marketing a product, and that product is you.