Let's Face It: Sometimes It's Who You Know
A Short Guide for Developing Your Network to Craft a
Successful Job Search
O'Connor Jones, Director of Candidate Services
It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of jobs are never
advertised. Many jobs are filled simply because someone
knows someone who knows the right person. In this fiercely
competitive job market, the more “someones” you know, the
more successful you will be.
It is better to be “over-connected” than to minimize your
networking efforts and, as such, your chances of being
tapped for one of the many positions still being filled
despite these tough economic times. That said, there are
many different types of networking; some are passive and
some are active, but the most important networking is the
strategic networking you do with a particular goal in mind.
Strategic networkers are thoughtful in their outreach,
marketing themselves to potential employers in appropriate
ways through contacts who can speak to their strengths and
successes. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert,
developing a personal networking strategy can make all the
The following guide will help you develop your personal
strategy for tapping your human resources as you launch your
Get organized and set goals. With the jobless rate at its highest in 14 years and an unemployment rate among
college-educated workers that has jumped 41% over the past
year, job seekers will need a system make the most of their
job seeking time. Draft a networking spreadsheet and
timeline to help you to stay organized and consistently make
progress in your job search. Set realistic goals along a
weekly timeline, such as “Contact five people I used to work
with,” “Research and register for a conference in my area of
expertise,” or “Update my Linked In profile.”
Access your current network. Many job seekers
underestimate the wealth of networking potential that can be
tapped through current and past colleagues, neighbors,
fellow volunteers, classmates, people who share your
religious affiliations, your friends at the bakery and even
the dog park. Begin the process of building your job search
network by brainstorming about and writing down all the
friends, colleagues, and contacts you have made over the
years. Let your list of contacts know you looking for a new
position and offer them a quick summary of what you hope
your next job will be. You should be able to answer their
questions about what job you want, when you want it, and how
much you are willing to accept for compensation. Given the
current economic pressures, you may also wish to consider
the possibility of relocation.
Create an expanded network. After you have reached
out to your close networks, it is time to begin networking
outside of your comfort zone. This means researching and
finding individuals who need to know about you even if they
don’t already. If you have been shy about networking with
new individuals because it makes you uncomfortable, take a
moment to reflect on what about the interaction is most
uncomfortable and why. While you may find it difficult to
pitch your personal story, remember that you are not alone
in your fear of networking and you will likely find folks
sympathetic to your discomfort. Find an opening line or an
ice breaker that helps you move past your anxiety and feel
more at ease with your new contact. Also, the careful
planning of your networking strategy and repetitiveness of
the conversations will help keep each new conversation in
perspective and ease your anxiety.
Be visible. Accept social invitations, continue your
memberships, and attend relevant industry meetings and
gatherings. Be aware of annual meetings and social
opportunities and don’t be afraid to attend because you are
no longer employed or are new to the sector. Attend and make
an effort to meet as many new people as possible to bolster
your networking. If you have colleagues or friends in
attendance, ask them to introduce you to new contacts. Ask
for the list of attendees, if possible, prior to an event
and identify who you would like to meet in advance. This
kind of outreach and strategic networking along with careful
follow-up with each new contact can make the difference in a
successful job search.
Use technology and online resources. In today’s
world, online resources are extraordinarily rich, and social
networking is an increasingly important tool in targeting
talent. There are thousands of nonprofit networking groups
and myriad blog postings related to finding and hiring
talented, mission-driven staff. Using it wisely as a
potential candidate is a skill that can exponentially expand
networking opportunities. Learn to Twitter, join Facebook
and LinkedIn, and explore other online resources such
listservs in your area of interest and expertise. Take note
of others who belong to these sites and listservs, and make
sure to reconnect with any familiar names or faces. When you
are researching online, look for job postings or personal
profiles that match your goals and tailor your networking
strategies to take advantage of their networks.
Maximize traditional resources. Despite the power of
new technology, it is important to not overlook traditional
tools. Remember to ask a trusted friend or colleague to
review your resume, talk with you about your networking
strategy, and help you define realistic professional goals.
This is especially important if you are transitioning into a
new field, such as moving to the nonprofit sector from the
for-profit world. Some questions you can ask yourself
include, “Are you using the right language for that
community?” and “Are you looking in the right places and
even networking with the right people?” A trusted colleague
from your chosen field can add enormous value in this area.
Volunteer or work part-time. Even if you have the
financial flexibility to remain idle while searching for
your next job, consider a visible volunteer, part-time, or
temporary position as an investment in your networking
strategy. There are temporary positions available in the
nonprofit sector and, while you may be overqualified for a
temp job, that position may present opportunities to you
that you would not have access to otherwise. Likewise,
volunteering or working part-time can be a powerful tool in
your networking. A smart networker will make the most of
every opportunity to prove what s/he do.
Keep moving forward. Networking requires an enormous
amount of time, patience, energy, and dedication and broad
networking is a series of exchanges designed around common
interests. It is an ongoing process and pushing yourself to
get out there – and keeping notes of who you meet, where you
have met them, and if you should follow-up with them – are
important skills to develop whether you are job seeking or
not. The rewards of an expansive network are plentiful:
access to expertise, knowledge, and, hopefully, job
opportunities within your area of interest.
A List of Do’s and Don’ts
Make a list of current
and past colleagues.
Reach out to everyone
without first being strategic.
Let all your contacts
know that you are job seeking (reintroduce yourself
if it’s been a while).
Send blind emails or
leave random voicemails.
Have business cards
Forget to hand new
business cards out when you meet new people (or old
Create a system to
track your contacts including dates of contact.
Lose track and
subsequently forget those you have contacted.
Explore listservs and
Sign up for any and all
listservs and job boards as this is neither strategic
invitations, continue memberships and associations.
Leave without at least
one new contact, have too many cocktails, or dance on
Become active in your
issue of choice. Volunteer or explore opportunities
to make a difference.
Join and volunteer for
any and all issue areas. You’ll be overextended and
unable to make a meaningful contribution.
Find a job buddy to
help renew your energy, rebuild your self-esteem,
and keep you focused.
Go it alone. Job
searching can be a long process and often lonely.
Set benchmarks for
success. Be realistic.
Set too many
Keep detailed notes.
Get confused and