Why Networking Should Be a Top Priority When You’re on the Job Market
Even if you think networking just "isn’t your thing," you can’t deny the power it holds to help you land the job you want.
In one LinkedIn survey, roughly 70% percent of respondents (from more than 15,000 users) admitted they were hired at a company where they had at least one connection. Another survey found 85% of respondents claimed their job was a direct result of networking. According to this article, that number is more like 60%, but it also says “networking is one of the most important ways to find a new job.”
If you’re currently on the job market or thinking about looking for a new job soon, you should do more than update your resume and draft a new cover letter. Here few of the most important professional networking activities you should make time for when you’re hitting the job market:
Make genuine connections
The primary goal of professional networking isn’t to grow your social group or make new friends but instead to advance your professional goals. However, that doesn’t mean that your interactions when networking -- either in person, online, or over the phone -- should be purely self-serving. By making genuine connections with other professionals in your field or a related field, you forge long-term relationships that will be beneficially both professionally and personally.
Oftentimes we tend to forget the people we meet at networking events soon after we meet them. Months later you may find a random business card floating at the bottom of your bag, and you're reminded of an amazing conversation you had with what’s-her-name, although you can’t quite recall the details. Prevent your new contacts from falling into the post-networking-event abyss by setting aside 15 or 20 minutes after each event to send a very short message (even one or two lines is fine) saying how nice it was to meet them and suggesting a way to connect in the future.
Network outside the box
Networking doesn’t only occur at happy hours or events designed specifically “professional networking.” In fact, attending events held for the explicit goal of facilitating networking can sometimes feel forced or disingenuous. Instead, think about all of the places where you can make authentic, organic connections. This could mean volunteering in your community, offering to sit on boards or committees in organizations related to your industry, or attending professional conferences and trade shows in your field. Even participating in activities or hobbies you enjoy can put you in contact with interesting people who similar professional interests.
Whether that means being prepared to talk about your field, current job, research, or area of specialization, you should be able to accurately sum up in two or three minutes what you do and some of your highest-level goals. Some call this an “elevator pitch,” and while you don’t always need to be that formal in a spontaneous conversation, you should be able to quickly present what you’re working on to a new contact in a way that’s engaging, that makes them want to know more, and that (when you know enough to do this) sets up the potential for how you might collaborate.
Don’t be afraid to initiate
If you’re preparing to go or already on the job market, don’t be shy about reaching out to your connections, even if you have only met them once or are purely “online friends,” and letting them know what your goals or plans are. You never know where opportunities lie, and reaching out to say a friendly hello and ask for a quick word of advice is almost always appropriate.