Career experts estimate that the vast majority of job openings are never advertised or publicly announced, but filled through word-of-mouth or networking -- known as the "hidden job market." The likelihood of a job opening's not being advertised increases with the level of the job. Yet, even with this knowledge, most job-seekers fail to fully utilize networking for all it's worth.
Networking means developing a broad list of contacts -- people you've met through various social and business functions -- and using them to your advantage when you look for a job. People in your network may be able to give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network.
The best place to start developing your network is with your family, friends, and neighbors -- and with their family, friends, and neighbors, but don't stop there. Talk to co-workers, colleagues in your industry, and those you meet at industry gatherings, such as trade shows and conferences. Talk with former co-workers, bosses, and teachers.
The key to successful networking is deciding to put in the energy needed to make it work.
- First, you need to get organized (for example, keeping a business-card file or computer database).
- Second, you need to stay in contact (for example, through regular phone calls, email, and holiday greetings).
- Third, you need to set goals for yourself (such as 5 new contacts per week).
The Steps to Successful Career Networking:
- Develop a firm grasp of job-search basics. A good place to start is to review the Domino Effect.
- Conduct a self-assessment. An honest review of your strengths and weaknesses is vital. A good place to start is with the one of our career tests and quizzes. Make some decisions relating to the types of jobs you want and the types of companies and industries that interest you. Unsure? Examine some of these career exploration tools. You should also have a firm grasp on your accomplishments and transferrable skills.
- Prepare a strong resume. If you don't already have a resume, now is the time to develop one. If you have a resume -- even a current one -- now is the time to update and polish. You can visit these pages to get information on how to choose the perfect resume template as well as how to use resume examples to create resumes.
- Decide how to organize your network. This step is crucial to your success. If you have ongoing access to a computer, the best method is a database or spreadsheet where you can enter key information, such as names, titles, company names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and dates of communication. Keeping an organized collection of business cards, where you can write notes and comments about your network, is another alternative.
- Communicate with your network. It is extremely important to stay in touch with your network, which you can easily do by phone, mail, or email. Don't be afraid to ask for their help. Most people like helping others, and you must communicate your current needs with your network so they can help you.
- Initiate informational interviews. One of the best ways to gain more information about an occupation or industry -- and to build a network of contacts in that field -- is to talk with people who are currently working in the field. The purpose of the informational interview is to obtain information, not to get a job. For everything you ever wanted to know about this type of interviewing, go to Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
- Follow up with your network. The key is keeping your network informed of your situation and thanking them for their efforts. Never take your network for granted.
The final step? Find all the best networking resources -- both on and off the Web -- at LiveCareer's The Art of Networking.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.