Networking is sometimes considered to be a less than noble activity reserved for only the most desperate in their job search. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Networking is one of the most effective and efficient ways to find your first job.
The reality of the job market is that many positions are never advertised, are never actively recruited for, and are never made known outside of the organization. Yet these jobs continue to be filled. How? By referral of someone either internal or external. By the "who-do-you-know" method of job search. That is job search networking.
There are many more uses for networking than just "finding a job." Networking is an activity that takes place every day of our lives, whether job-related or not. Did you talk with someone at breakfast to review what might be on the upcoming exam? That's networking. Did you ask a librarian which reference materials would be the best in preparing a term paper? That's networking. Did you ask friends if they knew of anyone driving home for the weekend? That's networking.
Networking is already far more active in your life than you might have originally thought. The key to making it effective in your job search is to provide clear focus and direction. Following are several objectives to keep in mind when speaking with others about your job search:
To achieve your networking objectives, you need to consider each contact with another human being as a potential opportunity to further expand your network. You will come in contact with other people each and every day. How you integrate that contact into your job search network will greatly determine your potential for overall success in your job search. And there are hundreds of people out there who are ready and willing to help.
Let's understand some of the dynamics behind networking by looking at a practical case example:
Entry level hiring within most employers is usually planned a full eight to twelve months in advance of the actual start date. The first persons made aware of entry level hiring needs are the management team. Planning for entry level hiring is part of the annual strategic planning process, and the first step toward potentially filling the positions are internal recommendations from local management. The process goes to the next level when the company announces the potential hiring needs to the various local teams Then a request is made to corporate, each time seeking qualified candidates who may already be in the pipeline. If no potential candidates are identified for the positions, the jobs are included in the on-campus hiring process. And no, typically those positions are not advertised. Perhaps most importantly for you, college students who have tapped into the internal network often gain job offers before on-campus interviewing begins.
The key driver behind the internal referrals is an Employee Referral Program. Most employers pay a monetary bonus (often several thousand dollars) for employee referrals that are hired. Money is a very effective motivation to drive employee referrals. The "who-do-you-know" network is alive and functioning quite well in the employment marketplace.
Yet most college students do not consider themselves to be very well plugged in when it comes to networking. "After all, who do I know who can offer me a job?" Perhaps no one directly. But networking is not about your first-level contacts. The key to effective networking is "The Ripple Effect." Simply stated, The Ripple Effect is similar to what happens when you toss a stone into a pond. The first ripple is the largest ripple, but it is the second and third ripples that further widen the affected surface area. The more stones that break the surface, the greater the amount of the pond that is filled with your ripples. Moral to the story: if you want to make a ripple in the employment world, you are going to have to toss a few stones into the pond. Otherwise you probably may not even break the surface.
In building your job search network, you will need to develop a list of potential network contacts. Don't worry about whether they are personally responsible for hiring. It's not who you know, it's who they know.