Developing your network
It is estimated that in this current market, a majority of jobs that are filled are done so via the hidden job market, that is “word of mouth”. The major advantage of penetrating the hidden job market is that your competition is dramatically reduced. Unlike through advertised positions, people who source jobs via their network or direct approach do not have to compete with large fields of applicants. Therefore, building a network that you can tap into when it’s time for your job search is highly beneficial.
A network will act as your eyes and ears out in the job market, people who may be able to uncover a job opportunity for you. This can include:
Colleagues in your past organisation
Colleagues who have moved to another organisation
Staff who have worked for you
Friends who work in other organisations
People you know socially who might know what is going on in particular companies
Once you have built your network, how do you ensure you’re getting the most out of it? The purpose of networking is to gain maximum amount of exposure and to be remembered. Try to get information about target industries or companies, actual job openings, and employment trends that you’re interested in. Remember to develop rapport (chemistry) and obtain the names of other relevant people you can meet to establish new, beneficial “connections”.
You may wonder if people will take time away from their busy schedules to talk with you. They will because you have been referred to them by someone they know. Also meeting with you helps keep them informed, up-to-date, and well-connected and experts love to share their expertise (provided you don’t ask for job leads or other things they are not in a position to give you).
Use a networking meeting to share information and make new connections, not to sell yourself to an employer. Be prepared to listen, ask questions and to show interest in the other person. Be very careful to respect the time of the person you are meeting. Successful information meetings can be done in 30 minutes or less. (This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut short a meeting that is going well but you should make sure that you don’t inadvertently run on too long.) You can have copies of your resume with you, but don’t start the meeting by showing your resume. Even the best resume is a poor substitute for your own words about your interest, skills and background. Finally, dress well – although these meetings can be “informal,” you want to be remembered for your professional image!