Networking is a valuable work search tool and an effective way to access the hidden job market—the 70 to 80% of jobs that are not advertised.
Many employers prefer to hire people they know or have heard about through current employees, clients, colleagues, and friends—in other words, by networking.
When you network, you increase your chances of connecting with a potential employer. Your network is the people you know and the people they know. You can use online networking, from social media to Google searches, to access contacts, information, employers, and work opportunities you might not hear about otherwise.
If you’re currently employed, avoid networking for your work search while you’re on the job, even when you’re on a break. It’s inappropriate and unfair to your current employer, and it will make a negative impression on any potential employer you contact.
Network online and offline
Networking online hasn’t replaced traditional forms of networking. While networking online is similar to offline networking, there are differences. Here are some things to consider:
- When networking online, be sure that you know how to protect your security and privacy.
- Online communication is often casual—for example, text messages and emails to friends. However, when you network online for business purposes, keep your networking correspondence business-like, short, and not too personal.
- Networking online lets you cast a wide net and then choose the work-related contacts you want to continue with. You may have to connect with a number of people before you find strong networking partners.
- Always thank your business networking contacts, both online and offline, who help you. It is appropriate to send an email to say thank you to an online contact.
- Networking is a two-way street. Be ready and willing to assist the people in your network.
Use email to network
You can easily reach any number of friends, relatives, and acquaintances using email. Set up email lists. Send your work search updates and requests to everyone in your network or to specific groups.
It’s okay to email potential employers or contacts in your industry or occupation, as long as their email addresses are public or posted on a discussion group or website. Here’s how:
- Do some research. Visit the organization’s website to find out about the person and the organization.
- In your first email contact, explain how you located or identified the person and what you have in common.
- Be specific about your reason for contacting them—for example, to request an information interview or advice about your occupation or your work search tools.
- Be professional. Email may seem like casual communication, but you are conducting business. Use a tone somewhere between a business letter and a business phone call. Do not use text-message language, online acronyms (such as TTFN or LOL), emoticons (typed symbols such as smiley faces), or emojis (small images inserted into text).
- Make sure the subject line of your email shows that your message is legitimate and not junk mail.
- Learn how to set up a work search email account if you don't have one yet.
Use social networking websites
Social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter are free online services. Although these websites were not created for business purposes, you can use them to search for work. You create a profile that functions like a home page to connect with people you know and the people in their networks.
Follow these suggestions:
- Use privacy settings to control who has access to specific areas of your profile.
- Be sure the words and images you post present you in a positive way if they can be accessed by potential business contacts or employers. Even if you do not use a social networking website for work search, potential employers may visit your profile as part of their candidate screening process.
- If you’re employed, ensure your work search stays confidential. When networking online, ask your contacts only for general information about their occupation, industry or company rather than asking directly for job leads.
- Join groups on the website that reflect your work-related interests.
- In order to attract searches to your profile, use website features that support your work search, such as using keywords to describe your skills.
Use professional networking websites
Professional networking websites such as LinkedIn are similar to social networking websites, but the focus is on business. You create a profile on the website that functions like an expanded resumé.
When you invite your contacts to join the service or connect with you, you gain the opportunity to connect with their contacts as well.
To use a professional networking website for work search, try these suggestions:
- Include information on your profile that will help you connect widely, for example, with past employers and the university or college you attended.
- Allow your profile to be widely accessed.
- As with social networking websites, if you’re currently employed, don’t ask your network directly for job leads. Instead, ask general questions about occupations, industries and organizations.
- Use services offered by the website that increase your visibility and connections, such as question and answer groups or applications that allow you to check job postings against your network, to see if you have any contacts in companies posting the jobs.
Join organizations in your field
Many industry, alumni, and professional associations and some unions offer networking services to their members through their websites. Even as a non-member, you may be able to access an organization’s online newsletter to identify potential contacts and opportunities. Find out how to research industry associations, professional associations, and unions.
Following blogs, news groups, discussion groups, and listservs
Many people and organizations use blogs, mini-blogs such as Twitter, listservs, and news or discussion groups to present information, ideas, and opinions. Those connected to business, career, or work search can be useful for networking.
Through a variety of technologies, these formats let you follow and participate in a discussion. This process connects you with group members and networking opportunities.
To participate, follow these suggestions:
- Get a feel for the blog or group and what others are saying before you contribute.
- Understand and follow the group’s online rules by checking the group’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) page or asking the online moderator.
- Always be courteous in your postings.
- Stay on topic.
Network online for work search success
Networking is an essential part of work search. The Internet opens up many new and potentially powerful ways to connect with and expand your network.
Whether you’re networking online or off, it’s always important to be professional. And like traditional networking, online networking works best when you give, as well as receive. Offer advice, information, and connections to the people in your network and they’ll do the same for you.