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Networking without Strangers

A mistake that many career experts often fall into is talking about networking like it’s the easiest thing in the world. “Need a job? Just introduce yourself to complete strangers and ask them to hire you!” It’s important to realize that for many jobseekers, networking is a bit more intimidating. One doesn’t have to be a complete introvert to find the concept of networking scary. For starters, there’s that whole “introducing yourself to complete strangers” thing. There’s also the sense of imbalance that many jobseekers feel — as if they’re asking people for help without offering anything in return.

First, the bad news — if a jobseeker finds meeting new people difficult, it probably won’t ever get easier. But here’s some good news — contacting and meeting strangers is not really what networking is. The most effective type of networking for landing a job is targeted networking. This means helping jobseekers recognize and use the connections they already have to find new job opportunities.

So how do you help jobseekers do this? A great starting point is advising them to e-mail family, friends, and anyone they may know — or who may know someone else — in their chosen field. Personalized e-mails are more effective; a mass e-mail with many recipients is almost guaranteed to be ignored. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are great resources for letting a large number of people in the jobseeker’s circle know that he or she is looking.

Jobseekers may find people in their networks who are involved in their prospective career fields but do not know of any current job opportunities. In this case, suggest that a jobseeker ask for that person’s help with setting up an informational interview with someone who currently has the position they want. An informational interview lets the jobseeker learn more about the daily ins and outs of the job, and broadens his or her network to include people already working in the field. Even if this person’s company isn’t hiring, he or she may know of other companies that are looking to hire.

Using a jobseeker’s personal network in conjunction with Job & Career Accelerator’s job search engine is another powerful avenue for landing a job. Jobseekers can use Job & Career Accelerator to target specific job opportunities and, prior to applying, contact their personal networks for references or extended contacts in the targeted company. After first setting up an informational interview with a key contact, any further communications can be directed to that person instead of a nonspecific “to whom it may concern,” and the applicant’s cover letter and resume are less likely to get lost in the fray. Plus, the details gleaned from an informational interview can help a jobseeker create more specific, effective cover letters and resumes. Remind jobseekers to always send thank you e-mails to anyone who grants them an interview, and to keep new contacts updated on the progress of their job hunt, in case new connections or opportunities materialize in the future.

Once the ball is rolling, jobseekers just have to keep in touch with the people they’ve met and see where the new connections lead!

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