By Miriam Salpeter
It’s tough out there for job seekers. While there are jobs available, it is more and more difficult for employers to connect with the right employees, and vice versa. In a recent TIME Business article, “Why the Job Search is Like Throwing Paper Airplanes into the Galaxy,” Jerry Crispin, principal and co-founder of CareerXroads, a technology and staffing consulting firm, cited surveys to learn why companies selected one candidate instead of another. The article notes, “This past year . . . at least 28% of all hires came from employee referrals, although (Crispin) suggests the number may be even higher. If a job applicant has someone in the company who is referring him or her, ‘that is huge. It’s a game changer.’”
Career coaches typically attribute 70–80% of jobs found to networking. There’s no question that engaging with a community of people who may either refer you for positions or hire you is key for job-search success.
How can you tap into this effective way of landing opportunities? Here are five ways to increase your networking effectiveness
1. Learn to introduce yourself. You’ve heard of the “elevator pitch,” so named because you’re supposed to be able to introduce yourself to an influential decision-maker you casually meet in an elevator. The key to a successful elevator pitch is being succinct. You’re not typically riding up the tallest building in the world—you only have a few seconds to make an impression. Make sure your pitch includes answers to all of these questions:
- What is your goal/objective?
- What do you want to do? (Consider your audience’s needs.)
- What impact do you have?
As a project manager and senior adviser in environmental energy [target audience], I bridge the gap between the technical community and management’s interests [problem you solve/goals]. At Company X, I developed and led a green IT project, which saved $65,000 per year [impact/results].
2. Plan to succeed at social events. One way to successfully network at in-person events is to plan ahead of time to share information, advice, stories, and resources with people you meet. Think about how you can be a “go-giver”—people love talking to contacts who make an effort to help them. What can you plan to discuss? Consider having some anecdotes about the following in mind. Then, when you meet new people, steer the conversation to some of these topics:
- where to get tickets for events
- vacation spots
- great Websites and online resources
Another important tip for networking well at social events: Try to learn something personal about people you meet. Not their deep, dark secrets, but what they enjoy, their hobbies, or their families. You’ll learn why this is important in the Always follow up tip below.
3. Prepare for job fairs. The most important advice for success at job fairs is to do your research ahead of time. Don’t expect to drop a resume and run. Plan to impress the recruiter with your knowledge of the company and hone in on how your skills and accomplishments match the organization’s needs. There is nothing more impressive to a recruiter than a candidate who clearly explains the match between jobs available at the firm and what he or she offers.
4. Network online. Networking opportunities exponentially increased with the power of social media. Don’t ignore these tools to connect with people who may be impressed by your expertise and credentials. For example, learn about Glassdoor’s tool called “Inside Connections;” it helps you discover Facebook friends at companies where you want to work. New tools for job seekers become available all the time. Consider any network where you can engage with new people online a potential career booster.
5. Always follow up. When you meet, take note if the person loves gardening, the White Sox, or enjoys ballroom dancing. Then, make a point to find a news article or blog post about the topic, and forward it to the new contact with a nice note. You may be surprised by how positively people will respond when you are thoughtful, share resources unrelated to your job search needs, and demonstrate you were listening carefully when you met each other.