By Jill Moroson, MSW
“If I hear one more person tell me I need to network when I say I’m job hunting, I’m going to scream.” Can you identify with this reaction?
Scream away, but think about it. You see an interesting looking job opening publicized in “The Sun” or on CareerBuilder or some other search engine— but so do 500 other people! Even if only 100 apply, you are looking at lots of competition, and an increasingly cranky employer sifting through all those applications and resumes. And often, you are responding only to what the HR person wrote up as the requirements for the job, which does not always give the complete picture of what an employer wants.
Now, imagine you have a friend who has a colleague who is planning to resign in a few weeks. The job has not yet been publicized. You not only could be the first one to apply, but also you would know exactly what the job entails (likely what the employer is looking for). On top of that, you’d have a ready made reference telling the employer how great you are.
When you realize that most job openings—some say as many as 70%–are never even publicized, you are aware that the best way to find out about a job is by talking to people. They can be people you know, like friends and family, and people you don’t know yet, like those you meet at social events and networking groups.
One way to ease yourself into networking is to think of it less as a sales pitch and more as a conversation over lunch. Yes, you need to have your 30 second “elevator speech” handy when it is appropriate in the conversation. But networking is mainly about building relationships. You don’t want to make your job search the central theme with everyone you meet. Rather, you want to learn about what interests another person. Being likeable and a good listener will go a long way.
Of course, with the people you do know, being specific about what you’re looking for — for example, mentioning the names of companies where you would like to work — is important to their helping you. And when they give you a lead, follow it to the end, including a thank you note and even a request for another name in your desired field. By the time you get yourself an interview, you may know a lot more about that field than when you began.
By Jill Moroson, MSW, Employment Specialist, Jewish Community Services