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by Vault Careers | June 01, 2010


Yet more evidence that successful job hunting comes down to networking: The Wall Street Journal reports the less-than-earth-shattering news that "[w]ho you know and what you know count more than ever" in a job search.

More interesting is what the Journal has to say about how companies are tapping into their employees' networks: referral programs across the country are being revised and freshened up as companies start preparing to bring on new hires. Which means someone you know—or at the least someone that knows someone you know—likely has a serious incentive to get you hired. The key, then, is in working your network to ensure that your name springs to mind the next time a contact gets the "open positions" bulletin from HR. Here are a few ways you can go about doing that:

people networking in bar

Check in on your network

First, understand that by "network," I'm not talking about your half-dozen best friends—the ones who will likely know every nuance of your job search and current employment situation. No: your network is essentially everyone you've ever known, whether socially or professionally, in-person or through the magic of social media. And, as evidenced even at family reunions, not all of those people will follow your every career move. If they don't know you're looking, or what you can do, there's little chance that they'll be able to help you.

The action point, then, is simple: check in on as many of your contacts as you can, and let them know your status. Try to frame the conversation as a social check-up rather than getting down to business straight away—no-one likes to be thought of simply as a resource, after all—but be sure to mention your situation at some point, and ask your contact to keep you in mind if they hear of any positions that might be suitable.

Make sure they know your skills and interests

This is essentially an extension to the previous point, but a singularly important one: If your contacts don't know what you can do—or what you'd like to do—then the chances of them pointing you to the right kind of vacancies are slim. Wondering how family members, friends and co-workers could manage to know you this long without knowing what you do? Think about a few people you know for a moment. Got any idea what they do, beyond their job title? Exactly. Filling in those blanks is what good networking is all about. To help you do that, prepare a short elevator pitch that sums up your experience, abilities and the type of work you're hoping to land. Practice it, then start using it.

Do your research

Writing about unconventional job hunting tactics recently, I came to the realization that the most successful ones all have the same thing in common: they target people who have the ability to make a hiring decision. With that in mind, don't just view your network as a group of people who can point you to jobs. Look at them as a list of people with the potential to connect you with the people who can hire you. Want to work for a specific company? Find the person in your network who works there, or knows someone who does, and ask them to put you in touch with someone who matters there. Got a role change in mind? Find a contact who does the job you'd like to and pick their brain about how to get there.

No-one's going to pretend any of this is easy, let alone as easy as it sounds in the preceding three points. If networking really was that simple, it wouldn't be the focus of so many career advice articles—people would just do it. But the reason the Journal quote in the opening paragraph seems so trite is precisely because it's so true: who you know really is the most important part of your search. So if you don't know the right people already, now is the time to set about getting to know them.

--Posted by Phil Stott,


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