Why network to get hired? Because it works.
The 2013 Career Thought Leaders’ Job Seeker Success Survey reported 67% of job seekers’ most effective job search activity involved networking and communicating with key contacts.
Why do we find it so difficult? Because we work hard, we forget, we don’t know how to keep in touch with so many people, we don’t set aside the time, and we don’t recognize it when we ARE networking. Stop feeling guilty for not networking or not networking enough, and just start.
Here are a few ways to use your network to find a new opportunity.
Put out the word: The first is to contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals. Create a networking cover letter and send the letter with your résumé to each of the contacts in your network. This is the broadest way to use your network, and can be useful if you are currently unemployed and not worried about jeopardizing your current job by visibly pursuing a new one. Even though you are contacting many people at the same time, you can personalize your approach using Microsoft Word’s mail merge function.
Target those who can help: A more effective way to use your network is a more targeted approach. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific job goal.
For example, if you see an advertised opening for a position, go through your network and see who might be able to provide you with access to the hiring manager (or someone else who works at the company), information about that specific company (or the company’s position in the industry), or information about the specific position you’re seeking.
Ask for an introduction: You can use your network contact to make an introduction to a hiring manager — either asking them to pass along your résumé to that individual, introducing you directly, or allowing you to use their name when making an initial contact.
Use social media: I don’t know about you, but my network is increasingly online. You can let your network know you are looking for a new position by posting status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This is particularly useful if you are currently unemployed and you’re not worried about your boss finding out you’re seeking a new position. (Even if you have your social media profile privacy settings locked down, remember that anything you post online can potentially become public information — all it takes is someone you know taking a screenshot of what you’ve posted, or mentioning the information, and it’s no longer private.)
Research connections: You can also research a potential connection using social media. Find out if the person has a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or Twitter account. LinkedIn is particularly effective in helping you take your existing contacts and leverage them into even more networking opportunities. You can see how you’re connected to a company or another individual using LinkedIn. Read more about researching and reaching connections on LinkedIn.
Meet-ups: Use social media to arrange in-person get-togethers. For example, if you make a new contact on LinkedIn, if they are local, arrange to meet them in person. Technology makes networking easier, but face-to-face interaction is still the best way to network.