The Power of Networking...And Two Questions

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 19, 2009 - 11:06 PM

You've been told that networking is the best way to find a job.

But, unless you've been hired that way, it may be hard to appreciate how effective it can be.

So, recent research on the subject may open your eyes to the power of networking...

In a February 2009 survey, 430 members of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) gave feedback on how they had recently searched for work.

When asked how they found the job they eventually took, the top four responses were:

  • Networking with professional contacts: 37%
  • Recruiters/headhunters: 24%
  • Networking with family, friends and acquaintances: 14%
  • Job boards/job search web sites: 9%

Combined, networking accounted for 51% of successful job searches.

But how to do it?

The best way to network is to “find people you can provide value to. Don’t go asking for help, but try to give to people first and expect help later,” says Richard Sellers, Chairman of MENG (www.mengonline.com), with chapters in 12 U.S. cities.

“I really like to hear from people who ask, ‘How can I help you?’ These are the people you spend more time with and are more likely to assist” in a job search, according to Sellers.

Separately, respondents were asked what they wish they had spent more time doing in their job searches. They listed the following activities:

  • Networking with professional contacts: 75%
  • Using social media, such as LinkedIn: 49%
  • Networking with family, friends, and acquaintances: 37%

 Again, networking appears twice in this list.

Sellers offers these tips to help get the most from your job-search efforts:

  • Emphasize networking, especially with your professional contacts
  • Spend two to three times more effort developing your professional networking contacts than with family, friends, and acquaintances
  • Develop relationships with recruiters
  • Be realistic about the likely payoff of job boards/job search web sites
  • If your previous employer provides outplacement, utilize that support, but be realistic and don’t expect them to provide job leads.

 Question One: Which three people in your professional network of people you’ve known, in any job since high school, seem most-connected in your community?

Action Step: Find a way to be helpful to them this week.

Don’t know how you can be helpful? Ask what they need help with these days -- then find a way to deliver. You don’t have to know the answer. The fact that you’ve offered to help will make people remember you with favor … and possibly job leads.

One thing many job seekers find they have more of is time. And devoting spare time to volunteer work can raise your profile while giving back to the community -- and get you hired, according to Steven Rothberg; Founder and President of CollegeRecruiter.com.

Rothberg tells of the time five years ago when, as a board member at Nechama, a Minneapolis disaster-relief agency, he helped hire a new executive director. “As we started to talk about the skill set we were looking for, we got into a conversation about Frank, a recent college graduate, who was a volunteer at our organization. Everybody liked Frank, we knew his skills, and the quality of his work was high,” says Rothberg.

This relationship paid off when, according to Rothberg, the search committee dropped a job offer into the lap of the volunteer, who had not even sought the position. “We went to him and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this opening, which is probably your dream job. Do you want it?’”

The answer was yes. And the position was filled without ever being advertised.

By volunteering to share his very best efforts with the community, Frank was hired for his “dream job,” and faced no competition.

It shows just how valuable personal referrals can be when networking. “People want to work with people they like. If I, the hiring manager, like you, and you like someone else, when you refer that person to me, there’s a good chance I’m going to like them, too,” says Rothberg.

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