In our previous post, we talked about the importance of human networking and word-of-mouth referrals in finding a job, and why it’s important to reboot your contact list as part of your job search. Let’s dive a little deeper now and offer a few common-sense tips on how to do just that.
Review Your Existing Contacts
Go through your entire address book and try to categorize each name into one of four categories: current, old, distant and irrelevant (meaning irrelevant to your job search, not irrelevant in general!). Then do the following:
- With your current contacts—If they don’t know already, reach out and let these people know you’re looking for a job, what your skills are and what type of work you’re looking for. If appropriate, ask directly for referrals, especially if any of them works in a place where you’d like a job.
- With your old contacts—Decide whether it’s appropriate to reconnect with them. If you do so, test the waters at first—don’t spring the job thing on them just yet. If you have a good conversation, mention your job search at the end of the talk, or at the start of the next one.
- With your distant contacts—Decide whether any of them might be a good lead for a job or job referral. If so, try to establish a more solid connection, following a similar path as you do for the old contacts. If not, ignore them for now—at least where your job search is concerned.
- With your irrelevant contacts—Ignore these for now.
Add to Your Contact List
As with almost anything related to business and careers, job networking is a numbers game. The more people you know—and by extension, the more people who know you—the better your odds of finding your dream job through your connections. Once you’ve gone through your existing contacts to refine your existing network, it’s time to expand that network. Here are some tips to start building your list with fresh new contacts.
- Attend networking events. Business owners and professionals are always on the hunt for new leads, including potential job leads. Check out networking events in your area that focus not just on people looking for work, but professionals looking to connect in general. (Meetup.com is a great place to start your search.)
- Join online groups related to job searches and your related field. Social media can easily become an excuse to avoid human contact (don’t do that), but when utilized strategically it can also be a useful way to build your base. Search for Facebook and LinkedIn groups based around job searches, networking and your particular career field. Add people to your friends list whom you find interesting, and engage them when appropriate.
- Join a professional organization or business networking group. If you are a member of any association related with your business or industry, this can be an excellent resource to help you find job openings. Likewise, a professional networking group can go a long way toward helping you find work (or add new clients, if you’re starting a business). I’m personally a member of a local chapter of BNI, and I’ve found a great community of mutual support there with the other members.
Remember: Despite all our Internet connectivity these days, the vast majority of open positions are still filled through word-of-mouth referrals. Spend less time holed up in front of your computer, and more time talking to actual people, and you’ll be that much more ahead of the game.