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The single biggest mistake most job searchers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them! But don’t wait until you’re out of work to start developing relationships with your network.

The more people who know you are looking for a job, the more eyes and ears that will be available to help. Networking is about getting the people you already know to help connect you to the people who will help you land your next career opportunity.

Who Is Your Network?

The first step is to identify who is in your network. This can include friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), and your doctor, financial advisor, or attorney. Your holiday card list, if you have one, can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

If you don’t already have a list, start one! Make a list of all of your contacts — past employers, vendors, customers, colleagues, competitors, and other people you know. You never know who may have a great lead or know of an unadvertised opportunity.

Here are some ideas for other people to add to your network.

Personal Contacts:

  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Parents of children’s friends
  • Parents of your friends
  • Relatives of friends
  • Club members (country club, swim club, sports club)
  • Associations
  • Military service personnel
  • Sorority/fraternity
  • Sports team members

Business Contacts:

  • Current co-workers
  • Previous co-workers
  • Previous managers
  • Consultants
  • Vendors and suppliers
  • Retirees
  • Seminar, conference, and workshop attendees

Third-Party Contacts:

  • Accountants
  • Doctors
  • Financial advisors and bankers
  • Attorneys
  • Dentists
  • Mortgage bankers/brokers
  • Insurance agents

Educational Contacts:

  • College classmates and friends
  • Alumni association contacts
  • Graduate school classmates
  • Former professors and advisors

Assemble the contact information for these individuals and add them to your list.

Now, contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals.

Even if you’re contacting someone with the power to hire you, don’t ask for a job. Ask for advice or assistance, not a job.

Create a networking cover letter and send the letter with your resume 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.

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