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Use the Network, Luke: Leveraging Your Personal and Professional Networks to Find a Job

The job market is as rough as it’s ever been. If you're one of those individuals who's in search of work, you may want to consider the benefits of relationship building. Not because you're looking for a support group and new friends, necessarily (though that could be part of it), but because finding work these days is often about "who you know." Keeping that in mind, this is what you need to know about networking your way to success.  

Alumni Networks

Alumni networks are a working example of why it pays to be nice to people when you're in college. There’s just something about being out in the world that naturally makes attending the same university or college a point of kinship after graduation. From a job-hunting perspective, the other side to it is that you never know when the connections of your fellow alumni might come in handy. Other alumni resources that you can take advantage of include newsletters, email lists, contacts, forums, and portals. It doesn't get more well-rounded than that. Pro Tip: LinkedIn profiles let you find contacts from your alma mater and connect about employment opportunities.  

Professional Associations

Are there any professional associations that you’re qualified to join? If you search long enough, you’re sure to find an industry-based organization that’s all about helping you and your fellow colleagues succeed in your chosen careers. Whether you’re looking for advice, references, or for a heads-up on an upcoming opening, professional groups are an excellent resource. For example, if you are studying for your Uniform Certified Personal Accountant exam, you might contact your state's CPA Association and ask about mentoring opportunities.  

Networking Events

What happens if you’d rather have a variety of options at your disposal? Networking events and referral groups are a fantastic way to showcase your skills and abilities in front of a diverse set of prospective employers and clients. At these gatherings, local professionals meet on a regular basis and offer each other referrals. This is especially great for those who are seriously looking into the merits of freelancing or are otherwise open to changing careers.  

Infiltrating the Group

Make a point of attending events. Many organizations allow people to attend group gatherings once or twice at no cost. Once you get there, be sure to play it somewhat cool. You don't want to be the person who reeks of desperation from across the room. Instead, you want to exude quiet confidence.  

Introduce Yourself

When it comes to most of these events, you’ll have at least one point of conversation. Whether you’re talking to alumni, other professionals, or a friend, you shouldn't hesitate to start a normal conversation. Be friendly in order to build up goodwill. It's all about making connections.  

Asking for Favors

Don’t leave any face-to-face gathering without business cards. After that, do whatever you can to keep in touch while still following people’s expectations etiquette-wise. You can do this on Facebook or LinkedIn. From there, all you have to do is start a conversation and then let slip that you’re looking for work. Most people will be happy to ask around on your behalf.  

Career Fairs

The difference between a fair and most networking events is that career fairs are specifically geared towards helping companies find job seekers. There’s nothing more reassuring than being able to physically put your resume in the hands of a potential employer. Career fairs are all about letting you meet multiple potential employers. You may want to make a point of going to the next one in your city.  

Personal Networks

Remember what was said earlier about jobs often being a matter of knowing the right people? Along the same lines, it may surprise you who the friends of your friends might be. Do you know what the best part about this is? All you have to do is ask your acquaintances if they know of any companies that are hiring. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Try reaching out to your friends and acquaintances in your industry. Offer to cook your friend a meal or take them out for coffee in exchange for picking their brain. This sort of contact could give you an inside scoops on a job postings, an internal referral at a company you want to work for, or tips for constructing resumes and cover letters. Pro Tip: Be pro-active about offering help to your friends and acquaintances when they are searching for a job. You might offer to proof-read a resume or introduce them to people in their industry. What goes around comes around! In the quest to find work, many job seekers “pound the pavement” so to speak by searching newspapers and tirelessly going through online job databases. While these are sound strategies, it’s surprising how often people don’t use their own networks. As you’ve seen here, networking is a powerful tool that job-hunters can effectively leverage.