Did you know that more than half of the available employment opportunities
will never be advertised or posted on job search sites?
These jobs are part of what we call the hidden job market and are usually filled by people known by or referred to the company. A lot of employers prefer to hire new employees this way, since it’s less risky (the person has been referred by someone they know and trust). As well, it saves them the trouble of having to advertise the position and do a complete interview process. This is why the importance of networking we can’t be stressed enough!
Networking can help you:
- Obtain information about your field of work, job opportunities or positions you hadn’t considered;
- Get known by the individuals that could influence the hiring process, or be great references for you;
- Get known by employers that may need to recruit in the near future;
- Be better prepared for interviews.
Steps to building or expanding your professional network
Building a professional network takes time and it’s an ongoing process. Yet, it’s easier than it seems! It involves figuring out who you know, deciding who you want to know or include in your network, and taking the time to contact these professionals to inform them of your qualifications and career objectives.
- Take time to identify your experience, strengths and career objectives: This way, it will be easier for you to identify who would be a good person to include in your network of contacts. Furthermore, this information will help your contacts to identify how they can be of assistance to you.
- Prepare your resume and create a professional online business profile: This way, it will be easier for your contacts to refer your candidacy to other professionals. The most popular website for business networking is LinkedIn.com. However, there might be a portal better suited to your specialty.
- Create a list of potential contacts and contact them: Start with the people you already know, such as family members, friends, former coworkers, classmates, professors or community acquaintances. This way, you will be able to practice your professional pitch with people you know (i.e. it will be less stressful). Inform them of your job search process, skills and experience. Ask them if they know of anyone working in your field of interest that you could talk to for more information on the profession or career opportunities.
- Create new contacts: Contact the professionals referred to you by family and friends. Create new contacts by joining professional associations and organizations (many have discounted rates for students/new grads), attending career-related conferences and events. Volunteering or doing an internship in your area of interest is also a great way to network. Be prepared to talk about your career goals, skills and work experiences. As well, you may want to ask new contacts whether they would be willing to meet so you can gain more information about their profession, career opportunities in your field of interest and build a stronger connection (people will usually spend more energy helping someone they know well).
- Arrange information sessions: An information session involves meeting a professional currently working in an occupation or for a company that interest you, to increase your knowledge of your target career or to get known by someone that could help you in your job search process.
- Follow up: The importance of nourishing and maintaining your network of contacts cannot be overstated. It can be very awkward or difficult to get back into contact with someone you have not talked to in years and ask a favour of them when you have done nothing to maintain the relationship in the meantime. Therefore, let people know if you’ve met the professional they referred you to, or found a resource they recommended useful. Keep them informed of your progress in your job search process and remember to give back when you can.
Keys to networking
- Be Prepared: Ahead of time, prepare the questions you want to ask regarding your profession, career opportunities, etc.
- Be Quality Focused: No one will refer someone they’ve met for only 2 minutes. Take the time to make a good connection with the employers or professionals you would like to include in your network.
- Be Organized: Keep track of who you met, when and how you will reconnect…. Ideally you should write keywords to help you remember what you discussed with this person, his/her title and the name of the company he/she works for.
- Be Patient and Polite: Professionals are busy so they may not call you back right away! Do a follow-up call after a week or two and inform the person that their information or advice would be appreciated. Once you’re able to talk to this person, be thankful of any information they can provide you!
- Stay in touch and give back: Update people that are part of your network when you make significant progress in your career. Know enough about them to keep their needs in mind as you continue to meet people. You may be able to pass on ideas, articles and contacts that will interest them.
Your Professional Introduction
When calling potential employers or network contact, you should include:
- An introduction;
- A brief overview of your skills, training, experience and personal qualities;
- Information about the kind of work you would like to do;
- A brief description of what type of information you are looking for or how this person can help you.
My name is John and I was referred to you by Mrs. Pelletier. I am a graduating student with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, concentration in marketing. I am presently exploring the possibility of pursuing a career in marketing, since I am quite creative, interested in communicating ideas and I have experience promoting social events. Mrs. Pelletier has mentioned that you could probably help me identify the different positions that could meet my experience, qualifications and interests.
The purpose of an information session is to gain useful information about the profession that interest you or about the company you would like to work for. These sessions will help you:
- Gain valuable information about your field of work, the position or company that interest you;
- Get known by the individuals that could be great references (build your network);
- Obtain advice and feedback regarding your candidacy, job search techniques or tools;
- Be better prepared for interviews;
- Learn about future employment opportunities.
Ways to prepare for an information session:
- Research information on the person, position and the organization: This way you won’t ask questions regarding information you could have found prior to the session (i.e. on the company’s website). This will also help you prepare your questions. The more you know about the job, field of work or company, the better your questions will be and the greater are the chances that you will make a good professional first impression!
- Prepare key questions ahead of time: Most professionals welcome the possibility of helping students. However, they are usually very busy and will have a limited amount of time to answer your questions. Therefore, you have to be prepared and know what information you want to get from them. This will also demonstrate your level of professionalism. Be ready to adapt those questions to the information provided. You don’t want the person to repeat information they have already provided.
- Be prepared to talk about yourself: They may want to learn more about you before referring you to someone else.
- Demonstrate your appreciation: Demonstrate your appreciation for the time they spent with you and for the information they provided.
- Stay in touch and give back: Update people that are part of your network when you make significant progress in your career. Know enough about them to keep their needs in mind as you continue to meet people. You may be able to pass on ideas, articles, and contacts that will interest them.
Ideally your information session should last about 30 minutes, unless the person has agreed to spend more time with you.