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Your career network will include most people in your regular, professional network and some additional contacts. The key is to create your career network before you need it. If you wait until you start a job search, you’ll lose valuable time establishing an active career network.
Who Should Be In Your Career Network
The short answer: Anyone and everyone who could help you with your job search. It should include both past and present peers who you like and trust. You can include those friends that share your interests. Also, consider all acquaintances and contacts from any associations—business or personal—in which you are a member. These can also include church groups, youth sports leagues, book clubs and/or other groups. These members can be very helpful to a job search.
Fellow alumni from your college or university and social media friends, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn contacts, should also be in your career network. Don’t forget family members and neighbors, as they typically will offer help for your job search.
Online career networking sites can also put you in contact with other networkers and managers at employers in your area. Since you don’t know these networkers, be sure you tell them you’re looking for new employment opportunities and clearly explain the type of job you seek.
Career Networks Are Effective
The odds are good that at some point a friend, family member, or another person in your network has helped with a job search. You’re not alone. More than 80 percent of employees polled in various studies state that their network helped them with one or more job searches. Do you need more proof than real people who have benefited?
Your career network often offers more than just leads on job opportunities. Many of your personal networkers might have inside information that gives you an edge with the employer and their interviewers. Knowing information not available to other candidates may give that little something extra to stand out from your competition.
You might even receive a stronger benefit. Your network members may be in a position to offer a meaningful referral to a potential employer. Remember, most hiring managers desperately want to minimize the risk with new employees. Few employers are “sure” they’ve made the right choice until after the hire and a successful probationary period has elapsed. A strong referral from a current or former employee or other respected source can help you get the job you want.
Networking Is a Two-Way Highway
Commit to being a contributor to as well as a recipient of career networking benefits. When you learn of interesting job opportunities, share them with your network. Become a resource for your network, which, in turn, spurs others to contribute and help you and other members.
By acting as an active contributor, you’ll establish greater respect and stronger bonds with your fellow networkers. You’ll enjoy more than just personal satisfaction. You will typically receive more referrals and job listings, which helps your job search.
Developing contacts at the top employment search firms, like Kelly Services, can be fruitful and rewarding. Beyond the obvious, a recruiter with a perfect employment opportunity, you may be able to help other network members by learning of job listings in their specialty and/or receiving valuable employment information that you can pass on to your career network.
Stay in Contact With Your Network
Do not contact network members only after you’ve been downsized or decided to launch a job search. Stay in contact with your career network regularly. It’s easy, inexpensive (usually free) and fun. Often, just a brief email, tweet or IM to say “Hi!” and ask, “How you doin’?” is all you need.
When you learn of a noteworthy event, loss of a loved one, a new baby, or career achievement, contact the person by phone or email and send an appropriate message. This simple tip achieves two objectives: Your network members get to know you better, and you display your involvement with and concern for your peers.
When you need your career network, members are more likely to step up and help you. Most of your career network will involve members of your regular personal network. Therefore, keeping in touch with them should be a normal, consistent routine. By doing so, when you decide to start a job search, your requests for help will be a much more natural and easy process. You’ll probably learn that your network members will deliver more successful help, too.
However sophisticated and high-tech your network or your efforts, always remember people enjoy dealing with people they know—personally. The “old school” technique of actually meeting others in person remains important.
Attend as many local networking events as your schedule permits. There remains something about meeting, shaking hands, chatting, and exchanging business cards that highly contributes to your credibility, positive attitude and “bonding” with other members of your network.
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