According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, networking accounts for 70 percent of all jobs filled. Most people would agree that it’s an important skill to have, but they wonder how exactly to become a good networker.
Terry Weaver, associate manager at the LDS employment resource center in Sacramento, California, meets with job seekers every day. He says, “Everybody wants to network because they know that it’s effective, but there’s still a lot of discomfort. Submitting an application or emailing your resume is a lot easier, but it doesn’t really put you out there.”
And it’s not just job seekers who need to be networking. Weaver advises, “The best time for you to network is when you’re employed.”
So how can you overcome some of the networking discomfort? Here are some networking insights based on Weaver’s 15 years as a career advisor.
Social media has made networking easier.
In the past, networking often meant taking someone out to lunch, but because of technology, Weaver says, networking is “something that can happen on a very big scale, very quickly, and at different times of the day.”
To demonstrate this, pull out your phone. How many contacts do you have? Now look at your email contact list and social media accounts. With a social media post, hundreds of people in your network can learn about your employment goals and what they can do to help.
This shift also expands the times you can network. It doesn’t just need to be during business hours. You can send an email at 10:00 at night without bothering anyone. They’ll reply when they have a free moment.
Be specific in your requests.
“To be good at networking you have to be very specific,” says Weaver. As you make specific requests, you will get more helpful responses. This is the difference between asking, “Do you know anyone who is hiring?” and “Who do you know who works for this company?”
Why might it be better to ask about a specific person or company rather than about general job openings? Well, your contacts might not know of specific openings at the companies you’re interested in, but they might know others who do. This expands your opportunities and gives you access to more information.
Being specific also allows you to come back multiple times to your network. If you keep coming back to the same people asking for job leads, they might get worn out. But if you come back each time asking about different companies or different positions and updating them on how your job search has evolved, they are more likely to stay interested and provide additional referrals.
Don’t go in expecting a job lead.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it works. “The process of networking is getting your contact comfortable enough to share their resources with you,” explains Weaver. This doesn’t mean that you won’t ask about job leads; it just means that it won’t be your only objective.
Much of networking is “about getting information that you can use eventually—information about people that might work at a company or projects that are going on,” says Weaver.
As you discuss your career goals and ask for feedback and information, your interactions will spark ideas for you and your contacts that will often lead to job opportunities.
To talk to someone like Terry at your nearest employment center, or to read similar career tips, visit ldsjobs.org.
For more, listen to the Mormon Channel Daily episode about networking tips.