Networking is the most effective way for a job candidate to explore the "hidden job market" -- away from the majority of job seekers who are wasting their time chasing published job listings. Industry sources report that an estimated 50 to 75 percent of available jobs are never advertised. The percentage is higher when jobs are scarce and lower when they are plentiful.
If you're checking job listings, sending out your resume and waiting for the phone to ring, you're not really looking for a job. You're dreaming. To get results, you have to be proactive. Go to your ready-made network of helpers -- friends, acquaintances, family members and friends of friends. Take advantage of social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, for example. For more on this, take a look at Job Search Networking Tips.
Your diligence in networking will give you what you want -- the chance to meet with people who are willing to give you valuable insights and information you can use. These will probably be people who are in or close to your target industry.
If you can come away from these informational, or networking, interviews with one or more new names of people to contact -- or even information about a good company that's hiring -- then you're succeeding. Each new name means that your network is growing and you're on track for your ultimate goal -- a job offer in your target industry.
When you first meet with someone for an informational interview, remember to say that you're there only to ask for advice. The person will feel flattered. He or she won't feel under pressure -- thinking that you're there to ask for a job.
Remember to bring a few copies of your resume plus pen and paper for taking notes.
Try to imagine what the other person will be wearing. Wear something roughly the same, but "up" a notch. For example, if you're meeting with a supervisor or a foreman at a manufacturing facility, wear slacks and a jacket, with appropriate shoes. If you're seeing a manager in an office setting, wear good-quality "business casual" or a suit. You show respect by dressing appropriately.
Keep in mind that you're there to learn about your chosen field -- and where the job opportunities might be. Along the way, you can gain valuable knowledge about working in the industry by questioning someone who's actually there.
The following questions are for people who are in your target industry. In meetings with people who are not in the target industry, but know people who are, the conversations should be more general.
Since your networking interviews will probably be much less formal than a job interview, it would be a good idea not to try memorizing these questions. Try to weave them into the conversations naturally.
- How did you get started in the industry?
- What first interested you about the work?
- What experience led to this job?
- What are your responsibilities?
- What skills and training do you need for your job?
- What does a typical career look like in this company?
- What are the trends in the industry?
Note: What you really want to know is what are the best companies that might be hiring now and whether the person can introduce you to someone there. Look for a way to get that across.
The people you meet with will want to know what your goals are. Be prepared to give them a brief, clear description of the kind of job and workplace you have in mind. Without coming across like a victim, tell them why you're looking. Rehearse these points and you can make a good, positive impression in these meetings.
Always follow your networking interviews with thank-you notes, letters, emails or text messages -- whatever is appropriate for the people who are helping you. This way, you'll stand out as someone who deserves their help.
One More Thing
Some of the industry people you meet with for networking purposes might be sizing you up for a position at their companies. It happens. Employers love it when a qualified candidate walks through the door before they have to pay a penny to a recruiter.