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Build Your Network

Networking is a key part of job hunting. All it means is talking to others — either formally or informally — about your job search and career goals.

Most employers have enough applicants without advertising. And they often prefer to hire someone who's been referred by someone they already know and trust. This is called the hidden job market. You can tap into it by networking.

Networking Facts

  • Everyone networks — at school, church, social activities, work, and online.
  • Networking is not the same as asking for a job. Usually your networking contacts will not be potential employers.
  • Networking helps you learn inside information about jobs that are being created or not advertised.
  • You can use it for ongoing professional and personal development.
  • Networking helps you connect with and help others with shared interests.
  • An employer who is not hiring today may be looking for someone like you tomorrow.

Be Clear About Your Job Search Goals

Before you begin networking, think about what you want to say to others about yourself, and what you want to know from them.

  • What kind(s) of job(s) are you looking for?
  • What skills and experience prepared you for these jobs?
  • Are you focused on a particular industry?
  • Do you want to find a job at a particular company?
  • Do you want to look for jobs within certain geography?

Networking Goes Both Ways

Networking is about helping other people as much as it is about getting people to help you. A reputation as a helpful networker goes a long way. The more you can help others with job leads and career advice, the more willing people will be to help you in return.

How to Expand Your Network

  • Join a professional or business association. They are one of the best ways to learn about trends and unadvertised jobs. Many members are eager to help job seekers and often know employers with open positions. Association listings can be found online or at your local library.

  • Join online networking websites. These can connect you with potential jobs, colleagues, and business opportunities.

  • Contact your college alumni office. Alumni may be willing to do informational interviews with graduates of their institution.

  • Find a mentor who has experience in the field you're pursuing. Get their advice and use them as a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas. Ask to shadow them on the job.