Network your way into your next job

‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.’ We’ve all heard it a thousand times but it’s still something that many job seekers are reluctant to get into.

Why do we need to do it? The reason is that employers want to make sure that they hire the right person for the job and this is much easier if they know something about the applicants. The better they know you, the more likely they are to choose you.

Quite apart from finding out more about the role and the organisation, your primary aim is to get them to like you. If they like you, they may employ you. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s as simple as that. If you want someone to help you in your job search, they must first know, like and trust you. This takes time and it’s your attitude that will be the key.

Networking is all about building authentic relationships with real people. It’s not complicated. You’ve done it your whole life. You don’t need to turn this into something difficult or uncomfortable. It can be just a matter of having coffee with a friend – or with someone you’d like to have as a friend.

If you would like to work for the Worldwide Widgets, you will obviously want to meet with some of the people who already work there. You don’t currently know anyone so you think of people you do know who might be able to introduce you to someone who works there. If you have a strong, authentic relationship with someone, that person will be confident to give you a referral to a contact of theirs who works at Worldwide Widgets.

Phone the person you have been referred to and mention your mutual friend. The person at the other end will be interested to meet you because he or she respects your mutual friend and the ice is broken. You have got off to a good start and now your main task is to strengthen the new relationship. Build trust and goodwill. Don’t just ask; be prepared to give value even if it’s only buying the coffees. But you can also demonstrate value by having thoroughly researched the organisation and any specific role you might be seeking and thereby showing strong interest in the organisation. If you’re genuinely interested in them, they’ll be interested in you.

And be genuine. If you want them to help you, you must get their trust. No hidden agendas, no half-truths; just be open and friendly and absolutely genuine.

If the person you are meeting is interested in you, it is likely that he or she will mention your name when a position becomes available. A 2013 survey in the USA found that employee referrals was the number one method of being hired. The situation is probably very similar in Australia and New Zealand, whether for jobs in capital cities or regional areas.

So shake off all your doubts and fears and get into it. But make sure that you do it properly, that you do your best to get people to like you by being thoroughly prepared and generous in your information.

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