Networking basics

A network is an informal group of people who have something in common. As a job seeker, your network is made up of all the people who can help you, as well as the people they know who can help you. Networking is the process you use to identify and contact these people, letting them know of your availability and qualifications for a particular job.

Building a personal network is a vital part of your career development. Each planned contact can lead to unexpected ones, if you ask the right questions and explore the possibilities. You can learn how to make your contacts work to your advantage by providing you with advice, information and referrals. As you can see, networking is a deliberate process, the goal of which is to get a face-to-face interview with someone who has the power to hire you. The underlying principle of networking is this: You are more likely to get an appointment to see people you don’t know personally if someone they know refers you to them. Through a sequence of referrals, you will get your qualifications in front of dozens of people very quickly — any one of whom could lead you to an interview with a potential employer.

There are two routes you can take to reach that person:

  • You can develop a list of “target” companies you want to work for, and then identify the people who could hire you there. As you speak with your contacts, you would seek referrals to the people on your list. You might be surprised to find out how many people you know that know someone, who knows someone, who knows the very person with whom you want to interview.
  • The other route is less directed: You can simply follow the network wherever it leads, and trust that it will lead to someone who will hire you. Whenever a job lead turns up, you’ll want to pursue it immediately and vigorously.