Networking is the most underappreciated and effective way to find work in today’s job market. According to sociologist Nancy DiTomaso’s article in The New York Times, 70% of the jobs held by Americans in the current workforce were obtained through personal connections. That’s an important statistic. Suggestions for filling an open position at a company are generally passed along to those who are of the same economic, professional, and social circle as the person making the recommendation.
So what is a job seeker to do if they’re searching for a position in a field where their family, friends, and acquaintances don’t have the connections to pass along a lead? How do you network when you don’t know anyone?
Here are a few resources and tips on where to find job leads. These will assist in expanding your circle so you’re not left out in the cold.
“Don’t be afraid to be “that guy” who asks, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your field today?””
- Career Fairs
If you’re someone who isn’t keen on sales or customer service, most job fairs can feel like a bust. But they have their place in the world of networking. Use them to your advantage. A company may be there to only fill specific positions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have openings in other departments. Gather business cards, ask questions, and think outside the box. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, but the booth agent is promoting a commercial construction company, ask if they have a marketing department that can use an in-house designer for their brochures.
Also, keep in mind, fellow job seekers are your friends, not enemies. Strike up a conversation with other fair attendants, and see what fields they specialize in. Promise to keep an eye out for any booths that suit their industry. If you’re unsuccessful, exchange contact info and ask that they let you know of any open positions that fit your skills. Agree to do the same for them. You may leave the job fair feeling like no one is hiring, but at least you’ve added a few more connections to your professional circle.
- Book Signings
This may seem like an odd option, but hear me out. If you live in a not-so-small town, you likely have authors visit your local libraries, universities or bookstores to promote their latest opus. Although book signings are typically held for fiction writers, you’d be amazed at how many nonfiction writers are rock stars on the lecture/book signing circuit. Visit the events and speakers pages on websites for your main library, favorite bookstores, or your city’s largest colleges. Most will have a newsletter subscription telling you in advance who’s coming to town.
Whether the author is a renowned astrophysicist, veteran Broadway dancer or respected journalist, attend the event and pay attention to the Q&A portion of the discussion. Don’t be afraid to be “that guy” who asks, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your field today?” Occupational and literary nonfiction celebrities rarely get the fawning adoration entertainers and novelists receive: they’ll likely be flattered.
I can already hear your exasperated groans from across the web. That’s right, LinkedIn. That professional social networking juggernaut can actually help you find your next gig. Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Approximately 56% of job seekers use professional social networking platforms to find their next lead.¹
The key to making LinkedIn work for you is to fill out your profile thoroughly. “More and more, you see professionals with LinkedIn accounts, and this has provided a much broader platform for recruiters to advertise open positions, as well as get their company name out there,” shares Human Resources professional, and Senior Benefits Analyst, Wardah Porter. “LinkedIn has a feature where other professionals will endorse others for certain listed skills, and this, in my mind, serves as an inexpensive way of ‘vetting’ potential candidates.”
- Community Festivals
What? There’s a festival for jobs? No. But often cultural and community events such as LGBTQ Pride, Festival de la Familia, and Earth Day have booths set up around a park or convention hall. You can usually find local businesses there, encouraging people to sign up for a giveaway, a subscription, or a petition. Some of these organizations may have positions open in your line of work.
Ask the poor soul manning the booth if there’s anything open in the department you’re interested in. Additionally, most companies have business cards, flyers, or brochures ready to hand out at festivals. If the booth attendant is friendly, they’ll probably suggest you drop their name when you call, or they’ll write down the name of a contact at the company who might be able to answer your questions.
- Don’t Sell Your Family And Friends Short
I know, I know. You don’t really have family and friends who hang out with lawyers, chemists, art buyers, or electricians. Whatever your chosen career, it’s still important to let your relatives and compadres know what you’re searching for. Why? Because you can’t be aware of everyone they know or who their connections might know.
When I graduated from college, I knew looking for my first job in the publishing industry was going to be tough. My mid-size Midwestern town wasn’t exactly overflowing with opportunities in print journalism. My best friend at the time, who was working in the service industry, had decided long ago, college wasn’t for her. Long story short, I landed my first professional position as an editorial assistant for a book publisher, because my best friend’s stepmother attended the same church as a woman who worked for the publisher as a copy editor. This woman put in a good word for me along with my resume, and I was hired two months later. Never in a hundred years would I think my friend would know someone who could help me. Don’t sell your family and friends short.
Networking today can be an overwhelming experience-especially if you’re not someone who has friends in high places. No one can blame you for restricting your job search to online resources, and hoping for the best. But applying for positions listed on job boards and career websites is becoming less effective for a variety of reasons. You owe it to yourself to use every instrument in your toolbox, and the best way to do that is to grow your expanding circle.
¹ LinkedIn Talent Solutions, “The Ultimate List of Hiring Statistics For Hiring Managers, HR Professionals, and Recruiters,” accessed August 18, 2016, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/talent-
Candace Nicholson is a freelance writer, editor and blogger covering business, community and culture. When she’s not pitching magazines, editing creative genius or penning blog posts, she’s a regular contributor to LAFRA’s Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund.
For more from Candace Nicholson you can visit her website here.