Monday, 28 July 2008

Tips for networking your way to a new job

Finding a new job is not easy. There may be times when specific skills are in short-supply and jobs are there for the taking. But most people get new and sometimes better jobs through people they know. Networking often provides the key. Networking is often the secret ingredient that lands one person that lucrative new job while an equally qualified competitor loses out.

I worked for the same company for twenty years. Although a rare practice in the modern world, I knew the business and the people. For many years a thriving company, a series of poor management decisions led the company's downfall. During this period I had neglected networking. When I was retrenched I found myself alone in the big wide world. Most of my contacts (all from the same company) were in the same boat. Many months and hundreds of job applications passed before I was able to surface. I was short listed for some positions but most applications simply disappeared into a deep black hole. When I did manage to obtain some gainful employment, it was through a friend and ex-colleague.

My friend had taken on an entrepreneurial role and was trying to establish a consulting house. I have worked as a consultant for the last six years on a wide variety of contracts. I must thank my network for introducing me to many of these.

Networking has become a necessity, essentially in a volatile environment. Almost every contract has been as a result of my network, and almost every contract helps me to build my network further. Former colleagues have provided leads and recommendations that have helped to keep me busy.

I read somewhere that most jobs are obtained through someone that you know. Someone known to the employer provides a personal recommendation. The chances of success are much greater than relying on recruitment companies. This may seem unfair, but put yourself in the employer's shoes for a moment. Who would you choose: someone that a trusted colleague can vouch for, or the candidate from the agency. We are generally more comfortable taking on a person recommended by a trusted colleague, business associate or friend. Besides, all is fair in love and war and business.

Some of my contracts (a minority) were obtained through recruitment companies. Contacts established through my various consulting contracts have led to many subsequent contracts. On one occasion, I was short-listed for a position and interviewed by a panel. A member of the panel knew me from a previous company and recommended me highly! That made the difference.

The key to successful networking is to stay in touch with people that you work with at every position. Rather than networking with everyone, I tend to network with people that I enjoyed working with. Many of these people are now friends. Others are friendly contacts. I drop them an occasional line, make the odd call and stay in touch through face book.

Networking sites can also prove valuable. I have joined the business networking site - LinkedIn. I have few contacts there and ensure that these are maintained.

My network is small but always growing. Having started my blogging career recently, I am using blog networks to help get traffic. Using MyBlogLog, I look at other people's sites. When I like the site I add myself to their community and add the blogger as a contact. Visitors to my sites are growing slowly but steadily! Adding myself to the sites is not enough. Interacting with the people achieves much more. And of course the blogs have to be of a high quality.

Social networking sites like Face Book are also useful for building networks.

The point to remember is that people are important not only in our social lives but in business as well. Many people begin their networks while at school. The British Public School networks are well known some would say notorious. "The Old School Tie" often plays a decisive role in getting the best jobs around. I was never a part of that. My network only really began growing since my role became that of an independent consultant.

Befriend as many people as possible at each company that you work for. Get to know the clients and the suppliers as well. Stay in touch after either of you leave.

Building a strong network could assure you of many opportunities and can land you in the pound seats. Most of the jobs that you get in your journey through life will be through people that you know. Make sure that your network grows from strength to strength and don't burn your bridges behind you.

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