Building Your Job Search Network

When you’re looking for a job, it’s not only what you know, it’s who you know. Your personal and professional network gets you the inside track on positions. To leverage your network to your advantage, you’ve got to build it, groom it, and maintain ties. A few words of praise from someone in your network sets you apart from the hundreds of resumes and cold calls that are vying for the position. This could get you a foot in the door for an informational interview, internship, a professional interview, or even a job offer. Building your job search network may sound daunting, especially if you’ve transitioned between jobs, recently graduated from school, or have other perceived weaknesses. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll slowly but gradually build your network to leverage your strengths, and your connections, to your advantage.

Defining Your Network

The more connections you have in the your job search network, the greater your options. Who can be in your job search network? Friends, family member, coworkers past and present, and acquaintances with whom you share personal or professional interests make good candidates for your network. Past professors or past managers make great network additions also. As long as the people in question have positive things to say about you, you want them in your network. If it helps you to get organized, make a list.

Connecting With Your Network

Often, asking people for help is the only step you need to take to add them to your job search network. Draft an email that explains that you are looking for work--be specific and tell them what field or what position--and want to reconnect with them for help during your job search. Be specific and let them know how they can help you. If you use social networking sites, ask to stay connected over these sites. If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask to add them as a connection.

Getting Help From Your Network

Once you have the groundwork, it’s time to use your job search network to maximize opportunities. Ask folks in your network to forward you relevant job postings they come across, or to keep you apprised of trainings, webinars, info sessions, or opportunities that may be a good fit. Be specific about your needs and wants so that your connections have a good understanding of what you’re looking for. When you do hear of a job opening or other opportunity from someone in your network, thank them for thinking of you and be sure to follow up on it.

Don’t be afraid to ask more of your job search network, too. If you’ve got a friend who works in marketing and you’ve always wanted to explore marketing, ask whether you can job shadow her at work or whether she can arrange an informational interview with her boss. If you struggle to write compelling cover letters, ask your friend with the English degree to give your letters a once-over. If your friend has a connection at a company that's hiring, ask whether you cna use her name in your cover letter.

Take Action

As much as your network can help you identify new opportunities, you’ve got to take initiative. Regularly schedule time to search for and apply for jobs. Take time to thank your job search network members when they help you out. If you see a job posting that would be perfect for a network member, email them the posting. Extend the courtesy you wish ot see to others, and your goodwill shall be returned.