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Networking to Find a Job

A few years ago, Kathy met Henry in a social setting. At the time, Henry had a small business that sounded relatively intriguing to Kathy. Out of habit, Kathy made a point of getting Henry's contact information at the end of the evening even though she was content in her job. The next day she sent him a resume and a letter recapping their conversation. Henry filed the correspondence for future reference.

A year and a half later, Henry was starting a different business that needed someone with a particular set of skills. Henry recalled meeting Kathy, who had those skills. He pulled her resume out of his file, contacted her, and pitched the new idea. The opportunity and the timing were perfect. Kathy now works for this successful, growing business, adding value as a key part of its operations.

Networking in professional, social, and other settings has become an increasingly important aspect of a job search as people now tend to move from one company to another more frequently.

Network everyday, everywhere
Follow the demand for your talent by continuous networking, making it second nature. Make your own connections and be your own agent.

There are networking opportunities every day. It's done at parties, dinners, events, small gatherings, birthdays, volunteer activities, and ceremonies. It happens at the gym, the grocery store, and the garage. Talk to anyone and everyone including those new to an industry and old pros, those in school and those overseas. They all matter.

Try this mental game at a networking function. First, bring a stack of business cards at least a quarter inch thick. See if you can find three people who refuse to take one. Chances are, you'll run out of business cards before you find even one person who says no.

Keep an active and pleasant communication open with past employers, being careful not to burn bridges when you leave a company. If you leave the workforce for a few years to raise children, network with other stay-at-home parents and attend your partner's company events at the holidays.

Use resumes like personal flyers
Resumes can serve as detailed business cards, reminding contacts of you and your accomplishments. Create a version of your resume for networking alone, one that can be pulled out on short notice.

Use informational interviews
Exploit another networking staple with an informational interview - a formal chat in which you ask someone to talk about his or her work without trying to squeeze a job out of the experience. It can be a particularly useful way to get a detailed picture of the industry since you are free to ask absolutely anything and can more often expect a frank response than in a regular interview.

Ask how your contact got into the industry, and why. Ask what skills are most in demand, where the industry is headed, and where the jobs will be. Ask the best way to advance. Ask whether he or she has any regrets. Ask for the best way to find a job in the industry. Get further contacts.

Network toward a job
When you actively start to look for work, contact everyone you know. Go to your immediate and extended family, friends of the family, religious community, volunteer connections, old college buddies or clubs, past employers, and anyone you deal with including your accountant, real estate agent, or dentist. Reciprocate when they call you.

Network for your company too
Even if you are happily employed, you can network for your company and help your personal pursuits at the same time. If your company gets invited to an event, go. If someone in a salon or at a grocery store wants to talk about your company, engage them.

Put your network to use
References can have a significant impact on the final hiring decision. Be ready to provide potential employers with at least three solid ones from your network of professional contacts.

- Leslie Tebbe, contributor

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