By Perminus Wainaina
How certain are you that you’ll get the job after you’ve applied? Does knowing someone in an organization help your job search process?
Earlier this week, I received a message on LinkedIn. The message was from Lucy, a customer service professional with two years’ experience. She wrote of how she had been out of the job market for three months.
“I have been applying for jobs, but I never hear back from employers.” Part of the message read.
“What could I be doing wrong when applying for jobs? Or is it all about whom you know? Must I know somebody in a company in order to get hired?” continued the message.
Lucy’s message struck me. And I know it’s not just Lucy, you too might be asking yourself these questions.
On several occasions, I have been asked the question of ‘does who you know matter when you’re looking for a job?’
There’s an old saying that goes, ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’
I have found this saying to be true when it comes to the job search process.
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There’s a myth that some professionals believe, that when you have the right skills and experience, then you will automatically get the job.
However, remember the job market is highly saturated. According to statistics, there are over 1.7 million people who are actively looking for a job. There are also millions of others who although they are employed, they are also looking for better jobs and will apply for a lucrative position when they get the chance. They are referred to as ‘passive job seekers.’
When interacting with employers, many have admitted that they get thousands of applications when they advertise a position. The case is the same for the latest jobs we advertise at Corporate Staffing Services.
A few months back, an employer approached us to shortlist for positions they had advertised. They had a total of seven positions, but they had received a close to twenty thousand applications. In such a case, your experience alone will not help you since there are thousands of others who are equally qualified or even better fitted.
Simply put, you need to find the right people through networking.
Unfortunately, many professionals go for knowing one particular person e.g. a recruiter or hiring manager.
When I say you need to know someone, I mean you need to network with other professionals and job seekers.
You might overlook the power of networking, but when you investigate further, you’ll notice it accounts for a large part of job seekers who end up being employed.
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Before most companies advertise their positions on newspapers and other advertising avenues, they first circulate the positions within the company. If an employee knows you or knows you’re looking for a job, they’ll ask you to send your application or they’ll recommend you for the position. Only when this fails do most companies choose to externally advertise the positions.
How then, do you find networking avenues? And how are you supposed to network?
How To Network Effectively.
As we have seen, networking is important, whether you’re looking for a job or seeking to advance in your career. But how do you become a pro at networking? These tips will help.
1. Know your networking style
When it comes to networking, we all have different styles that work best for us.
For example, Peter, an accountant was looking for networking opportunities. Being an introvert, he preferred small and quiet networking events. This way, he could interact with someone on a one-on-one basis.
For Peter, he would have felt uncomfortable if he went to a large networking event, and the spotlight was on him.
If you’re unsure about what style works for you, you can try a few and find the one that you’re most comfortable with.
2. Network outside the box
Most professions I have interacted with view networking as the traditional cocktail party. However, networking is more extensive and broad.
Ideally, any event that fascinates you or matters to you –in regards to your job search or career advancement, can be turned into a networking opportunity.
When you meet up with other alumni, for example, you can turn this into a networking opportunity.
Volunteering too is an excellent form of networking. You get to show your value, learn about different opportunities, and give back while at it.
3. Set your networking goals
In networking, your ultimate goal should be either to get a job or to advance in your career. While working towards this grand objective, you can break down the goals for each networking opportunity.
For instance, if you’re attending a networking event, you can have a goal to network with three people from your industry, and exchange contact information. When you walk into a networking opportunity with a goal, you’ll be able to assess how effective the process was.
4. Follow up
It’s a simple task, yet, many professionals and job seekers do not follow through with this tip.
The time you invested making new networks will not materialize until you choose to follow up afterward. While you may not send a long, heartfelt message after meeting someone, you should at least reach out to them.
Today, you can connect with them on LinkedIn –which you can then include a personalized message so they easily remember you.
When you follow up, the other person will remember you, and when a position opens up, they’ll let you know about it first.
5. Be proactive
Look for opportunities to provide value in the people you have networked with. The more you invest in a relationship, the easier it will be to ask for help when you need it.
You can be proactive in many ways, some of which will not cost you time or money but will still help strengthen the relationship. For example, you can introduce the new network to a colleague who you think could help the new network in one way or another.
At the end of the day, remember that relationships are very important in the workplace. When you have a great relationship with someone, they’ll be more open to telling you about an opportunity that will help you grow your career or get the job you’ve always desired. As a result, you should always invest in the relationships you gain through networking.
What other networking methods have you found effective? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
Perminus Wainaina is the C.E.O and Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a leading HR & Recruitment consultancy firm based in Westlands. Through personalized career coaching he assists mid-level and senior professionals get solutions to complex and challenging career issues that they are facing. Click here for more on career coaching.