When you are in job-search mode, networking is a critical component of your success. Countless studies have shown that networking is the way employers prefer to hire, must more effective than endless applications on job boards.
Referral is the number 1 way most employers hire people from outside of their organization. Often, employers reward employees for referring someone who is hired, so employees are motivated to help you and their employer.
Expand Your Job Search Network
Basic Law of Networking: “Networking” happens everywhere people have a chance to meet and to talk!
It doesn’t happen only in large meetings filled with strangers. And, it may happen in the most unexpected places and times. But it may also happen when and where you are focused on your job search. These days, of course, networking happens online as well as off-line.
Find Local Networking Groups Off-Line (IRL – In Real Life)
Consider what interests you.
Think about the job you want – the industry, the profession, the location (cities and towns or neighborhoods), and any other criteria (old and established or new and growing fast, small, medium, or large, etc.).
Think about your background and work history – former employers, schools you attended, places you have lived (neighborhoods, cities, states, countries), and your hobbies and other interests.
Look for groups that attract the people and/or businesses that meet any one of your interests or needs. ALL of those can provide networking opportunities.
Find off-line groups associated with those interests and/or your family.
When you have an idea of the kinds of groups which would interest you, you can start looking for them. Spread your networking “net” wide, at least in the beginning. You want to check out all of the possibilities to see which provide the best networking opportunities. Your family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, etc.), friends, and neighbors may also connect you with interesting groups.
- Local business group meetings:
You will find announcements about group meetings, often in a “calendar” or “business calendar” column of your local daily newspaper and, if available, a local weekly business journal. Find more announcements posted on bulletin boards in various public places like the grocery store, public library, and places of worship. Also check with your local state employment office, local Career One-Stop office (in the USA), and even your town’s government offices.
Look for events from your local branch of the Chamber of Commerce, professional associations (like the American Marketing Association or the American Management Association), and industry associations (like your state’s hospital association). If you are near a large city, check for local venture capital forums and other meetings for local businesses.
- Local special events:
Look for announcements and information about local conferences, seminars, talks, and even training sessions. These are often sponsored by a local professional/business organization, local government entity, local school, or local charities.
You may also find local colleges and/or universities are active in providing classes and seminars open to the community.
- Non-business groups:
Check out the local branch of your favorite charity and, in an election year, your favorite political candidate or cause. See if you can find pancake suppers, cookouts, car washes, and other fund-raising events supporting those charities or campaigns. If you are a parent, consider the Parent-Teacher Association for your child’s school. If you are over 50, check out your local senior center for resources, events, and connections. If you are a new grad, join your friends attending sports events or cheering on the varsity science team.
During holidays, attend local holiday celebrations – concerts, parties, plays, and other get-togethers.
Find Local Networking Groups Online:
- LinkedIn.com -
LinkedIn is THE social media site for professional networking. Search through the LinkedIn Groups, and you will find Groups for your college alumni association, local businesses, professional groups, industry groups, job search groups, and many more. See learn.LinkedIn.com for help using LinkedIn most effectively. You can easily start a Group, too.
- MeetUp.com –
Search for your location and your interests to find local groups which meet face-to-face, the best way to connect for many people. Often fewer than 20 people attend, so they are not overwhelming to most, and they happen in public venues. There are MeetUps on almost every topic, from dating to starting a business to growing flowers. If you don’t find some that appeal to you, start your own.
- Facebook Groups -
Of course, the biggest social network in the world has Groups that you can join – or start – to connect with more people locally as well as internationally.
- Yahoo Groups -
Yahoo’s Groups are email lists which often are used to keep face-to-face groups in touch, offering a group homepage on the web, too. Find local groups that are relevant to your job search here.
- Google Groups -
Google’s Groups are very similar to Yahoo Groups. They are email lists focused on a specific topic and/or location which may also have face-to-face meetings.
- Your high school, college, university, and/or grad school’s alumni association -
Track these down via a Google search on the school’s name plus the words “alumni association.”
- Your former employers’ alumni associations -
Many people are unaware of these but they can be fabulous networks. Find them on Job-Hunt, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, etc. Sometimes the employer connects to the alumni group from the corporate website. If none of those options work, search on Google for the employer name plus “alumni” and you may find active local groups even if the employer is out of business.
- Directory of Local Networking and Job Search Support Groups
Networking works! I know a job seeker who connected with a new job through someone they met in their exercise class, another job seeker who connected while talking with their child’s soccer coach, and another who was hired by a fellow student in an oil painting class at the senior center. Plus, hundreds more who have connected through their company alumni group, college alumni association, professional association, and on and on. It works!
© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.