Networking for job hunters

Networking is a common social phenomenon in all societies.

Everybody has a personal network of some sort, usually friends, family, business associates, teachers, advisors, etc.

For job hunters, networking is a particularly important method of getting information, following up opportunities, and finding work.

Most people have a network which is largely social, with maybe some business and professional components. It doesn't really apply to job hunting, because until you become unemployed, that's not its role.

However, that existing network is easy to turn into a job hunting network, if you can ask people to keep an eye out for opportunities for you, or to provide information you need.

Those are the primary functions of any network, and they're very simple. Your existing network will help, to some extent.

Making your own job hunting network

But realistically, you will need some more inputs into your network. You can't expect your friends and family to be able to find all the information you need. So you need people for your network who are specialists in job hunting, and preferably people who understand your work and the sorts of work you're looking for.

The obvious people are employment agents, job networks, counselors, or people in your line of work. Professionals can also use their associations, or reliable business contacts.

The reason for the emphasis on reliable people is that networks are only as good as their people. Normally, employment agents, job networks and counselors are trustworthy, but outside that range the sources have to be good.

That means you have to select people for your network pretty carefully. Some people are good at finding information, and never pick up a phone. Others are in places where they can find jobs for you, but forget.

The people you need are basically good friends, who understand how to help, and want to help. The image of networking in the job market is like some sort of conspiracy, but that's not really the case. An effective network is generally comprised of people with good relationships with each other.

Essentially it's a matter of getting information about jobs. Occasionally, you can get lucky, and have some additional input. Someone may know of a job coming up somewhere, and recommend you.

If this sounds like you need a lot of current information to get a job, that's exactly what it means. It's well known that only a small minority of jobs ever come on to the open market as advertisements. Most jobs are filled by internal placements.

Which is why networking is so important. Even if you have a job, to get a promotion, and to be aware of opportunities, you need the sort of information that a network naturally has. Any group of people has a lot of information between them. That information may be of varying quality, but it's more info than any of the individual have for themselves.

Networks, which are often based on business, social or professional associations, have a lot of very useful career information, all the time. The common ground generates a lot of useful advice, too.

Job hunters, obviously, have a lot to gain from having their own network.

If you can simply ring someone and get all the information you need on a job you've been checking out, or an employer who has great jobs, you're doing very well indeed. You have far more chance of finding and getting a job than the average job applicant, who has to work from scratch with almost no information, using a job ad as their only clues.

You actually do know more about the job, the employer, the work, and their requirements. You know much more about the conditions of employment, and the career potentials.

Anyone who's tried slogging their way through the job ad/job application process would agree that any advantage is a big help. Even knowing what you don't need to include in an application is a help. Having to guess what sort of application and cover letter is required to get an interview isn't exactly the scientific approach.

If you're unemployed, starting from scratch, and don't know anyone:

It's worth thinking about what sort of information you need for your job hunting first, then figuring out who can give you that information.

Employers themselves are often a good source of information. If you do some cold canvassing in your line of work, and just ring a few employers, you'll get a general picture of what you need to do, and need to know.

Just about anybody in the same line of work can provide some useful information. It may or may not lead to work, but it can save a lot of time.

Employment agencies have a very mixed reputation as sources of information. They do have a vested interest in finding jobs for people, but the level of service is variable. Some are excellent, some are utterly useless, as well as being expensive. The only way to find a good employment agency is to find one which can prove to your satisfaction it is placing people in good jobs. You can actually check with other people in the business. Those are the only agencies you should consider.

Career counselors are also somewhat suspect, thanks mainly to an oversupply of them in the market and a noticeable lowering of standards. The career advice may be OK, but they aren't necessarily much use themselves for actual jobs. However, if you ask, you might find they know someone else.

In many cases, you can have a very good network comprised of one person who will definitely tell you when you're wrong or making mistakes, and you'll find that they're also normally right. That sort of information is extremely rare, and utterly indispensable.

Either marry that person or glue them to the floor, but don't lose them.

You can build a network out of nothing, if you have to start with nothing.

You need facts and opportunities above all. The rest, you can handle.