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Identifying & Utilizing Your Network

 By: Michelle Metzger, Human Resource Specialist

There is a significant resource that many job seekers are not utilizing or are not utilizing properly.  This resource, a job seeker’s network, is often not even correctly identified.  Someone in your network could be the key to your next position.  According to a 2009 CNN article and a 2011 NPR article, it is estimated that 70-80% of jobs are not posted in classifieds or big job boards; instead, organizations are depending on their own networks to help them fill their open positions.  This is what is referred to as “The Hidden Job Market.”  Organizations will ask their employees, colleagues, and contacts for referrals before posting to major job boards where they will be inundated with resumes.  Do you want to be considered in this first round of applicants?  Your network may be able to help.  Even when applying for a position posted on a job board and competing with a substantial amount of other job seekers, a recommendation from someone in your network can help you move to the top of the stack.

Identify your Network:

Take out a pencil and paper and start writing down names of individuals you know in the following groups:

  • Local family
  • Friends
  • Former co-workers
  • Neighbors
  • Your spouse’s friends
  • Members from clubs or activities you attend
  • Former business contacts
  • Fellow church members
  • Your children’s friends’ parents

This is a great list to get you started, but you get the picture.  List your contacts from around the community.  Do you know where these individuals work?  Identify individuals from your list who may work for an organization that you may be interested in or for one you have seen a job opening for.  After you have tailored your resume and cover letter for a particular position or organization, approach the person in your network who has an affiliation.  When meeting with these individuals, explain that you are in a job search and request an introduction or ask for tips for how to secure a position with their organization.

Use LinkedIn:

If you aren’t already active on LinkedIn, get started.  LinkedIn is a great way to keep track of your network and for your network to keep track of you.  It is also beneficial to have a professional on-line presence.  Not only can your profile page act as a more in-depth electronic resume, but it shows you are savvy to current business and professional trends.  Take advantage of all the opportunities to provide information about yourself as a professional.  There are numerous articles on the internet with suggestions for building an effective LinkedIn profile.

Connect with the individuals identified in the above exercise.  Request recommendations from former coworkers, colleagues, and supervisors.  Also, have them endorse your skills.  Recommendations on LinkedIn are like brief letters of recommendation that can be viewed on your profile.

LinkedIn can be used to identify hiring managers or others in leadership roles at an organization you are interested in pursuing.  LinkedIn will actually analyze the connections you have added to identify a path to get introduced to these key players you have identified.  Take advantage of this feature to help you put your network to work.  Ask your connections for those introductions.

If you are in a confidential job search while in another position, you may be fearful of retribution if it found you are looking elsewhere.  Make these changes to your LinkedIn page gradually and not in a way that betrays your job seeker status.  It is good to build a strong network and LinkedIn page because you never know when you will find yourself in the position of job seeker.  Make it a practice to cultivate these things so that you are prepared.

Your Network, Your Next Step

Be aware of this hidden job market and do what you can to be a contender for these positions.  Your network and LinkedIn page are diverse tools that should be fully utilized when in a job search.  The people in your network and the functionality LinkedIn offers very well could be what gets you to the next step in your career.