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Smarts & Solutions
Network into Employment

With a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate reported at 9.7 percent, many of us have first-hand experience with the crunch of stiffer competition in the job market. It’s harder and it takes longer to secure the positions we desire.

That 9.7 percent unemployment rate translates to nearly 15 percent of the American population being unemployed. Let’s not, however, too quickly lose sight of the fact that conversely that 9.7 percent means that over 90 percent of us are employed.

And within that 90 percent there will always be a degree of flux — people leaving positions, getting fired, moving away — that will create opportunities for those who are beating the pavement in search of that ideal position.

If you are among those that in “hunt” mode, you need to be aware of one of the greatest techniques available for securing your perfect position: networking.

It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of most positions are never advertised. It plays out something like this: Division managers Joe and Sam sit across the hall from one another. Sam has an opening coming up in his division. Strolling past Sam’s office on the way for coffee he casually mentions, “Hey, if you know of anyone, I have an opening in my department.”

“Oh yeah? As a matter of fact I do,” Sam replies. “Stop by and see me after you get your coffee.” Sam will recommend Michelle, the mother of one of his son’s classmates, who he meet while volunteering for a school fundraiser event.

And so plays out the benefits of Michelle’s networking effort — all the people she knows, and all the people they know, helping her to secure a job.

Everyone has a friend, that has a friend, that has a friend and networking — the act of incorporating others into your job search — enables you to break into that 80 percent of unannounced positions that are filled by virtue of simply knowing the right person and that right person knowing you.

Your make-connection strategy can in practice include any number of actions, but very rudimentarily begins with your sitting down and making a list of all the people that you know via mentor programs, coalitions, special interest groups, workshops/trainings, power breakfasts/lunches, alumni, computerized network groups, professional organizations, social/volunteerism organizations.

The next step is to begin to meet over coffee, call, email, and/or drop hand written notes to the members of your identified network. Inform them of your goal (to change jobs, make a career change, increase knowledge or expertise in a field of work, generate new business contacts, or make friends).

Your goal beyond initial contact must be to foster relationships with the members of your network. Work on projects together, clip industry articles from news magazines that may interest them and mail them with a handwritten note, volunteer to be a subject matter expert (SME) and guest speak at their association meetings.

Beyond hand-to-hand networking, step into the twenty-first century and utilize online networks as well. Three of the most highly used and rated include, www.linkedin.com, www.spoke.com, and www.xing.com.

Overall, eye-to-eye or online, keep these basic network components in mind: identify/list out your network members, inform your network of your job search, business or career goal, build network relationships by initiating acts of assistance and service for your network members, and sustain contact with your network via weekly phone, email, or face-to-face contact.

The competition in the job market is sharp — so you have to be as well. Networking is one component in your toolbox that you should sharpen fiercely and use often. Now go be great!

(Editor’s Note: Reach Eugenie Jones at http://twitter.com/NowGoBeGreat, or visit www.lifeworktraining.com.)

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