Networking is still the number one way to get a job… probably always will be. Networking is a common practice used in both the military and civilian world. It is the simple act of inquiring around to people you are acquainted with to see if they or anyone they know is in need of your specific skills. And it works. According to PayScale, 70-80 percent of jobs are found through networking (Belli, 2017).
Networking may seem like an overused word in the civilian world, but trust me, this skill is important to brush up on. No matter if you are currently looking for a new assignment, or gearing up to transition into the civilian world networking is a tool you should be utilizing.
How does Networking Work? Networking is the process of linking things or people together. Think of it in terms of technology. We all have a cellphone, to use that cellphone you must be connected or linked to something for it to work. In this case cell phone towers. Now, one cellphone tower isn’t enough to get everyone who has a cellphone adequate service, right? The more towers you add, the bigger reach you have. That is networking. Connecting one thing to another thing to another and so on to achieve a wider reach.
How do I Network to Find a Job or Resource?
Step One: Talk to People
Go to a job fair, pick up a phone, email an old buddy, connect with organizations like CASY, join a professional organization… you get the idea. Every connection you make in real life is part of your network (part of that reach you have). Just talk to people. Sounds easy, right? Once you start to talk to people you have to build rapport.
Step Two: Engage your Network
Having a network won't do you any good unless you communicate on a regular basis with them. Building rapport with your network can come from being engaged, asking questions, making suggestions, and so on. Some easy questions you can ask to build rapport would be, what they do, who they work for, how did they get started, and even if they had any resources they would recommend you look into. Invest and cultivate those relationships. Not only does this allow your network to have you in their mind more than just your initial meeting or conversation, but it also allows you to gather information about them, the industry that they work in, etc. prior to asking about a job opportunity or program availability.
Step Three: Ask the BIG Question
I suggest waiting to ask about openings within someone's company or industry until after you complete step two. An hour after you meet someone you wouldn't ask to borrow their car for a weekend trip, right? That is something you would have to build up to by gaining mutual respect and trust. Once you become comfortable with the people in your growing network, then ask them if there are any openings that they are aware of and to keep you in mind for said openings. Once you ask that BIG question, stay engaged and don't just disappear.
I hear it at least once a month, Why do I need to network? It doesn't get me anywhere. My response is always the same- what are you doing to network? Simply asking for a job without engaging people? Trying to talk to people in an industry that has nothing to do with where you want to be? Or maybe even just connecting with someone and then ghosting them- never to be heard from again…
Networking is important because it allows you to gather information, connect with like-minded people, grow your personal resources, and even find employment. It doesn’t always result in an immediate response, or any response sometimes. The more you network the better you become. When it comes to networking in the real world and online try to keep things aligned with who you are and what you aspire to be. Don’t worry about knowing the most people, that old saying “quality over quantity” works here too. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier, so don’t give up.
If you think you need additional help with networking and understanding how social media can crossover into the job search process check out our weekly live training here.