I wanted to get this topic out of the way because I've always found it to be sort of a confusing subject. And yet the No. 1 thing you're told as you begin any job search is network, network, network.
Here's the main principle: Introduce yourself to as many people as possible. It's so simple it almost makes you feel silly, right? I've never been big on networking. A lot of searching for a job, as Joe Grimm (recruiter extraordinaire and one of Poynter.org's job experts) explains it, is selling yourself to possible employers. That's not really my style. I prefer to let my actions speak for themselves. But here's where that philosophy doesn't hold water in a job search: Potential employers have never seen you in action and they can only base their decisions on what they've heard about you, whether their source is you or one of your references. And that's where networking comes in.
Back in the day networking required putting a lot of miles on your car and shaking a lot of hands.
Now, like almost anything else out there, the process has gone high tech. But in the end, you're still doing the same thing. Your connection to your boss connects you to everyone else they've worked with, which connects you to everyone those people have worked with and so on. And this doesn't even need to be just with your boss. Say you volunteer at an animal shelter (guilty). The volunteer coordinator might be able connect you to someone else in your field.
The most exciting and well-known tool for networking is LinkedIn. Think Facebook for professionals. It's a place where your profile includes your recent employment and your qualifications rather than your favorite movies or those embarrassing photos from that one party. You know the one I'm talking about.
Thursday morning, the day after I learned I was joining the ever growing ranks of the unemployed, I logged onto my little-used account with LinkedIn and "connected" with every person I could find at my company. By that afternoon I had received four recommendations (these are posted on your profile, which can then be viewed by your connections and anyone else you allow to see your profile). Recommendations can also be read by the connections your boss or coworkers have, thereby exposing you to professionals you have never even met. Essentially this is almost effortless networking.
It's actually kind of exciting when you get right down to it. So there you have it: A quick and simple way to network. Of course that's only the beginning, but at least it is a beginning. And every job search has to start somewhere.
Want to join my network on LinkedIn? Click here to see my public profile, or click on the LinkedIn badge on the right side of this page.
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