When Cookie Burkhalter relocated from Colorado to Wilmington, Delaware three years ago, she thought finding a new job would be easy. With first-rate qualifications and more than twenty years of professional experience at Fortune 500 companies, she figured she would land a new position quickly by surfing a few Internet job boards and sending out her résumé.
But Burkhalter, an IT project manager, quickly discovered that it wasnt going to be so easy. After months of applying for open positions, I never got a single interview from a posting on the Net, she declared. Applying for all those jobs was a complete waste of my time.
Her job search began to turn around for Burkhalter when she realized that the missing element in her job search was the human factor. Even though I grew up in Delaware, I had been living out of state for a long time, she recalled. I had almost no local contacts, so I was relying on postings and ads to find out about available jobs. But by the time I saw the ad, so had thousands of other people, and one of them was always just a little more qualified than me.
Network Your Way to A New Job
So Burkhalter set about rebuilding her business and social network. She joined two womens groups made up of others who shared some of her personal interests and hobbies, and began to meet new people. When she let her new friends know about her job search, all of a sudden, she began to hear about jobs before they were advertised, and interviews started to materialize. When she finally did land a new job, it was the direct result of a referral from a friend.
You may not recognize what Burkhalter did as business networking, but thats exactly what it was. Many people think of business networking as circulating around a room and exchanging business cards. But a broader view of business and social networking is that it creates a pool of contacts from which you can draw leads, referrals, ideas, and information for your job search. You can network without ever attending an official business or social networking event, although attending events is useful in networking.
Texas resident Maria Elena Duron found an executive job as a result of working as a community volunteer. I was volunteering at the Midlands MexTex Fiesta, and I found myself flipping burgers side-by-side with a board member of the Austin Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation," Duron remembers. "He asked me if I had ever been involved in fundraising, and when I said I had, he asked for my résumé. He forwarded it to the Foundation with his personal recommendation, and three weeks later I was hired as Executive Director for the West Texas Region."
Find Your Job and Career by Business Networking
Your career network can and should contain current and former co-workers, alumni from your school, a wide range of people in your industry, and personal friends. Making time for lunch or coffee with these people can be much more productive for your job search than reading the want ads or surfing the web. In fact, surveys consistently show that 80-85% of job-seekers find work as the result of a referral from a friend or colleague, and only 2-4% land jobs from Internet job boards.
If you have been out of touch for a while with people you already know, dont let that stop you from re-establishing contact when you start your job search. Everyone you speak to will have had to look for work at some point in their career, and most of them will be sympathetic and helpful.
To spread your business and social networking net even wider, you may need to start making the acquaintance of new people also. Every time you talk to a friend or colleague about your job search, ask for suggestions of other you might speak to, and follow up on their referrals.