Sharpen your networking skills to get the best advantages

If you’re looking for a new job, networking is vital to the success of your search. You could have the perfect references and a resume to envy, but without a personal connection, you’re just one face in a nation full of 12.5 million fellow job-seekers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In such a crowded market, you must be proactive in your strategies. Many available jobs are not listed on the Internet, but accessed by word-of-mouth referrals within an industry. It may be the only way to find the best openings out there.

Here are the top tips for improving your job search results by using a smarter networking strategy:

* Set goals, such as sending out 10 resumes per week or e-mailing five contacts per day. “Consider finding a job through networking to be your job,” said James Urhausen, founder and partner of Clarity Resource Group, a consulting and recruitment firm. “Create a routine and establish a sense of accomplishment as you proceed.”

* Reach out to your network. List the names of all of your relatives, friends, former colleagues, your spouse or partner’s friends and colleagues and your parents’ friends and colleagues. Access this vast network with a well-written e-mail letting these people know that you welcome introductions as you seek the perfect job. Those who know you well can steer you properly.

* Lose the shame. “One of the greatest mistakes in business today is that most people never reach out for help, never lean on their friends in times of need,” said Bob Beaudine, author of “The Power of WHO” ($20, Center Street). “Perhaps you’re afraid that your friends will see you as weak and needy and reject you. Hey, I’ve got news for you. We’re all weak and needy sometimes. Big deal. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it’s never true in reverse.”
Think about how you would respond if a friend approached you for help in finding a job. You’d be there for them without judgment. Give yourself the same permission to tap into your friends’ kindness. Hiding what you need is only a disservice to you.

* Tap into social networking websites. “Good networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing and Ryze are excellent resources, since [it] can make people feel more empowered than they would at a face-to-face event,” said Nancy Schuman, vice president of marketing at Lloyd Staffing and author of numerous job-related book titles.

Uhrhausen said sites like LinkedIn provide a more direct path to finding out the names of your contacts that work in a particular field or company. Since employers do check out candidates’ LinkedIn profiles, be sure your listing is updated with your strongest credits and with recommendations from former bosses, managers and clients so that your impressive profile networks for you.

Also look at professional networking sites. Schuman said they are excellent resources, as they offer updated lists of upcoming mixers and business card exchange events. Some sites such as offer free levels of membership, granting access to message boards and event notices, as well as for-pay membership with upgraded contact capabilities.

* Online isn’t the only option. “Too many people don’t realize that they can still access their college alumni organizations, even if it’s been years since they graduated,” said Uhrhausen. Attend your spouse’s and contacts’ alumni events as well.

* Check out networking parties, such as Speed Networking – which works a lot like speed dating’s sit-down meetings but with recruiters rather than dates – and Pink Slip Parties that orchestrate cocktail party mixers between job-seekers and recruiters in various fields. The more casual atmosphere of food and drink lets you show your personal interaction style as you promote yourself for the job.

* Improve your business card. “Not enough job seekers do this, but they should,” Schuman said. “Order from an inexpensive professional site such as for top-quality cards.”
Keep your card simple, containing your full contact information. “Don’t include ‘fluff’ information such as ‘I am a hard worker,'” she added, but recommended printing a personal brand statement on the back of your business card. You have to sell yourself these days, and your calling card leaves a lasting impression.

Copyright 2009 CNS