Despite the frequent use of the internet to job search, face-to-face contact is still the best way to land a job. At at least 60% - some report even higher statistics - of all jobs are found by networking. Develop a networking list - friends, family, neighbors, college alumni, people in associations - anyone who might help generate information and job leads. Then work to build these relationships, always keeping in mind to give before you take, and reciprocate when someone gives to you.
Find and Join a Professional Organization
It is especially good to join a professional organization while you are still in college. Organizations typically give college students asignificant membership fee discount. Some organizations will continue the discount for "new professionals" during the first year out of college.
If you are wondering what organizations exist, check out the following directories. You will find that there are organizations in just about every industry and function, from the well-known to the small and unheard-of.
The ASAE Gateway to Associations Directory is easy to use and is updated daily to help you make networking more convenient. This directory service takes you directly to many of the associations currently operating on the World Wide Web. The search results provide a list of associations that meet your selection criteria.
Here are some other online directories:
- Association Job Boards.co
- Directory of Associations
- Professional and Trade Associations and Labor Unions
And don't forget to simply Google to search for organizations.
Before you "dive in" to online career networking, there are some important steps to complete first:
- Clean Up Your Online Image on Social Media: Make sure all inappropriate or potentially offensive content has been removed from your online presence. You want to give a positive, professional impression to those you are networking with online. Review these social media tips for further assistance on cleaning up your social media accounts.
- Develop Your Brand: A key to networking success is personal branding. You want to develop a clear idea of who you are as a professional and what you have to offer before reaching out to others online.
- Promote Your Brand: Find outlets online to help you promote your brand and connect with potential employers. Be an active member on industry-related networking sites where professionals in your field "hang out" online, as well as other networking sites like LinkedIn. Check out these helpful LinkedIn guides to learn more about setting up a profile (pdf), networking effectively (pdf), Tailoring Your LinkedIn Profile to Your Goals (pdf), Communicating Effectively (pdf), and job/internship searching (pdf).
- Know Your Talking Points: Be prepared to talk about yourself with others. Know what you want to say about yourself and how you want to say it.
- Think of Questions: Brainstorm some thoughtful questions for those with whom you want to network.
- Be Resume Ready: Polish your resume and be prepared to give it out to others who request it (to read themselves or to pass on to others in your field).
Thanks to the internet, it is easier than ever to build your professional network and reach out to key contacts for referrals, advice, and information. To find contacts online, reach out to:
- Who You Know: Start with people you know, especially those in your field. Don't neglect others not in your field, though; they may have contacts that they could refer you to!
- Your Extended Network: These are contacts people already in your network know, but you may not. Browse the contact lists of those you are connected to online to see if they know anyone that might be helpful to you. Don't be afraid to ask your contacts for referrals!
- Relevant Online Groups: Be an active member in online networking groups that are relevant to your industry. Reach out to fellow group members by posting thoughtful questions and insights and asking for advice, referrals, and information.
- Company Social Networking Sites: More than ever, companies and their recruiters are using social networking sites to promote their organization and career opportunities. Connect with employers online by browsing LinkedIn members for companies and contacts, being a company Facebook "fan", "following" company Twitter accounts, etc.
As you network with others online, build lasting beneficial relationships by:
- Communicating Like a Pro: Using professional communication skills is just as essential when interacting with others online as it is when speaking face-to-face.
- Asking for Advice & Information (not just "Are you hiring?"): Whether they are hiring or not, your contacts can always share valuable information and advice about their organization or industry. Don't just ask for a job; get to know them and ask for their insights!
- Keeping the Door Open: Make sure you keep the lines of communication open by showing gratitude and asking for continued contact. Send a formal thank you letter or email and ask if you can contact them again in the future as additional questions arise.