More than any other activity in a job hunt process, networking pulls individuals out of their comfort zone.

No matter if networking in person or online, it is in a way, a very natural process that we do all the time in both – our personal and professional lives. When reframing it, it is simply talking with people, exchanging information, giving value, and building relationships.

Nurturing your network is an ever-important activity, and each of us has to put in the effort and work.  But networking as an activity in a job hunt times, taking into consideration that all the research shows that around 80% of positions in the market are filled through personal referrals, gets even more significant.

Many individuals are hesitant to network out of fear of being seen as pushy, annoying, or self-serving. When it comes to job hunt, it is the fear of being perceived as begging people to get you hired. Don’t be hesitant.

Networking is not about mail campaigns or social networking platforms or your perfect pitch, you have prepared, when you connect with someone.

And most of all, networking is not about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself.

It is about connecting with others: people you know, people you don’t know that well, and new people you have never met before. And when approached with generosity, curiosity, and mutuality, it can be an enjoyable activity.

And while you might find it intimidating, it can be rewarding and fun. Especially when you perceive networking as an action that is always about the person who is on the receiving end of your communication. And about how you make them feel when they receive your message.

Don’t ‘network’ with people. Connect with people and build a genuine relationship.

You could be surprised at how many people you can connect with if you focus on interacting with people with a reciprocal relationship in mind. Putting yourself out there and displaying your interests, knowledge, and value makes connecting with people much more comfortable.

When you reach out to people, at first, no one cares what you do, but how you made them feel.

The more people you build genuine relationships with, the more opportunity you will attract. And the more you give, the more you will receive.

One more thing is true – more than any other activity in a job hunt process, networking pulls individuals out of their comfort zone. But leveraging your network in a job hunt should be a big part of your active job hunt strategy.

Here are just a few reasons why:

The job you want is not advertised at all. Networking leads to information and job leads, and yes, a majority of positions are filled through recommendations on the ‘hidden job market.’ Tapping the hidden job market through networking will take more research, planning, and courage than other search activities, but it is effective. 

Job posts draw a lot of applicants, which puts you in intense competition with many other candidates. Networking can get you a valuable recommendation as people tend to hire people they know and like. 

To get valuable advice and information. People love to help, and if they can, most of them will.

Networking can help you gain relevant market information, advice to help you stay focused and motivated during your job hunt, or get you to find the targeted right job. But most of all, it builds valuable connections and relationships also for the future.

Leveraging your network in your job hunt

Networking is a verb and requires making an effort and taking action.

Sometimes you just have to reach out and make a (new) connection, and you achieve fantastic outcomes. You meet the desired and valuable results through deliberate actions.

And sometimes, despite the most carefully designed plans and communication, you don’t get the outcome you hoped for.

The process is most effective if you stay open to the possibilities and stay consistent in getting your message out and focused on building a relationship with the person behind. As is a lot like planting seeds – you don’t know which ones will take root and grow. Don’t focus on coming away with a job lead immediately – conversation may bear fruit in the future. Remember, it is about strengthening and building relationships.

But you have to begin doing, crafting your meaningful networking strategy, connecting with people, and getting your message out.

If you are anticipating an action or conversation that makes you uncomfortable, acknowledge your discomfort to yourself. But do it anyway, because whatever are your fears, try to keep the following in mind:

· It feels good to help others. Most people will assist you if they can. Just be specific with your questions and request, so it is clear for them how they can help you.

· People like to give advice and be recognized for their expertise and experiences.

· Almost everyone knows what it is like to be looking for a job. Unemployment can be isolating and stressful. By connecting with others, you are sure to get some encouragement and moral support.

Networking activities are not complicated. They just need your commitment to do them. And after that, you are not accountable for their response. Doing them in a ‘person’ to ‘person’ mindset can be so much genuinely rewarding.

Actions and tips to start leveraging your networking in a job hunt

Before you start networking, you have to know what you want and direct your focus towards your career goal.

Networking is effective when you know what your career goal is, and you have clarity on the value that you can bring. It is hard to communicate, make a valuable connection, and build or strengthen your relationships with just a generic, “let me know if you hear of anything.” message. People will be asking what happened, and what your plans are, what exactly they can do, so be ready to know what to answer.

How and with what you can start:

☞ Go back in time. 

Usually, you already have a bigger network than you think and believe.

One area that is often overlooked when networking in your job hunt is extensive contacts and individuals with whom you have established a relationship in the past but have lost touch with over the years. Former colleagues, old classmates, and past neighbors can usually be easily found.

Re-establishing a connection can be a more natural and more comfortable way to start than creating a completely new one.

» Make a list of people and contacts in your network think broad into your past

» Categorize them by

· Active – you talk to them regularly

· Dormant – you used to talk to them

» Craft a plan & set your goals on networking in your job hunt, making re-connection and getting your message out

Schedule your time, prioritize your reach out by your vital connections and think on the best possible channels you could use for the reach outs.

For the closest one, personal meeting is best, a phone call works, but for the rest, that you have lost touch with, smartly use the possibilities of technology.

Craft a message you want to use, advice you want to ask, think in terms of your next career goal – be specific for each person

With the connections you have the strongest relationships do not be afraid to share your career ambitions directly, what are your goals and target market. Let them know clearly what you are after – only in that way they can keep you on top of their mind.

Personalize each of your message, because it matters.

Be authentic you and communicate in a ‘human’ way, keeping in mind how reading your message will make the person on the other side feel and how you might be of service to them also.

» Do not message directly asking for a job.

Your search and need for a job, in the context of networking, will not be in front much of the time. Engage with others wearing your personal and professional hat, not your job seeker hat.

Ask for advice, not a job. Think about the message you send out as if you hit a poorly one, and it is one click away from delete.

Do the research and evaluate each connection on how they might help best as there are so many opportunities for that. To start with a few, you might connect and ask for their valuable:

· Experience and advice on job hunting

· Information about your targeted organizations

· Referrals to people in their network that you might get some good advice from – and start building new relationships

· CV/Resume review and feedback

Search for ‘influential’ strangers and reach out to connect

You may feel that getting yourself out there to strangers is out of your comfort zone, and it should be! You need to push yourself outside your comfort level to connect with people you don’t know for more market information, leads, and opportunities in your job hunt.

First, based on your career goal, do the targeted research on companies and people. LinkedIn is my favorite tool and ‘search engine’ for that.

When you identify who you want to reach out and make a connection with, invest your time on a bit deeper level research.

When you reach out and want to connect to a stranger, be intentional, and think about how you could provide value also to them, as it is starting and building a new relationship. Try to find a ‘trigger’ or common interest, or just work you admire by them, to use.

It is essential you get prepared, know about their work, so when you reach out, the message is not all about you, but you also show appreciation to them.

· When possible, ask a referral to pave the way.

If someone refers you to another person, that smoothes the way and reassures you that the person is receptive to being contacted.

Make sure in your research you keep in mind also for any mutual connections and someone in your existing network that could pave the way.

Follow up

Do not neglect the importance of follow up in networking, because as so many times till now – it is about building and strengthening a relationship.

» Say thank you. Let the person who got back to you and helped you in any way know how much you appreciate it and how much he or she affected you. Let the people that have helped you see what the outcome was.

Everyone loves to hear that, and – it makes them want to help more.

Make the process of connecting a priority. Then just get to it and keep moving.

Keep the other person that is receiving the message in your mind, be considerate, pay attention to your tone, and think about how you can be of value also.

Be authentical. No one likes copy-paste scripts. It might be easier to start with using a template for crafting your message, but make sure if you do use it, you personalize each message.

Do your research and be intentional with your message for each of the connections you make. Send a crafted one to each and every one, keeping in mind the specific request. 

Yes, networking in job hunt takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. Find the courage and commitment to do it. You might be surprised how many individuals will get back and try to help.

The more reach out and positive experience you have, the more comfortable and more enjoying networking becomes. And your connections become deeper mutual relationships.

Maintain the relationships once you have established them!

Share information, give feedback on your job hunt progress, bounce ideas around, keep up to date on your connections’ career development, and personal lives.

A regular update keeps you in other people’s mind, reminds them of your value as a connection, and makes it easier for you to contact them when you need to in the future.

Reach out to people also when you do not need anything.