How to Capitalize on Your Network to Find Your Next Job

Leveraging your network is a daily grind, especially when searching for your next opportunity. It can feel tedious managing a schedule of informational interviews, coffee chats and after-work cocktails. But  these meetings are vital to conducting a strong job search. Whether or not you are presently employed, the people you have in your network remain the key to your future success and the value of sustaining and nurturing relationships cannot be overstated. Below are five suggestions on maximizing the return on your current professional and personal network.

Capitalize Your Network (Photo: iStockphoto)

Keep in constant touch when looking for a new role
The minute you are out of a job and looking for a new opportunity, it is essential to identify the most influential people in your network best positioned to recommend you to a new employer. Immediately reach out to the individuals you know who are close enough to a decision maker if not a decision maker who can carve out a position for you in their organization or point you in the direction of someone who can. Keep in touch with respect and with a purpose. Don’t over do it. Meeting for lunch or coffee is a great way to keep the lines of communication open.

Now is not the time to be picky
Discussing opportunities with someone from your network is not the time to turn into the party of no. Listen to what your contact has to say about what roles are out there and identify parallels to what you might want to do. Your dream job just might not exist right now and you need to root yourself in reality. There are opportunities out there; it is very possible that you will need to be flexible and possibly take a role that is not EXACTLY aligned with what you want to do. Look at each opportunity as just that – an opportunity to continue to develop your skills and learn new things. The goal is that you can transfer those skills to other things over your career.

Name dropping is perfectly acceptable
You may feel shy about name referencing others in your network to gain an advantage, but in order to maximize the help you can get from your network, sometimes this is the best thing you can do to force a connection with someone. Maybe the person you are targeting in your networking is not a particularly close contact but a shared colleague or co-worker of a friend.  Be sure to communicate that name right off the bat to put that person at ease. The connection will help you and make it easier for the new contact to recommend you.

Clearly state what you want to do
In addition to maintaining an open mindset to alternative job choices, be clear about what you do want to do so that the people in your network fully understand your goals. This will help others when they consider opportunities that might be appropriate for you. You will start to see e-mails start to come in unsolicited from people in your network with job prospects that fit your primary objective.

Organize your own networking event
Instead of waiting around for the next formal gathering by your alma mater, consider being the organizer of a social event to get people in your network together. You can then have control on the date, time, and venue that is most convenient to your schedule while attracting more people in your network. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can simple send out an email invite to people indicating that there is a networking event that you are running with all of the particulars. You’ll be able to share your goals with a diverse group while also adding value to the searches being conducted by others.

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at debra@careersdonewrite.com.