Once you have prepared yourself and earned the knowledge required to succeed in your career field of choice, I have found that doing these four things consistently gives you the best chance to find a job opening in your field.
- Want-Ad Browsing
- Informational Interviews
Let's discuss each of these individually and detail how each can help you find a job that's a good fit, and hopefully, one you'll love.
Looking back through my career, and looking at the fifteen jobs I've had since I began working at the age of twelve, thirteen of them came from networking or cold-calling—only two came from want ads posted on a job board and a newspaper. And—you've probably already guessed—those were my first two jobs after college. Thinking back, even my very first job as a neighborhood newspaper delivery boy came from networking with my sister who already had a route, and her "boss" who needed a delivery person for another route by our house. My second job came to me the same way. A friend needed a helper at his job as a dishwasher at the local Elk's Club. He spoke to his boss, and I was in like Flynn.
Aside from properly preparing yourself to do the job you want well, networking is probably the most helpful tool you can employ in your job search. Networking is basically getting your name out there, meeting new people, and trying to find potential employers. I know people who have landed an interview and then a job by networking with and uncle or aunt, grandparents, new people at with a concert, or other social events.
Social networks are also a great way to network. LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook are great ways to begin spreading the word that you are looking for a position and would like to start meeting and talking to people who are looking to hire, or who can offer helpful advice or review your portfolio of work. A word of caution, remember that everyone can potentially see your posts, even your current employer. Be discrete.
As you network, where ever you are, the important thing is to begin telling people that you are looking for a position in your chosen field of work, and then getting their name and contact information to follow up and starting the process.
Here are a few tips to remember when networking:
- Network often, yet be a professional
A wedding ceremony, funeral service, college graduation commencement, sermon, birth of a child, minor surgery (you get the picture), isn't the best time to ask, "Hey, doesn't your brother's landlord's son own a company that may have a few openings?" No one wants to hear about your job search every second of their life. Instead, get comfortable knowing when and where is a good time to discuss your situation and desire to connect with people in your field. Most people like to help other people find things like this in their lives. It's a feather in their cap to be able to say, "I helped find my neighbor's daughter find her first job, and it seems to be working out quite well."
- Return the favor
Remember that networking is a two-way street. Make an intentional effort to help others in your network with their needs too. Keep a mental note of who is looking for what, or who you could help. Do good deeds for people, spread the word that a friend is looking for a job in a certain field, pass along information about a new job lead that may help a friend. Tell your network about a new web site that offers great pricing on business card and letterhead printing. Trust me, your network will notice your efforts and reward you for them.
- Know what you want
Be specific when you begin a conversation with someone new. Don't begin with, "I would really like a new job," or, "I've been thinking about looking for a new job." You may get the response, "Yeah, you and the rest of the world would like a better job." Instead, know what you want and the next time someone asks, "So, what have you been up to?" Respond with, "Well, I'll be graduating this spring with my _________ degree and will be looking to land my first job as a _____________. Do you know anyone who works in the field that I could contact or meet with? I sure would appreciate some help getting my foot in the door."
- Follow up when you say you will
Everyone, especially your potential employer, loves a person who follows through on their commitments. The first place you can demonstrate this is by calling them back when you said you would. If they are not in, leave a message so they know you called, and follow up again the next day.
- Hone your presentation
Try to critique yourself occasionally with the goal of improving the way you present yourself to new people in your professional network. If you're like me, you usually know when something comes out wrong, or when you totally flub a phone conversation. Brush it off, learn from it, and do better next time.
- Get organized
Create a log book or spreadsheet where you can write down every person you contact in your job search. Start using the Address Book on your computer to record as much information as you can about each new contact.
- Check out new places and new people
Now that you are trying to meet new people and network with new crowd, make an effort to go to new places. Attend a seminar in your field of work that you've been thinking about. Invite an old friend to lunch at a new restaurant you've been wanting to try, or take a class to brush up on skills in your field—there's no better place to find jobs in your field than in a class full of people in your industry.
- Connect, Like, or Friend new network contacts
Social networks are an excellent place to build your professional network of friends. Staying in contact with college roommates, classmates, professors, and past employers is a good way to keep your name out there. You'll have to be the judge and know when it's appropriate to connect with someone you've met via social media. If you're unsure, then it's probably not the right time to do it. Remember not to come off as desperate or needy.
Use the simple power of networking to your advantage. You want to be viewed as the the organized, motivated, cutting edge, tech-savvy job hunter who gets noticed—and hired.
As you continue to fine-tune your networking skills, you're ready to add a new talent to your tool box—you're ready to start cold-calling.