To anyone involved in the job hunt the phrase ‘it is not what you know it is who you know’ is objectionable and dispiriting. The term networking is little better, conjuring up images of the office slime ball fabricating interests in golf and whisky in order to secure his next promotion. You may think these methods of job hunting are outdated, however, whilst the definition of networking may have changed it remains an essential part of the job hunt.
The following guide to networking is less co-oing over your boss’ latest holiday photos and more as a targeted, well researched persistent approach to job hunting. This approach works, it is an effective way of working out where you want to be and how you can get there. The process of researching organisations and people allows you to work out before you get to interview stage whether this is the job for you, why you want the job and why they should want you. It is very difficult to convince an employer that you are ideal for a job if you are only partially convinced yourself
The concept of networking has changed family and friends are becoming less and less useful commodities in the job market. The new type of networking is hard work-you have to get off your sofa, put on something respectable and leave the house, you have to be prepared to take risks and have to persist. It is a significant investment but I guarantee you, it will pay off.
The most important part of this process is nailing down exactly what you want to do. Work out what your skills are, which skills you enjoy using, which of your friend’s jobs you admire and which organisations appeal to you.
Learn everything you can about your chosen career, organisation and job role. Identify individuals who do the role you want to do, or work in the organisation you want to work in. Select the ones that really inspire you and learn more about their work. Learn everything about their work. Find out that they have done/written/eaten in the past few years and memorise key parts of it.
Contact those whose work has inspired you most, reference a specific piece of work they have done and mention that you would like the opportunity to discuss their career. At this stage it is their career not yours, everyone likes to talk about their own career and you probably do not have one yet-so focus on them. Offer to meet them for coffee guarantee that you will not take up more than 20 minutes of their time, this should be enough to make an impression without leaving them enough time to wonder why you are there.
Meet them, at a place and time convenient with them, make sure they do not go out of their way. Prepare a couple of questions to ask and let the conversation flow naturally. You should find that most people enjoy talking about themselves and their careers so this should not be too difficult. Near the end of the conversation mention that you are interested in pursuing a similar career to them. Ask how they suggest you should go about this and note down their response. Ask if there is anyone you would recommend you speak to and note this down as your next contact.
On your way home buy a card with something relevant to your conversation on the front. Inside the card write a thank you note and mention that you will be following their advice in pursuing your career. Make sure you post the card by the end of the day so that it arrives the next morning. This may seem frivolous but it is an important step-hardly anyone uses ‘snail mail’ these days so it will make you stand out.
Keep in touch, email is probably the easiest way of doing this. Keep a record of all your achievements (however small) that make you more suitable for your chosen career. For example if you are looking for a job in journalism and have previously met with an editor of a magazine, contact them and let them know when you have had something published, even if it is in your local paper. Or that you have updated your blog-and include a link.
Keep your contacts updated on how you have followed their advice. Mention that you are still looking for employment and ask them to let you know if they hear of anything.
Repeat this process with the advised contact given to you by your primary contact. Repeat this process with your contact and others within the field. Yes-you are going to be busy-but the silver lining is that you are going to get a job.
If you persist with this approach and are take every opportunity offered to you eventually you get your foot in the door, a foot in the door will become a leg, will become a whole body. Once you are in, refuse to leave. It worked for me.
Even if you follow these steps you can not expect everything to run smoothly. I encountered many 'hurdles' during my job hunt. Not everyone will respond well to the persistent approach to job hunting.
I remember receiving an email from an employer, I quote:
...unless one of our employees gets run over by a bus we will not be employing you any time soon...
To his credit I think there was a 'god forbid' before the bus bit. My first thought was - a bus - that is very specific, surely some of them will die of natural causes?. I responded as I am 24 I hope to outlive some of your employees, please keep my CV on file.
Many thanks to Lucy Sherwood - Family and Social Policy Advisor (& City Law School alumni) - for this excellent piece.