Why You Shouldn't Underestimate Your Personal Network

A personal network can be a powerful thing, so long as you use it correctly. It is especially useful when searching and applying for jobs. Those who are searching for jobs often underestimate just how useful this personal network can be; they can’t see the potential or imagine the opportunities that could come their way through the extensive network that they have built. RELATED: Need some networking advice? Watch these tutorials! With social networking becoming a part of everyday life, you should understand and utilize the network that is available to you.

Knowing Your Network

Every job search should begin with basic networking. This can be as simple as contacting your friends for advice or asking your family if they know of any jobs that are currently available. You may be surprised at the results that you can achieve from networking. For instance, did you know that the average American has approximately 634 contacts (according to the Pew Research Center)? The network that you have built will consist of friends, family, and previous colleagues or employees. Although the majority of your contacts will prove fruitless and will not aid you in your search for a job, but don’t ignore the possibilities that your network could provide.

Traditional Strategies To Extend Your Network

When your contacts fail to provide you with further information or links to aid you in your job search, it may be time for you to consider expanding your network a little further. There are many methods of extending your network and gaining new contacts, some of these include social events, business meetings, and breakfast groups for those that are looking to promote their business or offer work. If you’re looking for something a little more casual than a meeting or business event, you could attend a job fair. A job fair can allow you to contact many more individuals than if you were to sit in a business meeting. A job fair also gives you the chance to ask questions concerning the job roles and impress the representatives of each company with your knowledge and curiosity. While you are at the job fair, you should inquire about potential job roles as well as take in the larger picture. For companies you would really like to work for, be prepared to take the time to get to know their representatives. Building some form of foundation for the relationship could lead to a potential contact within the company that you can refer back to.

Contacts And Social Networking

Not all of your meetings and referrals have to be achieved through physical contact, though. Some of the best opportunities can be obtained through the use of social networks, which include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These platforms are ideal for gaining contacts that you may not have created otherwise. These websites have proven to be useful in the past. For instance, did you know that 97% of users registered with LinkedIn use it to source candidates for jobs (as stated in the Bullhorn Reach report)? These social networking sites allow you to become members of groups where you can engage with new people and become acknowledged by those in relevant positions. Your first impression can be crucial - not everyone is willing to give a second chance or even a second glance, so it’s essential that your impression is compelling and will last. According to the Taylor & Francis Group, you have as little as 50 milliseconds to impress those who view your page. Consequently, you must ensure that your feed or wall is free of inappropriate comments, photos, or any other information that could damage your credibility. Censorship is imperative while you are trying to impress potential employers and future contacts.

Using Your Network Effectively

The old saying, "It’s not what you know, it’s who you know," still holds true to this day. The likelihood of you getting the job you want will increase with the number of contacts you acquire. However, in order to use this network effectively, you must maintain contact and encourage your contacts to spread the word of your job search. One of the most effective ways to use your network and get the most from your contacts is by creating a list that prioritizes each of them according to how likely they are to help you in your search for employment. With this list in hand, you significantly increase the chances of gaining a job - However, you must keep in touch with your contacts and speak with them on a regular basis. Although, it has been theorized by Robin Dunbar, the director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, that you will only keep in touch with approximately 150 of these contacts. It’s of paramount importance that you speak with all of your contacts in a warm manner and show respect at all times; you cannot expect others to do you such a favor if you aren’t willing to show them some common courtesy by being polite and involving them in conversations that aren’t always related to your job search. It’s the same as any other aspect in life: the more you put in to your contacts, the more you will get out. Remember to devote a large amount of your time to your personal network and your efforts could be rewarded. A leading example is Christa Zihlmann at Mercer Human Resource Consulting, who received her job through making numerous phone calls and eventually attracted the attention of a headhunter. This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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