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The following is an an excerpt from
Outwitting the Job Market: Everything You Need to Locate and Land a Great Position
Published by The Lyons Press;
May 2004; $13.95US/$19.95CAN;
1-59228-350-0
Copyright © 2004 Chandra Prasad

Network Your Way Into a Job

by Chandra Prasad

It's hard to underestimate the importance of networking in the job-hunting process. For every person who finds a position through Monster or Hotjobs, at least ten more find theirs through people they know. Why? Because the majority of job opportunities are never formally advertised -- making networking the only way to "be in the know."

Despite its tremendous importance, networking can be intimidating. The very word can stir up disquieting images of executives exchanging top-secret information in the confines of a boardroom or of unemployed professionals desperately calling complete strangers for help. But if the stereotypes of networking are dismal, the reality is much rosier—and simpler. Below are some painless ways to help you capitalize on your own professional network.

Remember Names

It sounds simple, but remembering someone's name can make an indelibly positive impression on that person. Remembering someone's name is actually to pay him a compliment, for it means that you have committed her to memory. On the other hand, not remembering a person's name or mispronouncing it is akin to a subtle insult. Everyone has been in this situation. You meet someone, introduce yourself, and five minutes later, you hear, "What was your name again?" The very question can make you feel small and forgettable. On the other hand, hearing your name in conversation --"Can you tell me more about your business plan, Jessie?" or "Ming, I really enjoyed that speech you gave" -- may lift your spirits. In networking, a special and concerted effort to remember names is important, for it sets you apart as a considerate and personable contact.

Pass Out Your Business Card

It's not always convenient or wise to pass out your résumé at every networking function you attend. An easier way to make sure that people remember you is to keep a stack of business cards in your pocket or purse. When you meet a person who might become a professional contact, don't hesitate to dole out your card. Obviously, if you're between jobs or just out of school, you may not have an appropriate card or any card at all. In this case, consider investing in cards that list only your name, contact information, professional title, and/or area of expertise. Many printing companies -- including chain stores like Kinko's -- can turn around a simple, professional-looking, and inexpensive card in a matter of days.

Call or Email Your Contacts Regularly

This is especially important during periods when their guidance or support is not necessary. If you contact a person only during times of need, she may feel put upon or even used. Conversely, regular communication, in good times and bad, can only bolster the foundation of a relationship. A former vice president of a major health insurance company says that he appreciated when people he'd helped over the years "called me to let me know how they were doing." He goes on to say that he "would not be inclined to help someone more than once if they didn't express their appreciation the first time."

Ask Your Contacts for Contacts

In networking, speaking with people is a little like rooting for truffles. You may have to dig around a bit before you find a nugget that is valuable. Often times you will network with someone who knows little about your profession. Yet he may know another person who might be of greater assistance. For this reason, you should never hesitate to ask your contacts the fateful question: "Do you know anyone who works in my industry?"

If the answer is "yes," why not pursue the lead? Ask where that person works and what her position is. Ask if that person would be amenable to speaking with you about job opportunities. Ask if you can have that person's phone number or e-mail address, and if you can say that you were referred. Listen carefully to the information that is given to you and jot down the important parts, especially names and contact information. And don't wait too long to follow up!

This article has been excerpted from Outwitting the Job Market: Everything You Need to Locate and Land a Great Position, Lyons Press, 2004

Copyright © 2004 Chandra Prasad

For more information, please visit www.smartbooks.com.


Chandra Prasad has written on career issues in The Wall Street Journal's Career Journal, IMDiversitycom, and JobCircle.com, among others. She has been quoted as a workplace expert by Black Entertainment Television, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Finding Your Dream Job Online. She is the former Editor-at-Large of Vault, an online careers site that has been called "the best place on the Web to prepare for a job search" by Fortune Magazine.

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