Below are some statistics on how Americans find employment:

35% -- Found job through a friend, relative or other associate
30% -- Contacted an employer directly, without answering a classified ad
14% -- Answered a job classified advertisement
08% -- Found job through on-campus recruitment or job placement office
06% -- Employment agency or search firm
05% -- State-run unemployment office
02% -- Other

The above percentages indicate that 65% of people who are employed found a job that was never publicly advertised.  This isn't surprising since studies have found that less than half of all available jobs are ever advertised.  And studies also reveal that a significant number of people persuaded an employer to create a job just for them! There is no reason an employer couldn't create a job for you.

Developing a plan and a network of contacts to help you find a job is referred to as networking.  Networking involves all of the following activities:

(1)  Searching for advertised job openings in newspapers and at career websites
(2)  Registering with your local state employment office
(3)  Registering with several private employment agencies and recruiting firms
(4)  Attending all career fairs in your area
(5)  Searching for jobs at area college career centers
(6)  Contacting trade associations and your area chamber of commerce
(7)  Contacting companies for whom you would like to work after locating them through company and industry research

Networking also involves developing personal and business contacts.  The best way to get started is to list the names of everyone you can think of in the following groups:

(1)  Your family members and relatives who are employed
(2)  Your friends, your friends' parents, your parents' friends, neighbors, and casual acquaintances
(3)  People with whom you have business relationships, such as service providers (insurance agent, banker, etc.)
(4)  People you know through your place of worship
(5)  People in professional associations, alumni associations, and clubs in which you are a member.  If you don't belong to any, now is the time to join
(6)  Present and past co-workers, and former bosses
(7)  If a student or recent graduate -- your teachers, professors and instructors

After you have compiled your list of names, your next step is to contact them, either by phone, e-mail or letter.   It might be a good idea to send your resume to them so they can send it to someone else.  But remember, in networking, one asks contacts for information, referrals, and advice, not necessarily for a job.
The point of this process is that someone will know someone who knows someone who has a job vacancy. As a networker, you are seeking to get to that person.

Contacting Those You Don't Know

What sorts of questions should you ask these people?  Examples:

"Do you know anyone who hires people with skills like mine?" 
"How does one begin a career in . . .?"
"What do you think a person with my skills and background should do to begin a job search?"
"How can I best present my skills and abilities to potential employers?"
"Can you recommend other people for me to talk to? May I tell those people that you suggested that I contact them?"

The first step here is finding out who you want to contact.  These should be employers for whom you would like to work and people you think can help you uncover job leads or give you solid advice.  You can find companies for whom you would like to work by researching various websites to find the names of companies in your area or in a specific industry for whom you would like to work. Or, you can  just use the Yellow Pages to locate companies in your area.

After you have a list of names, write a letter and ask for their advice or an interview to learn more about the company or industry in which they work.  Remember that your goal in this activity isn't necessarily to get a job offer, or to blatantly ask for a job, but to get job leads and make connections.  If they ask for your resume, then have one ready to hand them.

Always try to drop a name when you phone or write these companies. Why? Because 500 other people are also contacting them and sending in their resumes.  Most of these resumes are filed away unread or trashed, but if you drop a name in your cover letter, your odds of getting an interview go up significantly.  For example, you could begin your cover letter with: "I was talking to John Doe, your Director of Finance, the other day and he suggested that I forward my resume to you . . ." or "Your golfing partner, John Doe, suggested that I contact you for advice on entering the sales field . . . " or "Jane Smith thinks I would make an excellent sales person and advised me to forward a copy of my resume to you . . . ".

Hopefully, your networking activities will uncover a hidden job lead or you might be able to convince an employer to create a job just for you.

Related topic:  Sample Networking Letters

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Finding a Job:  Networking Basics for Beginners
Career Articles  >  Job Networking for Beginners
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